If you're interested in an alternative psychology career, you might consider a degree in transpersonal psychology. A relatively new field of study, transpersonal psychology seeks to understand the human psyche outside of the traditional psychological framework. To pursue and enter this field, it's helpful to understand what it entails and the requirements expected of you. In this article, we explain what a transpersonal psychology degree is, describe the duties of a transpersonal psychologist, list the skills required for the field, examine the steps for becoming a transpersonal psychologist and discuss the role's earning potential and job outlook.
What is a transpersonal psychology degree?
A transpersonal psychology degree is an academic qualification in the psychological subfield that examines the spiritual, cosmic or transcendent aspects of existence through the lens of psychology. The term "transpersonal" means "beyond the self," suggesting that transpersonal psychology aims to understand factors outside of the traditional psychological scope. It's a multidisciplinary subject, incorporating spiritual and psychological approaches from various cultures and schools of thought. It may also encompass principles and ideas from other disciplines, such as literature, visual art, philosophy and social theory.
Transpersonal psychology degrees are available at the postgraduate level. Certain universities offer master's and Ph.D. programs in the subject. A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in psychology is a common prerequisite for entry into a postgraduate program.
What do transpersonal psychologists do?
Transpersonal psychologists treat spiritual or existential deficiencies in others. By improving spiritual health, these psychologists aim to maximize their patients' potential to live meaningful lives. Like traditional psychologists, they may help patients to identify problems that affect their quality of life, resolve harmful attitudes or behaviors or address problems in their interpersonal relationships. In addition to such services, they also guide patients in exploring and understanding their spiritual life, allowing them to attain self-realization.
Transpersonal psychologists may use various techniques in their practice. Traditional psychotherapy, goal-setting, assertive training and regression therapy are common tools in the transpersonal psychologist's office, but they also use alternative therapies such as:
Artwork: With art therapy, patients create visual art to explore their inner lives and the conflicts within.
Journaling: Like art therapy, journaling allows patients to channel their emotions through an expressive medium and examine the roots of their inner conflicts.
Meditation: Meditation is a self-guided technique in which an individual trains their mind to obtain mental clarity and emotional stability.
Guided visualization: Guided visualization, also known as guided imagery or guided meditation, is a practice in which the psychologist evokes mental imagery to elicit a specific response—often relaxation to reduce anxiety or fear.
Yoga: Yoga therapy applies yogic postures, breath work and principles to the objective of achieving a specific therapeutic goal.
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Important skills for transpersonal psychologists
The following are some of the essential skills in the field of transpersonal psychology:
Communication is the ability to convey thoughts in both speech and writing. Verbal communication is integral to psychological treatment because psychologists regularly offer comments on their patients' complaints. They might advise them on ways to improve their mental health or give feedback about points they discuss during sessions.
Written communication is also important because psychologists keep records of their patient encounters. A well-kept record of the patient's history and treatment allows the psychologist to keep track of progress, determine what other treatments they might try and refer the patient to other professionals for additional care.
If you have strong active listening skills, you can focus your attention on someone, understand what they're saying and provide a response that can both convey your understanding and encourage further conversation. One of the most common psychological techniques is to get the patient to talk about their concerns, which can help to determine what factors may be contributing to their mental and spiritual health issues. By listening actively, a transpersonal psychologist can help a patient feel heard, cared for and well guided.
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive the unspoken emotions of others. At times, patients may not verbally express the issues that are affecting them. In such instances, emotional intelligence is important for sensing when there's more that a patient can reveal about a topic. Emotional intelligence can also help assess a patient's progress without explicitly asking how they feel, allowing the psychologist to make adjustments in treatment to which the patient may respond organically.
Empathy refers to the ability to understand and someone's feelings or experiences. Psychologists can use this approach to provide more personalized treatment to their patients because they can put themselves in the patients' place. Some of the topics discussed with a psychologist can be sensitive, so a sense of empathy demonstrates that they care about their patients' feelings.
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze and draw conclusions from information. In clinical practice, critical thinking is important for evaluating and applying the patient's history or complaints. Transpersonal psychologists can use their critical thinking abilities to determine the origins of a patient's problems and create a tailored treatment plan to address them.
How to become a transpersonal psychologist
Because transpersonal psychology is a relatively new field, strict requirements for entry don't yet exist. The following steps are to allow you to maximize your chances of success as either a practitioner who specializes in transpersonal psychology or one who incorporates the subfield in their psychology practice:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
Earning a bachelor's degree is the first step in completing your transpersonal psychology education. The recommended major is psychology. You can choose between a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in this degree subject. A Bachelor of Arts in psychology usually has a greater focus on liberal arts coursework, including subjects such as history, sociology and political science. In the contrast, a Bachelor of Science centers more on advanced scientific subjects, such as neuroscience and clinical psychology.
2. Earn a master's degree
In some states, a master's degree is the minimum education requirement to be a practicing psychologist. A master's program takes two years for full-time students. Find a university that offers a specialized program in transpersonal psychology. These are typically Master of Arts programs that may cover coursework in contemporary psychology, ethics and laws relating to psychotherapy, existential psychotherapies, consciousness and meditation. They may also offer concentrations such as spiritual psychology and life coaching.
3. Earn a doctoral degree
Most states require independent psychologists to have a doctoral degree. The same institutes that offer master's degrees in transpersonal psychology also have doctoral programs. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in transpersonal psychology are available, but to become a practicing psychologist who treats patients, aim for a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in clinical psychology.
The program's length and curriculum are likely to vary depending on the school, but it generally lasts four to six years, includes a dissertation and requires a specific number of hours of supervised clinical training as an intern. Some Psy.D. programs are available online and can be completed in three years.
4. Gain internship and postdoctoral experience
As mentioned, supervised clinical training as an intern is a part of your Psy.D. requirements. Afterward, you begin your postdoctoral residency. Both are requisites for licensure. During these periods, your responsibility is to observe a licensed psychologist as they counsel and treat patients. Your internship and postdoctoral experience should be with an institute accredited by the American Psychological Association. The number of required supervised hours varies by state, so consult with your state's licensing board for specific requirements.
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5. Get licensed
With your doctoral degree and supervised clinical experience completed, you can apply for state licensure to be a practicing psychologist. The licensing process may vary by state but generally include submission of an application, payment of a fee and a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The EPPP lasts four hours and 15 minutes and consists of 225 multiple-choice questions. Correctly answering approximately 70% of the questions results in a passing score. Your state may also require you to take a jurisprudence examination, which addresses laws and regulations specific to your state.
After you pass the EPPP and jurisprudence exam, you are a licensed psychologist in your state. Once you set up your practice, you can apply transpersonal psychology techniques and philosophies in your treatment of patients. To maintain your license, pursue continuing education per your state's requirements.
Salary and job outlook for transpersonal psychologists
There's no widespread salary data specifically for the field of transpersonal psychology, but psychologists, in general, earn an average of $94,684 per year. Over time, as you build your independent practice, you may expect to earn more, as psychologists with over 10 years of experience report earnings beyond $140,000 per year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide data specifically about transpersonal psychologists, either, but it does report on the job outlook for the broader field of psychology. The BLS predicts an 8% growth in this field from 2020 to 2030, which is about on par with the average. The BLS attributes this growth to a growing demand for psychological services and increased awareness of the relationship between mental health and development.