Ph.D. in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology


Program Description

Transpersonal psychology is transformative psychology of mind and body, and of the individual in felt connection with a diverse, interconnected, and evolving world. The field pays particular attention to mystical, spiritual, and other exceptional human experiences associated with healing and transformation—encounters that disclose a vibrant reality that enfolds our seemingly individual minds.

We offer a whole-person approach to transpersonal psychology that includes learning and research structured to meet the needs and goals of working professionals. This approach includes affiliation with a planned research laboratory; a peer-reviewed journal produced in part by student interns; and senior scholars in the field who are available to guide student research. We are committed to diversity and inclusion, embodied tools for scholarship, and systematic approaches to building transpersonal areas of knowledge. Our program is offered as a part-time course of study, where online learning is supplemented by residential intensives.

Cultivate Meaning and Scholarship

Our doctorate is for professionals who wish to enhance their credentials, cultivate new meaning in their work, deepen their skills, or contribute to shaping their areas of specialization. It is also for entrepreneurially oriented students who wish to gain a breadth of knowledge as a foundation for teaching, consulting, or working with individuals. Students will typically gain skills in critical thinking, scholarly writing, and systematic approaches to problem-solving, all of which may translate into many areas of work. We hope our students will play a shaping role in psychological research and practice.

Residential Intensive Dates:

Spring 2021: Wednesday, January 20 to Monday, January 25, 2021

Learning Goals

Upon completion of the Ph.D. in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, students will be able to:

Goal 1. Demonstrate the ability to produce doctoral-level scholarly work in integral/transpersonal psychology

  • Exhibit doctoral-level scholarly writing and critical thinking skills.
  • Display expertise in a topic area within integral/transpersonal psychology.
  • Employ interdisciplinary scholarship in a careful and rigorous way.
  • Design and carry out scholarly research using an appropriate research method.
  • Integrate creativity and embodiment in the processes of scholarship.

Goal 2. Engage in communities of scholarship in a professional and collegial manner

  • Present scholarship effectively in a group setting.
  • Engage in respectful dialogue with scholars from other fields and backgrounds.
  • Employ integral and transpersonal psychology concepts in teaching contexts.
  • Practice inclusiveness with and appreciation of diverse and minority voices.

Goal 3. Demonstrate expertise in an area of integral and/or transpersonal psychology

  • Display command of the literature in an area of scholarship related to integral/transpersonal psychology.
  • Participate in advancing scholarly research in the fields of integral and/or transpersonal psychology.

Career Outcomes 

There are three main groups of students for whom this degree is well suited. One such group is those with existing professionals who wish to advance their education and contribute to the development of better research and scholarship in their professional areas of work, such as psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, counselors, consultants, activists, organizers, leaders, teachers, researchers, nurses, physicians, lawyers, or others in fields related to personal development, social change, or environmental protection. Another group consists of individuals who are entrepreneurially oriented, and who may wish to use their degree as the basis for consulting or writing and teaching in the public arena about their area of expertise. In addition, some students wish to pursue a Ph.D. as a means to more fully developing their personal gifts and potentials.

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About the Program

The CIIS doctoral degree in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology (ITP) is one of the few programs in the world that offers an online Ph.D. in whole-person approaches to psychology and that is a research-oriented program dedicated to systematic knowledge-building and the advancement of these fields. 

Whole-person psychologies expand the horizons of conventional Western psychology to include mystical and spiritual experiences that transform and expand human consciousness, and by engaging in a comprehensive framework that includes the living systems of body, community, society, and the world as interconnected processes of evolution in a living, breathing cosmos. From this perspective, scientific work can be pursued with equal rigor as standard approaches, but it becomes possible to ask new and compelling research questions that lie close to the heart of what it is to be human. 

This course of study will focus on experiential depth in the education process, integrative learning contexts, excellence in scholarship, and contributions to scholarly literature and scientific research. The ITP degree will offer focus areas in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, in Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience, and in Somatic Studies. 

Focus Areas of the ITP Degree 

Integral and Transpersonal Psychology 

A transpersonal approach appreciates all that conventional psychology brings, but also gives weight to lived experience, intuition, and exceptional human experiences such as those associated with mysticism and spirituality. It is transformative psychology of the whole person, not just as an individual, but as part of a diverse, interconnected, and evolving cosmos. Integral psychology is a related approach that sees the typical human personality as fragmented and understands both healing and personal evolution as linked to the integration of these aspects into a more whole being. The integral tradition has roots in Indian spirituality through the writings of the Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo. 

Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience 

The study of consciousness brings a new dimension to both philosophy and psychology so that the process of knowledge is turned back onto itself and consideration is given to the remarkable fact of awareness, of knowing, that makes knowledge possible. What contemplative neuroscience adds to this is a careful consideration of those states of consciousness, such as meditation, that involve the cultivation of consciousness. If these states can be understood, both from within experience and with the tools of neuroscience, this may advance understandings of the human mind, of experiences associated with mysticism and spirituality, and of consciousness itself. 

Somatic Studies 

Somatics and somatic psychology consider the intimate lived experience of embodiment—of understanding what it is to be human from the inside, and how these experiences illuminate culture, consciousness, and healing. This focus area is designed to support students with experience in transformative body practice such as a martial art, bodywork, dance or movement practice, advanced sports practice, gyrotonics, pilates, or similar traditions, in enhancing their capacities for teaching their practice, advancing their understanding of its relevance to challenges in the contemporary world, and supporting their ability to publish scholarly work related to their area of expertise.

The integral tradition has roots in Indian spirituality through the writings of the Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher Sri Aurobindo, though it also refers to the contemporary inclusion of mindfulness and other whole person elements in psychology. 

Transpersonal Science 

The ITP degree focuses on research and systematic, scientific knowledge building. A transpersonal science applies the methods of science to the study of the whole person, fully embodied, embedded in a community, and engaged with the world, but it also represents a re-visioning of the scientific process. Transpersonal science is more than studying transpersonal topics in a scientific way, it is also about doing science in a way that is transpersonal, integral, and holistic. Such an approach includes everything from innovative ways to research the richness of lived experience to measuring neural responses with EEG. 

Course of Study

The Integral and Transpersonal Psychology program seeks to ground academic excellence and the acquisition of professional skills in both the personal transformation of students and the cultivation of a spiritually informed scholarship.

Our curriculum provides context for multi-disciplinary exploration of the interface of psychology and spirituality, including integral and transpersonal psychology, Asian psychologies, modern consciousness studies, participatory spirituality, transpersonally informed therapies, depth psychology, contemplative psychology, religious comparative studies, shamanic and indigenous studies, eco-psychology, and more. Approaching the encounter among diverse worldviews in the spirit of dialogue, mutual transformation, and open inquiry, students in this program actively explore the practical implications and professional applications of this convergence for a diverse and multicultural world. This commitment also entails bridging psycho-spiritual growth with social, cultural, and ecological transformation.

Our program is guided by and dedicated to the following educational ideals:

  • To offer an integral education that honors not only intellectual excellence, but also the voice and wisdom of the somatic, vital, emotional, imaginal, and spiritual dimensions of the person.
  • To bring spirituality into academia and explore the transformative elements of inquiry, learning, and writing.
  • To foster the psycho-spiritual development of students, as well as their unique gifts and potentials.
  • To promote competence in diverse research methods and tools, with the goal of enabling students to participate in systematic, scientific knowledge-building from the transformative and whole-person stances of integral and transpersonal psychology.

Students complete 36 units of coursework and write a dissertation. The degree is designed as a half-time online program with a research orientation. Students meet two times per year for a week-long residential seminar, with the remainder of coursework completed online. The program of study consists of core requirements, research courses, an area of focus that includes advanced seminars, two comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Students may elect, with advisor approval, to add a second focus area to their program, thereby extending their program of study for an additional year. All courses in our program are evaluated by letter grade; there is no pass/fail option.

The Ph.D. in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology has 36 units of coursework plus a dissertation.

I. Core Requirements—12 units

II. Research Courses—12 units

  • Western/World Philosophies with History and Systems of Psychology
  • Critical Thinking with Integral/Transpersonal Psychologies
  • Scholarly Writing with Integral and Transpersonal Studies
  • Somatic Psychology with Exceptional Human Experiences
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Quantitative Research Methods with Neuroscience of Consciousness
  • Integral Research Methods with Creative Expression
  • Proposal Writing
III. Area of Focus—12 units

IV. Dissertation—0 units

  • Possibilities include:
  • Integral and Transpersonal Psychology
  • Somatic Studies
  • Consciousness Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience
  • Course in Focus Area (3 units)
  • Course in Focus Area (3 units)
  • Course in Focus Area (3 units)
  • Course in Focus Area (3 units)
  • Dissertation Proposal
  • Dissertation Seminar

Multi-Paper Dissertation

In addition to the standard format for doctoral dissertations, the program allows students to use an alternative format that consists of three peer-reviewed papers. Two of these papers are to have been published or accepted for publication; the other is to have been either published or accepted for publication or under review. Students who would like to pursue the multi-paper dissertation format are assessed by the faculty program committee on a case-by-case basis. As with the traditional dissertation, a dissertation proposal is submitted, a committee of three members is formed, a dissertation is prepared using the text of the three articles as its central content.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a master's degree from a regionally-accredited institution either in an area of the humanities such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, or education or in a field that is directly related to their proposed area of the dissertation study.

Candidate Selection

Successful candidates for admission in the program typically have the following qualifications:

  • a vision that is compatible with the program's mission;
  • a path of personal growth and/or spiritual growth;
  • sufficient maturity and stability to pursue independent self-inquiry and sustained research;
  • competence in communication and dialogical skills;
  • demonstration of respect for a diversity of viewpoints;
  • an openness to multiple ways of knowing and whole-person learning;
  • the ability to clearly articulate educational, professional, and research goals;
  • outstanding scholarly writing skills; and
  • a prospective specialization that is consonant with the program's mission and faculty expertise.

For example, some students may enter the doctoral program with a clinical licensure degree (e.g., Marriage and Family Therapist) with the goal of bringing philosophical or spiritual depth to their practice or becoming qualified for new professional opportunities such as teaching.

Application Requirements

  • Online Admissions Application
    Begin the application process by submitting an online graduate application and submitting the non-refundable $65 application fee payment.
  • Degree Requirement
    A bachelor's and master's degree (MA, MS, or the equivalent) from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Minimum GPA
    A GPA of 3.0 or higher in previous coursework is required. However, a GPA below 3.0 does not automatically disqualify an applicant and CIIS will consider a prospective student whose GPA is between 2.0 and 3.0. These individuals are required to submit a GPA Statement and are encouraged to contact the Office of Admissions to discuss their options.
  • Transcripts
    Official transcripts from all accredited academic institutions attended where 7 or more credits have been earned. If transcripts are being mailed to CIIS, they must arrive in their official, sealed envelopes. Transcripts from institutions outside the US or Canada require a foreign credit evaluation through World Education Services (WES) or CIIS will also accept foreign credential evaluations that are in a comprehensive course-by-course format from the current members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).
  • Goal Statement
    A one-to-three page (typed, double-spaced) statement of your educational and professional objectives. Include how you will use the resources of the curriculum to advance your chosen inquiry.
  • Résumé
  • Autobiographical Statement
    A four-to-six page (typed, double-spaced) introspective autobiographical statement discussing your values, emotional and spiritual insights, aspirations, and life experiences that have led to your decision to apply.
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
    Recommenders should use standard business format and include full contact information-name, email, phone number, and mailing address.
  • Academic Writing Sample
    Letters of recommendation will be accepted from academic advisors, professors, professional supervisors, or someone able to attest to your ability to undertake the work required for your program. Recommenders should use standard business format and include full contact information-name, email, phone number, and mailing address.

International Students

Please note: International students and individuals who have studied at institutions outside the US and Canada have additional requirements.

Last updated Nov 2020

About the School

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is an innovative, forward-thinking university based in San Francisco, California.

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is an innovative, forward-thinking university based in San Francisco, California. Read less
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