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Transpersonal psychotherapy is a branch of psychology that attempts to treat mental disorders and behavioral problems by looking at individuals as spiritual beings or souls that possess traits and motivations outside of our complete understanding in the normal physical realm. Psychology, as a general rule, utilizes firmly-grounded techniques in behavior modification through analysis of mental states and treatment with medication that don't require the acknowledgment of consciousness beyond the physical world. This makes transpersonal psychotherapy a unique branch of the discipline, as it incorporates the beliefs of all world religions into its practice. While the field of transpersonal psychology has existed since its inception in the early 1970s, a revised interest in New Age and holistic methods of treatment for mental illness as of 2011 has increased interest in transpersonal psychotherapy.
The benefits of psychotherapy can encompass broader changes in an individual's life when transpersonal approaches are taken, as the method attempts to incorporate treatment of what is referred to as the Essential Self. This is a holistic definition of an individual, which states that someone is more than the sum of his or her physical states of the body, mind, and environment in which he or she lives. While the aims of psychotherapy in general are to bring an individual into alignment with his or her interpersonal environment so that the person can function normally within society, transpersonal psychotherapy instead takes the larger view that an individual's existence extends beyond what is readily apparent.
Much of the benefits of psychotherapy from a transpersonal perspective are derived from Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Yogic traditions that originated in India. These belief systems teach that human beings are both physical and spiritual entities undergoing a prolonged path of consciousness raising transformation which may not always be in sync with day-to-day reality. The practice of traditional psychology can, therefore, be in conflict with the transpersonal approach if it involves traditional conditioning methods versus awareness raising methods that are fundamental to transpersonal psychotherapy.
Where traditional therapy focuses on a scientifically-based cause and effect view of mental states, the transpersonal approach looks at consciousness in terms of energy states. This gives the field of transpersonal psychotherapy a broader range of methods and techniques from which to choose in counseling individuals. Its focus is on the difference between who individuals have been taught to believe they are by society, and who they really are or have the potential to become. Because of its greater scope, the transpersonal approach takes into account assumptions drawn from many religions, such as the drive for all individuals to seek out ultimate truth and freedom, and to find an existence beyond the restrictions of their own egos.
Among the types of psychotherapy that the transpersonal approach often incorporates into its practice are hypnosis, which is used in traditional psychotherapy; Meridian Tapping, which involves several different forms of Energy Therapy like acupuncture and Thought Field Therapy (TFT); and transcendental meditation. Key to the use of all of these methods when being guided by a therapist or holistic medicine practitioner is the understanding in transpersonal psychotherapy that the therapist and client are equals. This is essential as the premise for such therapy is based on Carl Jung's idea of the collective unconscious, or concept that at the level of pure consciousness all beings are unified into one, where judgment is irrelevant and empathy must be the cornerstone of all interactions.