A Guide to the Psychospiritual Movement

Psychospiritual: (Adj) The integration of the psychological and the spiritual. Used mostly in the fields of transpersonal psychology and holistic (mind/body) counseling, the term “psychospiritual” acknowledges the overlap between psychological and spiritual disciplines.

Here at the Vitalist School of Psychospiritual Transformation, we’re thrilled with the growing recognition among mental health counselors, therapist, holistic health practitioners, and even those in traditional medicine of the deep interconnections between mind, body, and spirituality.

The term “mind/body medicine” has almost become a cliche, but the idea of integrating the mind and the spirit when healing mental health issues is just beginning to gain traction.

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In psychospiritual healing and counseling, there’s a recognition that perhaps depression, anxiety and the like aren’t the result of a “chemical imbalance” or some sort of biological deficiency in the brain.

Instead, psychological changes, mental health symptoms, and emotional crises can be a catalyst for growth and transformation, leading to positive life changes and expanded states of consciousness.

This is the crux of psychospiritual transformation.

Psychospiritual transformation occurs when we combine psychology and spirituality to turn a negative life event or a symptom of mental illness into a journey and an opportunity for personal growth, rather than treating them as things to be eliminated, suppressed, or moved past as quickly as possible. As Trevor Hall said, “You can’t rush your healing”.

There’s a great poem from the mystical Sufi poet Rumi, called the Guest House, which addresses this very idea. It goes:

This human being is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them all at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes.
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond
— The Guest House - Rumi

My favorite part that I want to draw your attention to is where it says:

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

This is so often the case in practice, working with clients as a counselor or holistic practitioners.

The client is complaining of depression. Anxiety. Insomnia. Or maybe hopelessness or a lack of fulfillment.

And certainly, those are serious complaints that can cripple a person’s ability to function in life, even becoming life threatening.

But by the same token, they’re also a part of the normal human experience that have been with us since paleolithic times.

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Pathologizing and medicalizing these states remove any capacity to realize a “fruitful darkness” as part of the experience, which can lead to a powerful transformation under the proper guidance.

Instead of seeing our mental health symptom or the fallout of a terrible life experience as a debilitating state to be eradicated, we can hold it gently. We can recognize it as a cue to slow down and engage in self-care. We can take it as a sign that we’re in a unique season of life that has things to teach us.

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And when we avoid the temptation to numb ourselves and go over, under, or away from the things that we’re experiencing, we open ourselves to accept, allow, and go through it instead.

And like an experience of alchemy, we often find that we’ve experience a psychospiritual development and transformation in the process.

What is psychospiritual healing?

Traditional psychotherapists may refer to this is as “holistic counseling” or “psychospiritual counseling”.

Psychospiritual healing is the more common term among holistic health practitioners.

Whatever name is used, psychospiritual healing can be defined as:

A therapy method that involves simultaneously engaging the body, mind, and spirit in healing mental health issues, moving beyond problematic life patterns, and overcoming traumatic life experiences. Typically, the patient will be guided into utilizing their sympoms or difficult season of life as a catalyst for psychospiritual transformation.

The field of psychospiritual healing and/or counseling acknowledges the validity and relevance of mystical states and non-ordinary awareness.

The efficacy of mindfulness, meditation, and self-compassion.

The importance of ritual and rites of passage.

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And - as stated above - recognizes that mental health symptoms, uncomfortable emotions, the feeling that something is “missing” in life, and so on, are not diseases to be medicated and eradicated, but are rather teachers and catalysts for positive life change.


Learn More about the Vitalist School of Psychospiritual Transformation

As a practitioner in the Vitalist School, we learn to do hold space and guide clients as they  work out their emotions, discover their hidden belief systems and process energies that were previously locked within their bodies… emerging from their struggle into a state of psychospiritual transformation.

But just as important, we also believe that it’s crucial for practitioners to do this work within their own lives.

In the Vitalist School, you’ll learn to not only do this work with others, but to find your own transformation so that you can be your own authentic self, bringing that authenticity to the world and to your clients.

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What is psychospiritual development?

Let’s start with a video. Here, Vitalist School founder Micah McLaughlin talks a bit about what the processes of psychospiritual development and transformation look like in practice.

People have two basic needs. Attachment and authenticity. When authenticity threatens attachment… attachment trumps authenticity.
— Dr. Gabor Mate

Psychospiritual development can proceed in many ways through a person’s life span.

But often, it happens in a big way when a person realizes that a pattern or belief system from childhood is no longer serving them.

As Mate said in that quote, we’re born with a need for attachment and a need for authenticity.

Children learn to perform or behave in a way that will get them the support and attachment they they need, even forming strong belief systems around it.

These belief systems might be things like:

  • I need to be a good boy/girl

  • I always need to follow the rules

  • It’s not safe to be vulnerable

  • I need to put other’s needs first

By engaging in the behaviors derived from these belief systems, we’re ignoring our need for authenticity in order to get attachment.

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We get into our 20s and 30s or beyond and realize that we’re still “performing” in the way that we learned as children, in order to get our needs for attachment met.

But as adults, that behavior no longer serves us. We’re playing out a pattern of behavior that doesn’t even work to get support and attachment anymore… and meanwhile it’s still stifling our ability to be authentic.

Psychospiritual transformation is the process of discovering what those unconscious patterns from childhood are, and getting rid of the patterns that no longer serve us.

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In addition, we may have had experiences or traumas that were too painful for us to fully deal with as children. And in these cases we simply buried the emotions within our bodies, where they’re often out of our conscious awareness.

As a psychotherapist, holistic healing practitioner, or just an individual trained in psychospiritual transformation techniques, our goal is to help people understand what those core beliefs are that they brought with them from childhood, and what the emotions that haven’t been felt or integrated (the latter often being done using bioenergetic psychotherapy (for traditional counselors and practitioners) or somatic therapy (for holistic practitioners).

(Side note: Here’s a great video for readers who want to learn more about somatic therapy and somatic experiencing)

As people become aware of these habitual patterns in their lives, and long buried emotions are dealt with, they get to “live in choice”, and choose whether they want to continue each specific pattern.

As we do this work, there’s a coming back to the authentic self - the part that was lost in childhood.

And this is where psychospiritual development occurs.