What is Transpersonal Counseling? – 2

Another response from one of my colleagues, Davis Lukoff:

Nonordinary States of Consciousness in Transpersonal Psychotherapy

William James first explored how nonordinary states of consciousness can be induced and the value that they have for providing access to special knowledge that cannot be gained through ordinary consciousness. Many schools of psychology “adhere to an unnecessarily restricted view of the psyche [and refuse to] work therapeutically with spiritual experience and experiences of nonordinary reality” (Scotton, 1996, p. 3). In transpersonal psychotherapy, induction of nonordinary states of consciousness has a respected place.

Transpersonal psychotherapists have explored the healing potential of many states of consciousness, including those associated with meditation, bodywork, movement, dreamwork, guided imagery, prayer, drumming, chanting, sweat lodges, fasting, shamanic journeying, and psychedelic drugs (Cortright, 1997). Anthropologist Michael Hamer (1990) and Native American psychologist Leslie Gray (2002) have developed shamanic counseling approaches based on shamanic practices that induce nonordinary states (particularly drumming). New techniques to induce nonordinary states have also been developed such as holotropic breathwork, an experiential procedure developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof involving several-hour sessions of music, energy work, and hyperventilation to simulate psychedelic drug experience (K. Taylor, 2003).


  1. I have heard of some of these techniques. One counselor talked about these things with me. He didn’t see the point in inducing nonordinary states of consciousness in someone who can achieve such states on her own. We did talk about shamanism as being something very much like what I experience sometimes. Those sessions were kind of like debriefings where I would just report on what I had experienced during the week and often the counselor would point out how such experiences were viewed in other cultures. There were also times when I would pass on information from ghosts that happened to be “sitting in” on the sessions or describe lights or sounds that the counselor couldn’t see or hear. We’d discuss what sort of meaning of I got from that kind of perceived information.

    I found all that interesting, but it didn’t stop me from wishing to be cured. I didn’t make any sort of progress at all until I tried meditation. I do think the meditation needs to be done in conjunction with counseling though, at least for someone like me. I need help sorting out all the difficult insights that come up during meditation. I still have days when I want a cure. I wanted one today very badly. I came close to making an appointment to see the sort of counselor that I know would have treated my situation as a pathological condition needing medical attention. I hate to admit this, because it truly is nuts, but my deceased Grandmother talking me out of doing that.

  2. Hi Sandy,

    You wrote:

    ” I came close to making an appointment to see the sort of counselor that I know would have treated my situation as a pathological condition needing medical attention.”

    Do you think that type of treatment would stop your experiences?

    What I’ve heard is that people who are treated for being psychic find the treatment so unpleasant they just stop telling their doctor about their experiences and say everything is fine. This reinforces the doctor’s own delusions and means that his claims that he can help psychics turn off their perceptions are unreliable. And, it just causes more psychological difficulties for the psychic.

    I would suggest you try to find some way to get information from people who have had experiences like yours who have been helped by medical treatment before you try it.

  3. Hi Anonymous,

    I don’t know if that sort of treatment would cure me. It would put me a situation where the doctor was reinforcing my worst inclinations, I suppose. Instead of telling me I’m gifted and perceptive, this sort of doctor would treat me as someone sick and delusional, and would agree that spiritual experiences are unscientific and crazy. The thing is, I feel badly about rejecting the way I am when it is framed as a gift. If it were framed as a disease, then it would be OK to reject it. That seems easier than learning to live with it sometimes.

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