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Holistic Psychology Schools

by Laura Fletcher

If you think meditation, aromatherapy and yoga can be critical components to mental health, you have a bent towards holistic psychology. Building on the theories of humanistic and Gestalt psychology, holistic psychology emphasizes the connection between mental, spiritual and physical needs and wellness. The discipline first began to emerge as an approach to mental health care in the early 70s, but there are still very few programs in the United States.

Naropa University

Naropa University was founded in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974 by Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche with the goal of uniting Eastern and Western theories and educational traditions. Alan Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and several other members of the Beat movement famously taught as professors there. Naropa’s graduate psychology program offers master’s degrees in several different areas of holistic psychology. The transpersonal counseling program emphasizes the human being’s spiritual journey and offers concentrations in counseling, wilderness therapy and art therapy. The contemplative psychotherapy program strongly blends Eastern traditions of meditation and mindfulness with transpersonal therapy practices. The somatic counseling psychology program focuses on how physical movement can help mental health and is accredited by the American Dance Therapy association. The low-residency ecopsychology program teaches psychologists to treat the mentally suffering by helping them to relate with nature.

Salve Regina University

Salve Regina University is a Catholic university in Newport, Rhode Island, that was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1947. The university is housed in several transformed Gilded Age mansions along Newport’s cliff walk and offers several different graduate programs in holistic psychology. Students can pursue either a Master of Arts in holistic counseling or a Master of Arts in holistic leadership, which focuses on the development of communication and holistic leadership skills for organizational leaders. Both master’s degrees offer a concentration in professional application of the expressive and creative arts, and Salve Regina also offers a graduate certificate and an advanced graduate certificate in substance abuse foundations.

Antioch University Midwest

Antioch University Midwest is an adult education outgrowth of Antioch College, the progressive college founded in 1852 that became famous for its unique co-op program requiring students to work full-time every other semester. AUM offers an individualized Master of Arts in applied psychology with concentrations in ecopsychology, psychology and spirituality, contemplative psychology, integrative studies in psychology and personal and professional coaching. Students can also pursue a master’s degree in integral knowledge systems, a program developed in collaboration with the Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research in Pondicherry, India that combines Eastern and Western spirituality and wellness practices. This program offers concentrations in integral social transformation and consciousness studies.

Lesley University

Founded as a teacher’s college at the height of the kindergarten movement in 1909, Lesley University is located near Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lesley is the only university on the East Coast to offer an undergraduate degree in holistic psychology. Students choose a track in Art Therapy, Counseling, or Expressive Arts Therapy. They study the human spiritual journey through suffering and transcendence as it is expressed in modern psychological theory as well as in the traditions of the Eastern, Western and tribal cultures. Many students choose to study abroad, and they may also take courses in the university’s Child Homelessness Initiative or participate in professor Neal Klein’s Foundation for Ubiquitous Nonsense.

About the Author

Laura Holland Fletcher has graduate level training in ESL, linguistics and the teaching of writing. She taught ESL and college writing for more than 10 years in both the US and Asia. She also writes for local and national magazines that cover legal, educational and social justice issues.

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