APPLICATIONS

Overview

Ultimately, the goal of transpersonal counseling is not only to remove psychopathologies or resolve interpersonal difficulties but also to foster higher human development (Hartelius et al., 2007). Toward this end, transpersonal counselors seek to facilitate the development of a stable, cohesive ego and the exploration of the existential self (Strohl, 1998). However, according to transpersonal theory, these processes are only part of the development of a healthy self. Individuals will not be able to become whole until they awaken to the deepest levels of human existence (Hartelius et al., 2007). Transpersonal counselors deal with "normal" client problems and life difficulties, as do counselors from any other modality. What diverges transpersonal counselors from the mainstream, however, is the added requisite of transcendent experience. In short, an individual is not truly healthy when he or she has achieved a satisfactory level of everyday functioning but when he or she has actually transcended the normal state of consciousness and everyday being to one that is unified with the highest levels and states of consciousness, being, and existence (Hartelius et al., 2007; Rama, Ballentine, & Ajaya, 1979; Williams, 1980; Wittine, 1993).

Goals of Counseling and Psychotherapy

There are essentially three dimensions that apply to any approach to counseling and psychotherapy: content, process, and context (Vaughan, 1979). Content refers to the subject matter dealt with, process refers to the techniques and strategies used, and context refers to the counselor's view toward counseling, suffering, healing, and mental health. Davis (2000) examined these dimensions as pertaining to transpersonal counseling:

Content: The content of transpersonal counseling includes transpersonal and mystical experiences, peak experiences, and spiritual emergencies (Grof, 2008; Watson, 1994).

Process: The processes of transpersonal counseling include practices drawn from spiritual traditions such as meditation (Ferrer, 2008; Goleman & Ram, 1996), initiations and vision questing (Foster & Little, 1997), ritual, and shamanic inductions (Walsh, 1990).

Context: The transpersonal context includes holding in view the client's intrinsic health, being mindful and present-centered regardless of the particular content or processes, approaching counseling as both an act of service and an act of work on oneself, and recognizing nonduality in the counseling situation (Ferrer, 2002; Wit- tine, 1989).

Through the content, process, and context of counseling, the goals of transpersonal counseling are much the same as any other type of counseling: to aid individuals with myriad mental health issues and life difficulties. However, transpersonal counselors are most concerned with fostering a deepening and integration of one's sense of connectedness, whether it be with self, community, nature, or the entire cosmos (Bidwell, 1999; Davis, 2000; Kasprow & Scotton, 1999). Regardless of the life difficulty or psychological problem at hand, transpersonal counseling will almost always seek to send tire client inward (Bidwell, 1999).

The more one can introspect and reflect on one's self, then the more detached from that self one can become, the more one can rise above that self's limited perspective, and so the less narcissistic or less egocentric one becomes (or the more de-centered one becomes). (Wilber, 1995, p. 256)

Transpersonal counselors generally accept that most people are unwilling, unable, or simply not ready to work at a transpersonal and transcendent level. Wilber (1997) stated that in the United States,

a disproportionately large number of people who are drawn to transpersonal spirituality are often at a preconventional level of self development. This means that much of what American (spiritual) teachers (and counselors) have to do is actually engage in supportive psychotherapy, not transformative and transpersonal spirituality, (p. 227)

Thus, one of the primary goals of transpersonal counseling is to bring the client to a point at which he or she can begin to work on transpersonal issues. It is simply not enough in the transpersonal counselor's mind to bring a client to an acceptable or healthy level of mental health. If given the chance, the transpersonal counselor will always seek to go beyond this mark into the realm of transcendence, unity, and extraordinary mental health.

 
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