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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies




A Comparison of Mainstream and Transpersonal Therapies


By George A. Boyd ©2003

When we examine the skills of a psychotherapist or psychologist, we find three core competencies, to which is added one or more modalities of psychotherapy. We further make these initial distinctions between mainstream and transpersonal therapies.

Mainstream branches of psychotherapy are widely disseminated and taught in schools. There is a wide range of case studies supporting the conclusions of these schools, and there is ongoing research into the efficacy and validity of their theories and methods.

The three major mainstream psychotherapies are Cognitive/Behavioral, Psychodynamic (which includes its derivative schools of Ego Psychology, Object Relations and Self-Psychology), and Humanistic/Existential.

Transpersonal psychotherapies are less widely taught and have much less supportive research to validate their methods and theories. There are eight major varieties of transpersonal therapies. These include Imagery therapy, Spiritual Therapy, Present Moment Process Therapy, Past Life Therapy, Pastoral Counseling (Faith-Based Therapy), Psychosynthesis, Yoga Therapy, and Attunement Therapy (Light Immersion).

A synopsis of these core competencies and interventions of mainstream and transpersonal psychotherapies are presented below.

Type of Therapy/

Name of Therapy/ Competency



Core Competencies of Professional Therapists

Administer tests and
do assessment

Gather data

Administer tests. Evaluate these tests. Make reports and present them.

Establish empathy
and rapport

Trust and openness

Ability to enter and reconstruct the client's experience through empathy. Monitor client's body language, mood and affect to sense what he/she may be experiencing.

Make diagnosis

Identification of key issues and symptoms

Interview the client to determine what are his/her key issues and symptoms. Gather data about the client's behavior, mood and cognition. Based on the therapist's knowledge of classifications of mental illness, the therapist decides what diagnosis to label the client's symptoms and issues.

Mainstream Psychotherapies

Cognitive Behavioral

Create adaptive and appropriate behavior and/or beliefs

Interview client to obtain information about the presenting problem. Note associations between belief and affect, belief and behavior, situational cues that may trigger the unwanted behavior. Use techniques to modify behavior and/or belief, to modify affect.


Change ego functioning, overcome unhealthy patterns of relating

Have the client discuss current life issues, relate dreams, or free associate to the content of the stream of consciousness. Analyze defenses, transference to the therapist, blocking or resistance. Interpret the meaning of the client's production in each session.


Authentic experience of the unique Self

Listen with empathy to allow the client to become fully known. Create an interpersonal space of unconditional positive regard. Have the client share his/her feelings, experiences, and meaning he/she has derived from those experiences. Guide the client to explore feelings, issues, values, and meanings, and to be fully present as the Self.

Transpersonal Psychotherapies

Imagery Therapies

Guidance and understanding gained by reflection on a symbol or archetype

Have the client enter a hypnotic trance to encounter and interact with an image [the image may be selected by the therapist or one of the client's own production]. Listen with empathy to the client's perceptions of and reactions to the image. Help the client interpret and integrate the experience.

Spiritual therapies

Awakening as the spiritual heart

Guide the client in processes to uncover the spirit. Listen with empathy to the client's experience with selected processes, and encourage the client to complete each process.

Present Moment Process therapy

Release of unconscious material, re-creation and re-choosing.

Establish affinity, reality and communication in the present time. Have the client do a selected process, acknowledging the client's response. Continue until the process is completed. [Certain groups may use a skin resistance-measuring device to identify emotional release or process completion.]

Past Life Therapy

Re-experience and release past life issues impacting the present life

Have the client enter a hypnotic trance and go back to a past life. Help the client explore the images and experiences that emerge from this past life, and uncover any relationship between them and issues or symptoms in this present life. Guide the client forward or backwards on this time track to process issues.

<Pastoral Counseling

Establish communion with a loving and forgiving Creator, give hope, comfort and strength to face the trails of life

Have the client relate their problem or issue. Listen with empathy, offer hope that the Lord can help. Seek to comfort the client and strengthen the client's coping mechanisms. Give counsel based on scripture. Pray with the client. Guide the client into union with the Moon Soul.


Integration with the Self, and ultimately, the Transpersonal Self.

Identify the client's issue. Use a variety of evocative techniques to allow the client to interact with subpersonalities, the Self, images of the higher unconscious and with the Transpersonal Self. Guide the client to encounter and interact with the focus of the technique. Help the client understand and integrate the experience with the selected element.

Yoga Therapy

Union with Transcendent Ultimate Reality and overcoming the karmic impediments to full realization and Enlightenment

Coach client in meditation, facilitate movement through issues and union with a transcendent state of consciousness. Have client do hatha yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation to transcend and move through issues. Modify stress through lifestyle and dietary changes. Mirror a transcendent state of consciousness for the client to help him/her gain union with it.

Attunement Therapy

Healing by Light Immersion

Send the Light to minister to the client's needs beyond words and symbols to the core of the client's pain. Make attunement to the client's personality, spirit and Soul. Empower the client's attentional principle to work on him/herself and send the Light to others.

Differences between Mainstream and Transpersonal Therapies

When we look at some of the key differences between the mainstream and transpersonal therapies, we find seven salient factors in which they differ:

  • depth of attentional immersion

  • focal points used for therapeutic purposes

  • empirical validation of their methods

  • models of personality

  • temporal depth

  • role of the therapist

  • purported agencies of healing and transformation

While both share the common ground of building rapport with the client, gathering data about the client's presenting problem, and identifying aspects of the client's problem that can be addressed by the therapist's knowledge and skills, the approach to therapy varies significantly on these seven factors. These are contrasted below.

Depth of Attentional Immersion

Meditation and prayer play a significant role in the transpersonal therapies, as interventions in these therapies may extend into the Superconscious mind.

The mainstream therapies, by contrast, do not normally move beyond the confines of the Metaconscious mind, the domain of the Self and the personality. While sustained focusing of the attention is required in mainstream therapies to promote insight, and the processing of issues, the client does not have to sound the same depths as is required in the transpersonal therapies.

Focal Points Used for Therapeutic Purposes

The transpersonal therapies may seek to access focal points in the Superconscious mind. These elements can include archetypes, the spirit, the wave of present time awareness, the Transpersonal Self, or even a higher octave of being.

Mainstream therapies, on the other hand, select focal points in the Conscious, Subconscious, and Metaconscious mind. These focal points in the Conscious mind may include sensations in the body tied to issues, working with present time feelings or patterns of thoughts, and defensive reactions of the ego. Memories of past experience drawn from the personal unconscious may tap the Subconscious mind. Commitment (the desire body), role play of social skills (persona), exploration of choices (volition), or abiding in the Self may be seen in interventions that utilize the Metaconscious mind.

Empirical Validation

Mainstream therapies seek empirical validation through research and testing, so that their techniques and theories may be founded upon the bedrock of scientific method.

Transpersonal therapies are innovative, intuitive and experimental, with little or no scientific testing to support them.

Models of Personality

Mainstream models of personality are based on levels of the Conscious, Subconscious, or Metaconscious mind, and target their interventions within these zones.

Transpersonal therapies may invoke levels of the Collective Unconscious or Superconscious mind to explain their therapeutic model and provide a rationale for their interventions.

Temporal Depth

Mainstream therapies target their interventions within the confines of post-natal experience.

Transpersonal therapies may accept and utilize experiences drawn from the birth trauma and the intrauterine period, from in-between lifetimes or past lives, or may even evoke mystical, timeless experiences of eternity through union with the spirit or Soul.

Role of Therapist

In both forms of therapies, the therapist acts as guide, coach, and evocator of inner process.

However, the level to which the client must descend in transpersonal therapies requires that the guide be familiar with much deeper strata of the Great Continuum of Consciousness.

Agencies of Healing and Transformation

For mainstream therapies, growth, healing and change are founded upon known neurophysiological responses to release of stress, measurable decreases in observable symptoms, and changes in cognition and perception. Successful interventions may be seen to change behavior, alter aberrant or dysfunctional patterns of belief or thinking, promote emotional processing and release of painful issues, and guide new, more mature and healthy choices.

In transpersonal therapies, transformational or alchemical processes are purported to produce change. For example, intrapsychic transformation of symbolic material, burning of karma, forgiveness of sins, opening of chakras or clearing etheric channels of life force may be used to explain what takes place as a result of transformational intervention.

Light Immersion

The eighth form of transpersonal therapy, attunement therapy or Light Immersion, is purported to be the method by which Jesus and other great Initiates healed the sick and mentally ill. This method directs the Inner Light Fire in specific ways to bring about healing and transformation. The Light Fire of the Spirit can

  • provide deep emotional comfort by the infilling of the Holy Spirit

  • purify the inner vehicles

  • refine character

  • unfold the spiritual evolutionary potentials of the Soul

  • transmute and dissolve material stored in the unconscious mind

  • guide the attention to directly encounter inner issues

  • awaken intuitive and insightive states of mind

Disciples of great Initiates—Masters, Gurus, Sat Gurus—report being filled by great Light and Power in the presence of these advanced Souls.

The inner healing and transformation at the core of being produced by this immersion has wide-ranging effects on the individual, including the opening of new abilities, the emergence of new intuitive understanding, and a growing love and compassion. Further, the individual may achieve enhanced ability to concentrate the attention, to actively process personal issues, and to commune with the spirit and the Soul. Those undergoing this Light Immersion also report greater serenity, self-discipline, perceive enhanced personal control over their lives, have a sense of deeper meaning and purpose, and feel renewed altruistic impulses to help or serve others. The personality, moreover, is gradually transformed to become an instrument for the expression of the Soul's abilities and intuitive knowledge.

We suggest this healing Light Fire, called Spirit or Shakti, is ultimately the real healer or transformer in all types of psychotherapy, however it is invoked and directed. This intelligent, living force can change behavior, relieve emotional distress, and sort out the tangles of a troubled mind. Perhaps the therapist's essential activity is to evoke this power within the client, which in turn does the healing and transformation.

Mainstream therapies and transpersonal therapies tap different levels of the mind in their quest to help their client become more functional and whole. But the efficacy of their methods may not simply consist of their way of relating to the client and skillful use of techniques, but to the degree they can act as a catalyst to spark the client's own inner resources of growth, transformation and healing.


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