Degree Requirements: Master's degree
Completion Time: 5-6 years
Earned Credits: 68-83
Through the Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology Specialization, students are able to work closely with their mentors to develop a path designed to meet their particular needs, interests, and vocational aspirations. Topics include:
- Humanistic psychology
- Existential psychology
- Transpersonal psychology
- Phenomenological psychology
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
The Existential and Humanistic Psychology (EHP) 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, there are master-level licensed professionals who are interested in acquiring a Ph.D. in Psychology and deepening their understanding of Existential & Humanistic practices.
Finding careers in holistic or mainstream health care systems, business, or consulting, graduates from the M.A. in Psychology: Specialization in Existential and Humanistic Psychology program 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
The EHP 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 the EHP 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, the EHP 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.
Although this existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology degree specialization is not designed to prepare graduates for licensure, many students are already clinicians seeking to expand their clinical skills without the limitations of APA-modeled degree paths. Graduates of this existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology Ph.D. program have applied their studies in a variety of contexts, including refugee and resettlement issues, alternative family systems, workplace psychology, police and crisis work, and trauma.
Our Ph.D. in Psychology programs are intended to open opportunities for graduates to pursue non-clinical careers or expand on their existing licenses and is not designed to prepare graduates to qualify for clinical licensure or certification.
More program information can be found in our academic catalog.
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
Residential Orientation (RO)
All new students in the M.A. Psychology degree program begin their studies with our one-time, two-day Residential Orientation. Residential Orientations are held two days ahead of the Residential Conference 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 advisor 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 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. There are courses being launched, independent learning activities, peer learning opportunities, and other hands-on experiences 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 Residential Conference. 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.
Master 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).
The existential psychotherapist works with fundamental existential themes of human existence: death and freedom, choice and responsibility, isolation, relatedness, and meaning and mystery. These themes organize the basic structures with which human life is shaped and experienced, and therefore provide the context for an existential psychotherapy. This existential psychotherapy course explores clinical applications of existential theory to the human situation in individual and group therapy. As an introduction to existential psychotherapies, this course is in three parts: Part I (theory) lays out the historical and philosophical traditions that underlie existential psychotherapeutic practice; Part II (therapy) shows how existential therapy grows out of existential theory; and Part III (application) uses the case study method to consider how existential psychotherapy can be applied to a diverse set of problems and clientele. 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 credit(s)
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 credit(s)
Existential Psychotherapies II: Rollo May and the Existential Tradition
Rollo May was the founding parent of existential-humanistic psychology and a pivotal figure in what we may call philosophical/psychological rapprochement. His books, byproducts of a profound disposition and wide-ranging literacy and curiosity, encourage a rich dialogue between philosophy and psychology and the broader humanities. May expresses concretely what he believed from the time of his earliest work: that psychology requires a grounded, theoretically cogent, interdisciplinary approach to human nature. His books remain an auspicious place to start for those interested in learning about what psychology at its most esoteric can be. In this course, we will consider Rollo May’s work and legacy attentively, thereby glimpsing what psychology at its most visionary and rarified might be. 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 credit(s)