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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.