Summary Chart: Transpersonal Theory
Transpersonalism views the development of higher consciousness as necessary for transforming people's lives. Healthy development is marked by one's advancement from personal to transpersonal concerns. Spiritual growth is measured by the individual's ability to transcend a subjective point of view and move on to higher earthly, spiritual, and cosmic perspectives. An individual's life is marked by the progress of developmental lines or stages, broadly arranged into prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal, through all levels of life and consciousness, which the self attempts to manage and navigate. Each stage carries with it new developmental hurdles and pathologies that must be dealt with. Successful navigation through these developmental stages eventually results in transcendence and connection or oneness with all things.
Transpersonal theory is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness. Transpersonal theory is nondual. It is unitive and carries with it the recognition that each part (each person) is fundamentally and ultimately a part of the whole (the cosmos). It does not seek to replace other counseling models but instead considers an expanded view of human nature while incorporating elements of behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanism, Jungian analysis, and Eastern philosophy. Proponents of transpersonal theory hold it to be the most eclectic counseling approach in use today, being inclusive of mainstream counseling approaches while focusing on expanded human qualities largely ignored by other theories.
The goals of transpersonal counseling are similar to those of other forms of counseling: to aid individuals with mental health issues and life difficulties. However, transpersonal counselors are additionally concerned with fostering a deepening integration of one's sense of connectedness, whether it be with self, community, nature, or the entire cosmos. A primary goal of transpersonal counseling is to bring clients to a point at which they can begin to work on transpersonal issues. Transpersonal counselors seek to bring a client beyond a healthy level of mental health and into the realm of transcendence, unity, and extraordinary mental health. The overarching goal is always transcendence and deepening of connectedness with the universe.
The process of change in transpersonal counseling is marked by the overcoming of personal problems and life issues, allowing for primary work toward spiritual integration. As the client moves from normal functioning to transpersonal work, the process of unification and deepening the experience of connection engenders the highest human qualities of creativity, compassion, selflessness, and wisdom.
The core practice of transpersonal counseling includes meditation, mindfulness, intuition, yoga, biofeedback, breath training, contemplation, inward focusing, visualization, dream work, guided imagery, and altered states of consciousness. Practitioners are as eclectic as possible and are as likely to use traditional intervention strategies as those labeled transpersonal, particularly for shorter term counseling. Primary interventions of transpersonal counseling are meditation and altered states of consciousness. Counselors use these strategies to bring clients to the eventual goal of transcendence and enlightenment.
Transpersonal counseling has come under fire for not having enough empirical support in the literature, causing some to question the ethicality of its use. There is also some question as to the effectiveness and safety for use with clients with serious mental health issues. Furthermore, transpersonal theory may be too abstract and complex for a majority of Western philosophically oriented clients.