Degree Requirements: Bachelor's degree
Completion Time: 2-3 years
Earned Credits: 32-35*
Reaching into the realm of self-actualization and the transcendent, this program presents dynamic theories that define personality as a total gestalt, in the context of a spectrum of states of consciousness beyond what are traditionally considered to be the psychopathic and the normal. This interdisciplinary specialization is rooted in a holistic conception of what it means to be a person within the following frameworks:
- Humanistic psychology
- Existential psychology
- Transpersonal psychology
- Phenomenological psychology
*Saybrook transcript must reflect a minimum of 32 completed post-baccalaureate credits of new learning for the M.A.
The Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology Specialization is rooted in a holistic conception of what it means to be a person within the frameworks of humanistic psychology, existential psychology, and phenomenological psychology and philosophy. This specialization is closely tied to the historic mission and vision of humanistic psychology and Saybrook University. The specialization is committed to carrying forth Saybrook’s long history of maintaining the legacy of having the leading existential and humanistic scholars on its faculty, while producing the next generation of leaders. Though specialization does not prepare you for licensing as a psychologist, some master-level licensed professionals are interested in acquiring a Ph.D. in Psychology and deepening their understanding of existential and humanistic practices.
Finding careers in holistic or mainstream health care systems, business, or consulting, graduates from the M.A. in Psychology: Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology Specialization have applied their studies in diverse contexts, including:
- Alternative family systems
- Workplace psychology
- Psychological services in police and crisis work
- Spiritual counseling
- Grief and bereavement work
This specialization focuses on a growth-oriented perspective emphasizing human potential, intended to foster an in-depth understanding of individuals, including an honest appraisal of the human condition. The specialization encompasses both the important history and contributions of existential and humanistic psychology as well as contemporary directions in these fields. Many of the faculty in this specialization are established leaders in the existential and humanistic psychology fields.
From a practice-application standpoint, applications of this approach apply to healthy people engaged in a lifelong journey toward self-knowledge as well as to individuals in psychosocial or spiritual distress. The course of instruction is designed to direct students’ attention toward the growth-oriented dimension of personality, even when people are struggling with psychological distress, and to the role of higher states of consciousness in achieving psychological balance and transformation. However, particularly within the existential tradition, the transformative possibilities inherent in suffering are also important considerations within the specialization.
Augmenting the usual offerings, which focus on behavior and cognition in psychology, this specialization presents dynamic theories that define personality as a total gestalt, in the context of a spectrum of states of consciousness beyond what are traditionally considered to be the psychopathic and the normal. These states can reach into the realm of self-actualization and the transcendent. An emphasis on fostering existential and humanistic principles in practice and research is encouraged and viewed as an essential aspect of serving the highest and best interests of humanity.
This specialization is not designed to prepare graduates for licensure, but students interested in licensure may combine this specialization with a degree from the Department of Humanistic and Clinical Psychology.
More program information can be found in our academic catalog.
Residential Orientation (RO)
All new students in the M.A. Psychology degree program begin their studies with our one-time, two-day Residential Orientation (RO). ROs are held two days ahead of the Residential Conference (RC) at the start of the fall and spring semesters in California. Attendance at the entire RO is an academic requirement.
At the RO, students become familiar with the Saybrook culture and academic and support services, including online resources, and the library research services and databases. The challenges of distance and peer learning are also discussed during this time. At the RO, students:
- Consult with the Psychology Department chair, specialization coordinators, and an academic adviser to organize their degree plan process.
- Develop a rationale for the scope and sequence of their proposed plan of study.
- Plan what consultation they will need from other faculty.
Residential Conference (RC)
All psychology students participate in two five-day-long required Saybrook Residential Conferences (RCs) per year (one at the beginning of the fall semester and one at the beginning of the spring semester). Although you may complete most of your courses through distance learning, all our psychology degree programs have residential requirements. Residential requirements are academic requirements, and their completion is important for your successful academic progress as well as allowing you to meet with faculty and co-learners in a stimulating face-to-face environment. Our RCs are an important part of your learning experience as they nurture intellectual creativity, enrich the educational environment, and foster faculty and peer interactions. Courses are launched, and independent learning activities, peer learning opportunities, and other hands-on experiences are intended to nurture professional development, skill building, and transformative change. All students must be on site on the registration day and remain in residence until the last day of each conference. It is imperative that students plan accordingly. Any exceptions must be approved by the department chair prior to the conference.
No academic credit is given for attendance at the RC. Students who attend a seminar at an RC and wish to study the topic further may, with the permission of the seminar instructor and department chair, register for an independent study course (ALL 8100) following the RC and receive 1 academic credit upon completion. Each course is individually designed and negotiated with the seminar instructor. Not all RC workshops, courses, and seminars are eligible for the follow-up independent study credit. Students will need to review their program plan to confirm the 1 credit independent study will satisfy degree requirements.
M.A. students are required to attend until formal enrollment in either master thesis or project. Doctoral students attend until they have advanced to doctoral candidacy (upon satisfaction of essay orals).
Foundations of Existential and Humanistic Psychology
This course provides an overview of existential and humanistic psychology, including its history and origins, its current manifestations, its contributions to various aspects of psychology, including clinical practice, its critiques, and its possible future. Saybrook University has played an important role in the development and advancement of humanistic and existential psychology, and it remains a leading force in these fields. Special consideration is given to the relevant history of Saybrook University in these movements. Additionally, consideration of other important organizations in humanistic and existential psychology are considered. 3 credits
Ethics, Spirit, and Health Care
This course provides an overview of the ethical principles and codes of conduct in psychology. It will focus on the guidelines for ethical practice that integrates the spiritual, physical, and psychological dimensions into one’s professional work with individuals and groups. This core ethics course will focus then on a breadth of ethical considerations and concerns pertinent to the evolving intersections of mind-body-spirit. An introduction to ethics and the Code of Conduct created by the American Psychological Association will be provided. Ethical issues involving spirituality, faith, and medicine will be explored with an emphasis on helping students consider ethical issues related to the specific focus of their professional and academic goals. In that context, students will be encouraged to explore their own personal values, beliefs, and biases pertaining to moral and legal ethics in the field. 3 credits
Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy
Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy investigates human experiences that transcend the ordinary, particularly spiritual experiences and altered states of consciousness. This course reviews the Western roots of transpersonal psychology in the works of William James, Carl Jung, and Abraham Maslow. It also examines the relationship of transpersonal psychology to spiritual traditions, including shamanism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as mythology and other forms of spiritual investigations. Transpersonal clinical approaches in therapy and research methods are also addressed. Though open to all students, this course also satisfies the Clinical Interventions III/IV requirement in the Clinical Psychology degree program, with Clinical Interventions I & II as prerequisites. 3 credits
“Our program was founded by leaders of the humanistic psychology movement, and it has a longstanding tradition of advancing humanistic values and approaches. More specifically, many of the authors in the field are or have been involved with Saybrook, and we take pride in promoting the next generation of humanistic scholar-practitioners.”
—Dr. Theopia Jackson, Chair, Clinical Psychology Degree Program