• Psychology

    Masters and Doctoral Degrees

    Reimagining Professional Practice
  • 1

Course Descriptions

PSY 501, 502, 503 Psychopathology I, II, III
Each of us suffers in a unique way. Yet it is interesting and useful to recognize distinct varieties of human suffering without succumbing to the diagnostic illusions of the medical model. These courses pivot around the difference between a medical and a psychological approach to psychopathology. A genuinely psychological approach draws our attention to culture, myth, story, and metaphor as we make meaning of the symptoms we observe. The limits, ambiguities, and cruelties of professionalized responses to human suffering are among our considerations. The impact of differences on diagnosis (such as gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and class) and on social position and social stress are explored, as is the DSM IV-TR (the current diagnostic system used in professional psychiatry and psychology), as well as severe mental disorders. Students are encouraged to cultivate an empathic understanding of the experience of symptoms. (2 or 3 units, each)

PSY 505, 506, 507, 705 Imaginal Process I, II, III, IV
Imaginal Process is a distinct approach to transformative learning. In this approach, human capacities are cultivated through diversifying, deepening, embodying, and personalizing experience. Imagination amplifies and integrates the sensory, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of our experience. Through the labor of imagination, it is possible to craft our experience towards truth, joy, and effectiveness. This approach reflects an emerging multidisciplinary and multicultural synthesis which can be applied to education, therapy, coaching, organizational change, and the arts.

Transformative and initiatory experience requires courage, curiosity, and compassion. Listening deeply to each other’s stories is at the heart of this process. Good listening requires that we inhabit vulnerability, mystery, and complexity. This way of listening engages the empathic imagination in ways that catalyze mutual individuation.

This course sequence is an opportunity to experience how a group of individuals, through participation, becomes a collaborative learning community and how each individual becomes more of the person they desire to be. (2 units each)

PSY 508, 509, 510 Somatic Practices I, II, III
Somatic practices have been available within the local knowledge of many traditional and indigenous cultures. The political economics of modern psychology and allopathic medicine have marginalized these great resources for healing and pleasure. In the last 30 years, however, there has been a watershed in the restoration and integration of somatic practices.

This course sequence explores the use of somatic practices to reconnect with the sensory foundations of experience. These practices involve movement and touch, and affect regulation all of which support the imagination’s role in integrating the sensory, affective, and cognitive domains of experience. Imagery-based practices enhance mind-body integration which is key to our effective functioning and well being. (2 units each)

PSY 511 Somatic Psychology
This foundational course in Somatic Psychology provides students with a historical and theoretical overview of the field of Somatic Psychology and introduces them to the principles, concepts, and methods that underlie many of the established modalities. Students are offered the opportunity to experience some of these modalities in action and to begin to develop basic clinical and psychoeducational somatic skills. (2 units)

PSY 512 Myth and Contemporary Culture
Wisdom stories reflect a broad range of human concerns. This course explores the psychological functions of the mythic imagination. Initiatory patterns drawn from ancient narratives appear in movies and other cultural forms that reveal our aspirations. Familiar mystery tales and films are examined to study archetypal elements that shape experience, social roles, and social institutions. This course also considers how mythic narratives reflect pluralistic models of psychological life. (2 units)

PSY 514 Psychology of Dreams
Dreams may be viewed as messages of the soul. Yet, while dreams convey the deeper stirrings of the soul, their language is often baffling to the waking self. This course introduces students to a range of approaches for working with dreams. Students will explore various ways of constructing the relationship between waking and dreaming and its implications for the individuation process. Approaches and practices for engaging with dreams within contemporary Western psychological systems as well as traditional, non- Western psychological systems will be considered.

Dreaming experience is related to the knowledge domains of Imaginal Psychology, especially mythology, somatic practices, and indigenous wisdom. Students are encouraged to develop practices for tending their dream, in order to access their transformative power. This course seeks to deepen students’ capacity for cultivating, engaging, interpreting, and integrating their own dreams, as well as those of others. (2 units)

PSY 515, 516 Cultivating the Senses I, II
A psychology concerned with soul must recognize the essential role the body plays in everyday experience. The life of the senses is vital to the nourishment of the soul. This course focuses on the relationship between the physical senses and the life of the imagination. The repression of the senses cripples the imagination, leaving it unable to guide one’s life in nourishing and sustainable ways. Traumatic occurrences further disable the body’s way of knowing. Once it is nourished, a well-fed imagination can amplify our senses, aiding us in leading a life that is embodied, passionate, and self-aware. Topics to be explored include the use of language which engenders soul-making, the intelligence of the senses, and the repression of pleasure. (2 units each)

PSY 517, 617 Myth, Ritual, and Story I, II
In most cultures throughout history individuals have found psychological support and orientation through the myths and stories they inhabit. The vitality of memory depends on engaging myth, ritual, and story in supporting individuals to re-story their lives for initiation into a greater story. This course explores such topics as the archetype of the wounded healer and the significance of initiatory experience. (2 units each)

PSY 518 Psychology of Power, Privilege, and Oppression

The psychological experience of oppression - external and internal, culturally based and community-based - is of central significance in psychological healing and growth. In this course, we will explore the internalization of cultural oppression as well as oppressive voices towards 'the other' that live in our own hearts. The course will also review forms of systematic oppression such as racism, sexism, classism, able-bodyism, adultism, ageism, and homophobia, and experiences of race, ethnicity, class, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender, disability, and their incorporation into the psychotheraputic process. Of special concern will be the phenomena of scapegoating as well as the mechanisms at play that function to keep these difficult and painful cultural messages in force. The psychological practicioner's role in promoting cultural social justice and eliminating biases and prejudices, as well as individual and community strategies for working with and adocating for diverse populations, will be explored. (2.5 units)

PSY 520 Culture and the Law
This course considers legal and ethical issues pertaining to the practice of psychological work. Such issues include Tarasoff duty to warn and other mandatory reporting requirements, client suicidality, danger to property, confidentiality and privilege, forensic issues, court testimony, and psychological testing. Also considered are more subtle, ethical concerns such as the encouragement of client dependency, forms of psychotherapists’ financial greed, the use of language which serves to mystify clients’ suffering, the objectification of clients, and ethical dilemmas involved in the provision of psychotherapy in both the private-pay and managed-care economies. Emphasis is given on how the helping professional’s shadow issues can influence both psychotherapy and other helping relationships, and the importance of being aware of one’s own shadow issues. (4.5 units)

PSY 521, 522, 621, 622, 721 Psychotherapy Craft I, II, III, IV, V
This course sequence reimagines the practice of psychotherapy as a craft and explores the most basic instrument of psychotherapy, the self of the therapist. Each course seeks to integrate theoretical material with students’ personal exploration. (2 units each)

I: Introduction and Overview
This course begins to hone particular skills and capacities fundamental to facilitating individuation. These skills and capacities include: deep listening, empathic communication, recognition of multiplicity, and creatively interfacing with professional language and procedures such as diagnosis and treatment planning. Additional topics and issues considered include: transference, counter-transference, holding the container, minding the ebb and flow of affect and attachment, and otherwise negotiating the interactive field.

II: Becoming a Psychotherapist
This course explores how the student’s personal history and psychological development have converged in the call to become a psychotherapist. Topics include personal motivations, family-of-origin issues, imaginal structures, stages in the development of the therapist, and self and other shame-awareness.

III: Crafting the Therapist’s Self
This course investigates the practices involved in crafting those aspects of the self which are a necessity for good work. Included are the importance of presence, the listening self, and the role of ongoing work with counter-transference issues.

IV: Hazards of the Profession of Psychotherapy
This course examines the potential difficulties which can arise in both the work life and the personal life of the therapist as a result of practicing therapy over several years. Such difficulties may include: physical and psychic isolation, grandiosity, self-deception, bodily inactivity, boundary problems, client exploitation, negative impact on one’s personal relationships, and financial confusion, which can result in greed or self-sacrifice. Special attention is given to practical strategies for avoiding these kinds of problems.

V: Termination in Psychotherapy
The effective completion of the termination phase of psychotherapy is an essential and important part of the work. This course addresses loss, separation, dependence, and death as existential issues which, at various times, are both foreground and backdrop to the psychological relationship approaching its ending.

PSY 523 Developmental Embodiment
In this course students will be introduced to developmental approaches to Somatic Psychology, and to how notions of embodiment have been applied to Developmental Psychology and related disciplines. Experiential components will underscore the idea of embodiment as a developmental process, rather than as a static condition of human experience. (2 units)

PSY 525 Ecology and the Arts
For millennia humans have expressed their relationship to nature through the arts. The 12,000 to 30,000 year-old images in the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet as well as the 100,000 year-old painted walls of Arnhem Land are a staggering testimony to this. Civilization, and in particular the modern world, have profoundly disturbed our connectedness to this prior mode of dwelling in embedded balance. Human cultures have gone from embeddedness in nature to alienation from nature.

The traditions suggest that the psyche is not inside us, but rather that we dwell in psyche. The arts can cultivate the ecological imagination and can help restore an engaged, respectful, and animated dwelling. This course explores the psychological significance of rekindling our participation in nature through the arts. (2 units)

PSY 528 Career Development
Joseph Campbell's famous phrase, "Follow your bliss," is a directive that for most people is easier said than done. This course explores the crucial need in the human soul for purpose, vocation, and work with passion. The significance of finding one's own inner calling and the possible relationship between forms of psychopathology and Western culture's lack of support for the notion of personal destiny, finding one's purpose, mentorship, and structures for rites of passage will be considered.

This course will review models of career development, assessment, and counseling that are designed to assist individuals and families through the life cycle and that emphasize awareness of individual needs, values, aptitudes, and interests in making career choices. Students will also focus on charting their own vocational path and timeline for their upcoming fieldwork opportunities, and in the process will become thoroughly familiar with Meridian's fieldwork process. Students are aided in formulating a potential direction for their fieldwork including the pros and cons of having fieldwork fulfill California licensing board hours, time frames and procedures for applying to and completing internships, the use of one's job as an internship site, and options for arranging alternative field placements. (4.5 units)

PSY 532, 632 Group Process I, II
We live our lives in the company of others. Identity is formed partly through being recognized by others—one’s spouse, family, friends, neighborhood, and workplace. Groups offer us a context in which to explore the mystery of identity and to evolve a mode of communication that honors individuality and multiplicity. It is commonplace in groups to deny, trivialize, and suppress differences. Instead, we must learn to recognize and relate to differences. Specific dynamics in groups that are considered include: scapegoating, envy, betrayal, trust, self-disclosure, cult dynamics, feedback, team building, leadership, and support. Group facilitation skills relevant to psychological practice, the contemporary workplace, and creating community are emphasized, as well as theories, principles, and interventions related to group counseling. (2 or 3 units, each)

PSY 536 The Knowing Body
Focusing, an approach to personal exploration developed by Eugene Gendlin, provides a simple yet effective tool for transforming implicit embodied awareness into explicit knowledge. This research-based model emphasizes the importance of attending to the felt sense of the body in exploring psychological concerns, and serves as a base for many somatic psychotherapy techniques. Students will be introduced to Focusing both theoretically and experientially with opportunities to practice facilitating Focusing Sessions. (2 units)

PSY 537 The Social Body
This course explores the application of somatic psychology to sociocultural issues, proposes strategies for bringing the body into the exploration of diversity and equity issues, and underscores the need to address social, cultural, and political influences on issues of embodiment. (2 units)

PSY 538 The Transpersonal Body
Drawing on both Eastern and Western perspectives, this course addresses the transpersonal dimensions of somatic psychology theory and practice. Students will have the opportunity to explore the interaction between body processes and states of consciousness through a transpersonal psychological perspective. (2 units)

PSY 539 The Poetic Body
This course focuses on the intersecting dimensions of Somatic Psychology and the expressive arts. By working with imagination through the implicit knowledge of the body, students will have an opportunity to explore how music, art, poetry, dance, and theater can enrich and transform embodied experience in a psychotherapeutic context. (2 units)

PSY 540 Somatic Awareness
The capacity to experience, identify, and cultivate kinesthetic sensation is fundamental to the practice of Somatic Psychology. Students in this course will be introduced to a variety of practices designed to facilitate somatic awareness in themselves and others, including the Sensory Awareness work of Charlotte Selver. Emphasis will also be placed on how somatic awareness skills and strategies translate to a psychotherapeutic context. (2 units)

PSY 545 Modern Consciousness and Indigenous Wisdoms
The stories of indigenous peoples provide inspiration for a mythic imagination that attempts to address the crises of modern consciousness. This course explores how indigenous wisdom can appear differently, depending on the particular self-construction in which we happen to be engaged. Understanding the history of the self gives us access to a relationship with native knowing that does not appropriate, but instead engages in a moral discourse which seeks healing through integrative states of consciousness, including the painful awareness of collective shadow material. Healing our contemporary pathologies and suffering in ways that transcend individualistic paradigms, without romanticizing native people, will be considered. The intent is to narrate ourselves freely in the face of historical dissociations and denied aspects of ourselves and our communities. (2 units)

PSY 547 The Body in Motion
Movement forms one of the cornerstones of Somatic Psychology theory and practice. It can serve as the primary basis for psychotherapeutic intervention (as it does in dance movement therapy) or it can be integrated into clinical work by focusing on movement behaviors as they emerge in the session. Students will learn strategies for facilitating movement explorations in both individual and group formats. (2 units)

PSY 604 Resilience, Recovery, and Systems of Care
The provision of psychological services in the current health care environment is sharply split between those who can pay for care through out-of-pocket fees and/or health insurance, versus those who must rely on public services. This course reviews principles and best practices in the provision of therapeutic services to diverse populations in public and community settings. The basic principles of the Recovery Model are explored, as well as an understanding of case management and client advocacy to assist in connecting people with needed resources. The impact of poverty and social stress on mental health and recovery, disaster and trauma response, coping with and recovery from severe trauma and mental illness, and services for survivors of abuse, are especially emphasized. Navigating complex systems of care for one’s clients and their families and assisting clients in building their own sense of personal resiliency and social support systems, are addressed, as well as having an opportunity to meet people with severe mental illness. The necessity for the counselor’s own ongoing inner work to maintain personal equilibrium, is an important backdrop of this course. (2.5 units)

PSY 608, 609, 610 Clinical Practice Practicum I, II, III
This three-course sequence is designed to provide applied skill development and focus to the student’s emerging involvement in supervised practicum and clinical work. Through this course sequence, students will be supported and challenged to apply and refine their emerging clinical skills to their practicum placement, including intake assessment, case formulation, treatment planning, note-taking procedures, and crisis management in the context of evidence-based and best practices. This course sequence also provides students with an introduction to the scope and practice of Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy. (3 units each)

PSY 611 Somatic Assessment
In this course, students will explore a range of somatically oriented observation and assessment models, including developmental, psychodynamic, and process-oriented frameworks. An integrative somatic assessment framework will be introduced and students will be provided with an opportunity to work with this model in clinical and psychoeducational contexts. (2 units)

PSY 613 Psychology of Conflict
This course explores issues in the field of peace psychology: peace, conflict, and violence. Topics include direct violence, structural violence, non-violence, peace-making, peace-building, and social justice. Students will develop skills in facilitating the recognition and engagement of differences necessary for creative collaboration and cultural transformation. (2 units)

PSY 614 Psychology of Trauma
Our planet continues to suffer from the traumatic impact of increasingly complex methods of human-engineered destruction, as well as the varieties of far more ordinary moments which are too overwhelming for us to integrate. This course explores current issues in the field of psychological trauma through personal, historical, cultural, and archetypal perspectives. Its intent is to develop the student’s ability to engage traumatic material experienced through the kinds of fragmented images that are the common aftermath of overwhelming experience. In this course, we will work to create possibilities for remaining active participants in lifelong, awe-inspiring events. (2 units)

PSY 616 Psychology of Liminality
This course offers a multifaceted exploration of the structure and process of initiatory and transformational experiences through the perspective of the rites of passages framework. The course especially focuses on the liminal phase, the betwixt and between in the process of change, where one is no longer the old and not yet the new. Topics range from rites of passage in indigenous cultures, to applying a re-conceptualization of the rites of passages framework, to experiences of complex change in contemporary cultural settings. This course shines light on the epistemological challenges of translating observations, knowledge, and insights from indigenous traditions to western academic contexts, and examines the competencies that are needed for stewards of liminal process to cultivate and harvest the vital forces of change, and to be better able to discern between and apply traditional understanding and practices to contemporary settings. As well, students will consider the competencies and authority they need in moving toward becoming masters of liminal processes. (2 units)

PSY 618 Advanced Theories and Techniques: Psychotherapy with Children
This course introduces the process and practice of child therapy, as well as the use of diagnostic tools and play materials. The course also addresses child abuse assessment, treatment, and reporting laws. The social and ecological influences that impact child development and treatment are explored, as are the incidence of child abuse, child victimization, and child exploitation. Also addressed are collateral work with parents and professionals, and additional legal and ethical issues pertaining to working with children. (2.5 units)

PSY 623 Experiential Anatomy
This course draws on an experiential approach to learning human anatomy, based on the premise that understanding the physicality of the human body is necessary to working with its psychological dimensions. Students will explore the major body systems through guided imagery, drawing, movement, and touch. (2 units)

PSY 625 Ecstatic States and Culture
The use of mind-altering substances to alter states of consciousness has been a part of the human experience since prehistoric times. Modernization and urbanization have made our relationship with state-altering substances more problematic. This course is an overview of the assessment and treatment of substance abuse and dependence. This course utilizes myth, current psychological models, and our own experience to develop an integrated view of addiction that considers biology, psychology, cultural considerations, and human yearning. Issues regarding the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol will be explored within the contexts of culture and the human need for ecstatic experience. (4.5 units)

PSY 628, 629, 630 Psychotherapy Integration I, II, III
The beginning psychotherapist is faced with a wide array of approaches to psychotherapy. This sequence considers the diversity of psychotherapeutic approaches and develops our own coherence as psychotherapists. The first course in the sequence surveys a variety of approaches to individual psychotherapy. The second course examines several major approaches to couples therapy and includes an emphasis on spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection, and intervention. The third course surveys approaches to family therapy, exploring family conflicts through a broader social and historical context which includes an awareness of culture, class, gender, race, and religion. (2 or 3 units, each)

PSY 633 Transformative Learning Praxis
The necessity and importance of Transformative Learning grows in times of crisis and complexity. We live in such a time, and as such Transformative Learning is being practiced within multiple domains and at multiple levels. The term praxis refers to the integration of theory and practice. Domains of praxis include psychotherapy, spiritual practice, coaching and personal development, business, education, civil society, and the arts. Levels of praxis include individuals, teams, communities, organizations, and societies. This course is an overview of diverse approaches to Transformative Learning Praxis. (3 units)

PSY 635 Expressive Arts in Groups
This course focuses on the use of visual arts and movement in groups. Implications and applications for group therapeutic work are considered. Additionally, experiential processes are used to gain awareness of how we conduct our lives, and how we use images to inspire and direct our own living. (2 units)

PSY 637, 638 Research Methods I, II
Understanding research studies and their conclusions can be a vital aspect of a psychological practitioner’s continuing education. This course prepares students to understand and engage with psychological research by emphasizing critical thinking in evaluating research studies, enabling students to differentiate valid, relevant data from faulty, inconclusive data. Additionally, we will ask specific questions about the culture of psychological research by examining such areas as the relationship between soul and research, the construction of psychological theory, the competing claims of quantitative versus qualitative research, and constructs of validity in various research paradigms. (1 and 2 units respectively)

PSY 640 Advanced Theories and Techniques: Human Sexuality
This course considers the varying ways that individuals experience their sexual selves, sexual behavior, and sexual orientation, as well as how the sexual self develops within different historical and cultural settings. The influence of class, gender, age, culture, and family background on sexual experience is also explored, as are the assessment and treatment of sexual dysfunction, and scope of practice issues and expected competencies for the general licensed practitioner. (2 units)

PSY 644 Human Development

The work of the psychological often involves assisting children and adults through the joint process of growing up and growing older, as they traverse the predictable and non-predictable passages of the life cycle. We are best prepared to assist our clients and students through their lives when we, ourselves, are well grounded in both the objective context of the human development literature as well as the subjective context, the experience of moving through oue own lives. This course also addresses curricular requirements for Aging and Long Term Care, and will do so by first reimagining the elder years as a rewarding period in life. We will also examine the psychological, cultural, physical, and social challenges facing older people in Western culture, including changes in physical and cognitive capacities, social stigma, oppression, the American youth culture, and variations in family values regarding the care of elderly parents by their adult children. Finally, the course examines the assessment, reporting, and treatment related to elder and dependent-adult abuse and neglect. (4.5 units)

PSY 645 Cross-Cultural Perspectives
A psychology arising exclusively out of western European academic experience fails to adequately respond to the rich
varieties of human experience. This course gathers contemporary multicultural sources, as well as the wisdom of indigenous cultures, to educate psychological practitioners to be responsive to each person's unique cultural heritage. This course explores multicultural counseling theories and techniques promoting cultural social justice and the therapist's role in bringing bias and prejudice to our own and our client's awareness. An understanding of cultural differences within couples, families, and community institutions is critical to professional practice. (2 units)

PSY 647, 747 Psychological Assessment I, II
This course sequence provides an introduction and overview to psychological assessment. Developing an understanding of overall assessment procedures and learning how to administer, score, and interpret a variety of psychological tests are emphasized.

Psychological Assessment I provides a survey of the major testing instruments including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV (WAIS-IV), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV), Rorschach Inkblot Test, TAT, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). This overview helps to establish a basic understanding of different tests, applications, and procedures. Additionally, the course provides particular focus on personality testing, through both personality and projective measures. Tests studied include the Rorschach; MMPI; and the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI). Experiential opportunities pertaining to the process of test taking are also offered. (4.5 units)

Psychological Assessment II focuses on intellectual and cognitive testing, primarily through the study of the WAIS-IV and the WISC-IV. Additionally, students are introduced to the basics of neuropsychological screening. Students also learn to prepare a report integrating personality and intelligence factors. (2 units)

PSY 651 Somatic Inquiry
Somatic Inquiry is an approach to research that privileges subjective embodiment in understanding human experience. Students will have an opportunity to see how a somatic perspective informs each stage of a research project, from topic selection through data presentation, and how to practice using somatic inquiry methods. (2 units)

PSY 655, 755, 855 Integrative Seminar I, II, III
The Integrative Seminar has several goals: to provide a setting where the various strands of Meridian’s curriculum can be woven together; to facilitate the curriculum’s transformative intent; to facilitate the students’ evolving relationship to the discipline and profession of psychology; and to support the students’ development of psychological awareness and flexibility. In addition, the Integrative Seminar provides time to address interpersonal and group process issues that emerge in tending to a learning community. (1-3 units, each)

PSY 699 Supervised Fieldwork
Supervised fieldwork is an integral aspect of study at Meridian. Students earn supervised fieldwork credits through the performance of job activities in paid and volunteer positions. Beginning with study about their own emerging careers in Career Development, students are guided in designing and implementing a fieldwork plan to advance their progress as emerging psychological practitioners. The Director of Assessment and Student Development is available to assist students in initiating appropriate placements, and monitors the progress of students' specific fieldwork goals. (11.5 or 25 units)

PSY 709 Special Topics in Somatic Psychology
This course provides an opportunity for doctoral students to study with leading theorists, practitioners, and scholars in the field of Somatic Psychology. The focus of the course may include creative or innovative applications of Somatic Psychology, working with special populations, or interdisciplinary scholarship. (2 units)

PSY 713 Psychology of Metaphor
In ancient Greek, the word metaphor meant transformer. Through the use of metaphor, our perception operates at a deeper level of understanding. This course explores how metaphors form the foundation of our thinking, influencing our learning and growth by presenting a variety of perspectives that elucidate the aesthetic realm of everyday life. Particular themes include discerning ideas at deeper levels, metaphor as a tool for personal learning and social change, and exploring the principle that learning is a process of entering into conversation with the subject matter, one’s self, and the larger communal world. In exploring the rich ways in which metaphorical images can enrich and enhance our relationship to ourselves and others, we become able to view life through the lens of metaphor and to see possibilities and potentials that we might not otherwise see. (2 units)

PSY 715 Psychology of Touch
Touch is one of the oldest and most fundamental forms of healing and helping. This course examines the evolutionary emergence of touch, its fundamental significance in human experience, and the intricate connections between skin and brain via the nervous system. This course also addresses the contemporary application of touch in psychotherapy, including important legal and ethical considerations. (2 units)

PSY 716 Psychology of Vocation

Vocation is the intersection of a longing of the heart with the pressing needs of the world. Vocation traditionally described a calling to a religious career. The spiritual implications imply service to something larger than ourselves. This suggests work with a strong sense of significance and meaning. Abraham Maslow believed that self-actualization involves fulfillment of a mission (destiny, or vocation). Campbell emphasized the call as initiating the heroic quest. Freud felt love and work are the foundation of our humanness. Hillman saw vocation as something larger than career, as our calling to the world.

This course explores the psychology of vocation to see how the dynamics of the inner liife constellate a specific pursuit. Once a calling is heard, the task is to embrace it. Following one's bliss involves amor fati, i.e., loving one's fate. The task is to come to terms with a unique unfolding story and rise to a destiny. Pouring our energies into a form that suits our gifts and passions can lead to a deep experience of being fully alive.

This course will look at metaphoric, imaginal, and narrative theories, such as the idea of personal mythology, to understand contemporary forms of vocation. The approach will involve analysis of stories from ancient and modern sources. A key text will be the New Zealand film, Whale Rider (2002). This initiatory tale shows how vocational calls arise from the inner life, and how these stirrings can include ancestral patterns. (1 unit) 

Psy 717 Psychology of Mystical Experience

Through various definitions, controversies, and stories of some of the great myths - both ancient and modern - this course aims to illuminate experience that is typically described as being beyond the realm of everyday consciousness. Such experience is often referred to as mystical, transcendent, transpersonal, and/or visionary, as being direct or unmediated, and as having a sacred quality associsted with connection to a sense of something greater than one's self. Topics include the perennial philosophy, constructivism, participatory spirituality, the problem of pure consciousness, dualistic mystical states, unitive mystical states, states vs. stages, interovertive mysticism vs. exterovertive mysticism, nature mysticism, nodual mysticism, and epiphenomenalism. Of central concern will be the discernment of key differences between spiritual and psychological experience as well as the overlapping areas between them. Both the question of how mystical and transcendent experiences may be relevent to working with potential clients, and foundational skills in bringing mystical wisdom to one's clinical work, will be explored. (2 units)

PSY 724 Foundations of Somatic Psychotherapy
Somatic psychotherapy has its roots in depth psychology, and before that, in ancient somatic practices. This course is a survey of the history, theories, and techniques of Somatic Psychotherapy. Key ideas such as character, grounding, boundaries, embodiment, and presence are explored. In addition, the pivotal role of imagination in Somatic Psychotherapy is considered. (2 units)

PSY 725 Somatic Approaches to Trauma
Recent developments in traumatology have underscored the role of the body in mediating trauma and re-conceptualizing trauma as an event occurring in the nervous system, affecting individual and social experience. This course will introduce students to somatically oriented models of working with trauma and to working with trauma through a psychobiological approach. (2 units)

PSY 728, 729, 730, 731 Clinical Skills in Somatic Psychology I, II, III, IV
This course sequence offers students a structured and facilitated opportunity to integrate the material offered in the current year into a cohesive theoretical framework, and to practice applying their knowledge and skills in somatic psychology to a range of clinical and educational issues and contexts. (2 units each)

PSY 740 Introduction to Psychopharmacology
The circumstances of contemporary clinical practice require practitioners to understand the effective and discerning use of psychoactive medications. As such, this course provides an introduction and overview to psychopharmacology. This course reviews the different classes of prescription drugs and their judicious use relative to the context of psychotherapy as well as how to collaborate effectively with prescribing physicians and other health care providers. (4.5 units)

PSY 743 Biological Bases of Human Experience
This course surveys selected topics in physiological psychology, psychophysiology, and psychoneuroimmunology. The effort is to explore biological and psychological correspondences without being reductionistic. Contemporary research challenging our current understanding of psychological well-being and maturity is also reviewed. (2 units)

PSY 744, 844 Psychology and Community Making I, II
We live in a time of immense longing for community and beauty. The social structures that maintain individualism are crumbling. However, the new convivial forms that would support us are only partially in place. Most of us heroically struggle in isolation much of the time. The ideology of professionalism reinforces this isolated self-reliance. How might we transform such a culture of privatism and cruelty to a culture of participation and accountability? Psychological practitioners are in a position to make significant contributions to the revitalization of culture. Can we re-imagine professional work in ways that support the creation of communities? (2 units each)

PSY 745 Creating Community
This course provides an opportunity for students in the somatic psychology concentration to make connections between their embodied personal histories and professional aspirations, while simultaneously building a container for learning together. (2 units)

PSY 750 History of Psychology
There is no consistent, agreed upon, or neutral history of psychology. The illusion of neutrality is an aspect of scientism in which psychology, as both a discipline and a profession, is still entangled. The intent of this course is to situate Imaginal Psychology in relation to important historical and theoretical issues in psychology. We can make sense of these issues by locating our own interests and orientation to psychology at this historical moment, and by articulating our stance in relation to other orientations and historical periods. Reviewing the history of psychology versus situating psychology historically, are distinct but interrelated tasks. The intention of this course is to clarify, differentiate, and activate our relationship to psychology as a discipline and profession. (2 units)

PSY 751, 752, 753 Imaginal Inquiry I, II, III
Imaginal Inquiry is a research methodology anchored within the participatory paradigm of research, which recognizes participative consciousness as our true nature. Imaginal Inquiry applies Imaginal Process, Meridian’s approach to cultivating human capacities, to psychological research. These capacities include reflexivity, collaborativity, and empathic imagination. Imaginal Inquiry draws upon these capacities in emphasizing the roles of imagination, participation, and reflexivity in research. Researchers using this methodology are called upon to access and create knowledge that ordinarily may be restricted by the cultural prescriptions that shape our personal identities. This approach to research expands the possibilities for taking actions which can create new meaning, helping to revitalize personal and cultural transformation. (1-2 units, each)

PSY 754 Health Psychology
This course introduces the field of Health Psychology, the role of the psychologist in medicine, and the psychologist’s participation in the treatment and prevention of health-related issues. Emphasis is placed on the complex issue of mind-body relationships and on expanding the role of social, environmental, biological, and psychological factors in understanding the development of disease states, and their treatment. (2 units)

PSY 804, 805, 806, 807, 808 Doctoral Project Seminar/Research Practicum I, II, III, IV
These research courses provide a setting to apply principles of qualitative research to the development of dissertations and clinical case studies, and gives students the opportunity to have a hands-on experience of developing elements of the dissertation and clinical case study. These courses provide students with an experience of the possibilities of collaborative research and writing. (2-4 units, each)

PSY 809 Advanced Clinical Practicum
This course provides an introduction to time-limited psychotherapies, as well as practical experience with several time-limited methods, including those from cognitive-behavioral and solution-oriented approaches. The sociopolitical context of time-limited psychotherapy’s development and its inherent ethical and transference/counter-transference dilemmas are also explored. (2 units)

PSY 813 Psychology of Evil
All cultures have developed their own conception of good and evil. Yet, the study of the nature of evil has often been forbidden. As evil has evolved and increased in complexity in our time, there is an urgent necessity to try and understand this phenomenon, as those who are attracted to manifest evil are able to manufacture and employ increasingly dangerous weaponry, both literally and psychologically. This course probes the reality of destructive archetypal forces that threaten us all and the possibility of developing our own creativity to engage these forces. Students will enhance their capacities to encounter evil and perhaps begin to find ways to contain its malignancy. (2 units)

PSY 814 Psychology of Love and Intimacy
The longing for love and intimacy is our deepest human yearning. Yet many people pass through life deeply unfulfilled. This course explores what needs to happen within one’s self and between others for a climate of love and intimacy to be created. The psychological underpinnings necessary for mature love, while retaining an appreciation for love’s mystery, are also examined. Recent research will help illuminate basic principles that lead to fulfilling relationships. (2 units)

PSY 815 Sandplay Therapy
This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of sandplay. The healing value of symbols and ritual, the therapist’s role as witness, and the experience of co-transference in non-verbal, symbolic play will be emphasized and explored. Archival case material is presented to illustrate the psyche’s movements in sandplay, as well as to address issues in clinical practice. (2 units)

PSY 816 Expressive Arts in Therapy
This course focuses on traditional ways of healing through the arts. Use of the expressive arts in psychotherapy allows for depth, even when therapy has to be brief. In the spirit of multiplicity, this course focuses on many forms of art as well as on the intermodal transfers between them. Through the shaping of art, students work towards developing the facility for following the image in its many manifestations and to deepen their ability to help clients explore and create experience. Additional emphasis is placed on utilizing expressive arts in the treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. (3 units)

PSY 817 Psychology and Religion
This course explores the crossroad where psychology and religion converge and diverge in the life of the soul. Course topics include the phenomenology of numinous experience, shadow and evil, and the evolutionary role of ritual. (2 units)

PSY 819 Ecology, Culture, and Pluralism
Psychologists can make significant contributions towards healing modernity’s cultural trauma. Revitalizing our culture towards community, beauty, conviviality, and sustainability requires that we embrace a pluralist vision which recognizes the necessity of difference and interdependence. Pluralizing of our own identity is an essential element in reimagining and revitalizing our culture. We will consider how a culture of conviviality and pluralized identity can reconstitute personal responsibility. Topics explored may include home, money, food, violence, gender, and sexuality. (2 units)

PSY 820 Art Psychotherapy
The ancient remnants of human art-making are perhaps the clearest evidence that our ancestors were connected to a world larger than their own physical environment. This invisible world is as relevant today as it was in the time of our origins. We know this world not through logic, but through the doorways of imagery and our own felt sense of what is true. This course is an inquiry into the world of images that are the direct result of suffering. Supported by recent theories on trauma, we will explore some of the implications of using art psychotherapeutic interventions to respond to a range of suffering from the ‘loss of meaning’ to the experience of ‘speechless terror’ to deepening and recreating an integrated self. In this way, we will develop an understanding of how images associated with suffering can be the doorway to images that heal and replenish the art maker. (2 units)

PSY 821 Culture and Consciousness
Everyday life within modernity has been a wasteland for many. Emptiness, depression, and busyness are familiar states, rather than the fullness of being. In previous centuries, the sacred was experienced in everyday life. Societies were organized around rituals which bound the lives of individuals to a religious worldview. In contemporary secular cultures, finding one’s relationship to the sacred sadly becomes the task and challenge of the individual. Essential to a culture of participation is animism as a mode of perception. This course explores the role of animism in the co-evolution of culture and consciousness. Several key texts are reviewed which offer psychological and historical perspectives on Western approaches to the sacred. The course focus is on the Italian Renaissance as an example of the convergence of art, religion, and science, within a past culture where the animated image vitalized both culture and consciousness. (2 units)

PSY 822 Families and Culture
This advanced family therapy course emphasizes issues of culture, ethnicity, and race. Clinical interventions with different populations and the ways in which culture influences family function and dysfunction will be explored. Religion, class, community, extended family networks, and immigration are examined as important factors in how families adapt to changing situations. This course also focuses on how the clinician’s and the client’s cultural frames of reference interact with one another. (2 units)

PSY 824 Somatic Psychotherapy II
This course explores the universal tendency for psychological projection along with the phenomena of transference and the events that trigger transference. The Jungian concept of the complex, the repetitive, unconscious drama played out on an internal landscape most easily available to us through our dreams and anchored in the body’s character, receives particular attention. Holding onto one’s personal complexes as if one’s life depends on them is not uncommon, and to even glimpse one’s defensive attitude takes courage and humility in the face of feelings of secrecy, defensiveness, and futility. By working with the dream as an embodied experience students will seek to identify and disarm the complexes which act to determine individual transferences and rob us of choice. Given the myriad of opportunities to dramatically distort reality, Somatic Psychotherapy provides an opportunity to come to terms with the colorful narratives that we impose on our relationships, ourselves, and the institutions that serve us. (2 units)

PSY 825 Somatics for Psychotherapists
The use of somatics in psychotherapy is a growing trend. Whether used directly or indirectly in one’s work, somatics has valuable contributions to make for the increased effectiveness of psychotherapy. This course focuses on approaches to somatics in psychotherapy, the use of somatic principles in psychotherapeutic assessment, the role of somatics in the therapeutic process, and ethical considerations in somatics. Students will experience different aspects of somatics in psychotherapy and begin to develop their own personal approach. (2 units)

PSY 827 Body Narratives
This course introduces students to a selected approach to facilitating interactive body-dialogue that incorporates a client’s posture, movements, and bodily experiences into psychotherapy. Students will learn to understand and work with body processes and narratives in the evolving context of the whole person, rather than as isolated physical events. (2 units)

PSY 830 Research Writing
Good research writing integrates conceptual precision with passion. This course emphasizes the practice and development of proficient and enjoyable psychological writing, providing students the opportunity to work collaboratively towards enhancing their research writing capabilities. (1 or 2 units)

PSY 833 Transformative Power of Ritual
Ritual is a necessity. As the lungs breathe, so does the soul ritualize. Ritual has an essential role in tending relationships, families, communities, and even workplaces. The origins of art and religion are in ritual; to ritualize is to make sacred. Our ancestors knew that life is unbearable without ritual. This course explores the creative and transformative uses of ritual in our everyday lives. Potential themes for the course include ritual in times of conflict, crisis, and illness; ritual and sexual experience; and ritual and temporary madness. (2 units)

PSY 835, 836, 837 Cultural Leadership I, II, III
This course explores the possibility and viability of cultural leadership as a form of leadership, distinct from political and administrative leadership. The integrated theory of personal and cultural transformation in practice at Meridian offers psychological practitioners specific principles and practices that can serve as actionable knowledge for cultural leadership. Cultural leadership is constituted by principled actions which create new and unexpected meanings. Cultural leaders catalyze individuating participation and re-imagine past and future within the groups and communities to which they belong. (2 units each)

PSY 838 Psychotherapy and the Arts
This course deepens our understanding of the relationship of art to psychology. Using an experiential format in which themes are explored through various media, students learn about theories, traditions, methodologies, and professional issues involved in combining psychotherapy with the arts. Students will use the expressive arts therapies and dreamwork to explore the use of image, symbol, and ritual in their own personal process and into implications for clinical work, research, and creating ritual. The specific professions of art, movement, music, and drama therapies will be discussed. (2 units)

PSY 856 Professional Seminar
Imaginal Psychology, as an orientation to psychology, has deep roots in the earliest vocations associated with healing and transformative practices. It is important for students of Imaginal Psychology to have effective ways of communicating its principles and practices in their professional work. Students who do not learn how to effectively negotiate the interface with the profession (and conventional culture in general) could find themselves marginalized and trivialized. This course considers such questions as: How can we engage with the culture and the profession as a whole, so that the people we serve are empowered, not infantilized? How can we revitalize the culture in ways that liberate the soul’s passionate nature? The Professional Seminar facilitates clarifying and articulating the student’s relationship to psychology as a discipline, a vocation, and a profession. (2 units)

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