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County Mayo, Ireland, 2018

© Photo by Rita G. Patel

Keem Bay, Ireland, 2018

© Photo by Rita G. Patel

Transpersonal Theory


"Transpersonal Theories

  • provide a nonsectarian conceptual framework for dealing with spirituality in a social work context

  • provide frameworks for holistic and integrative thinking and practice

  • address the highest human potential for achieving love, creativity, meaning and communion

  • describe the developmental process of self-actualization and self-transcendence

  • describe a variety of states and levels of consciousness

  • explain the difference between psychopathological phenomena and spiritual growth experience" (Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda, 2012, p. 377). 

"A chief objective of transpersonal theory is to integrate spiritual experience within a larger understanding of human nature and human development.  Transpersonal theory ... is committed to the possibility of unifying spiritual and psychological perspectives.  In being committed to such a unification, however, transpersonal theory does not advocate a program of reduction, of the spiritual to the psychological, or, for that matter, of "promotion," of the psychological to the spiritual.  Transpersonal theory is not a one-sided psychology of religion or an exclusively spiritual psychology.  It is rather a project that attempts a true synthesis of spiritual and psychological perspectives, a synthesis that involves a thorough rethinking of each of these perspectives in terms of the other.


Although transpersonal theory aims at a genuine synthesis of spiritual and psychological perspectives, it nonetheless gives the spiritual perspective a theoretical priority.  Transpersonal theory assumes that human development aims ultimately at a spiritual fulfillment and, therefore, that human nature can be properly understood only from a spiritual standpoint.  Transpersonal theory ... holds that spirituality - understood experientially rather than doctrinally or historically - should play the role of guiding principle in a unified understanding of the human psyche" (Washburn, 1995, p. 1). 




Robbins, S. P., Chatterjee, P., & Canda, E. R. (2012). Contemporary human

     behavior theory: A critical perspective for social work (3rd ed.). Upper

     Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Washburn, M. (1995). The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal

     Theory of Human Development.(2nd ed.). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.