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The Psychological Benefits of Spirituality

Spirituality is not a mere interest, but a vital part of our life. Engendering consciousness of spirituality can help us overcome perceived problems in our everyday lives that are hampering our abilities to find fulfilment and live harmoniously with our loved ones. The use of concepts of spirituality in psychology proves the practical benefits of the spiritual life and demonstrates the increasingly pronounced drive to bleconcentratnd the spiritual with the scientific.

In fact, academic programs within psychology are even taking this into account by offering increasingly extensive coursework on the previously overlooked topic of psychology. At Columbia University, a master’s concentration is now offered in spirituality within the broader framework of clinical psychology studies. This new Ivy League program has been available to graduate students at Columbia for quite a few semesters now, and the concentration continues to attract more and more psychology students. Part of Teachers College at Columbia, the clinical psychology program features around 190 new master’s degree students each fall, and approximately one third of these students have been opting for the spirituality concentration. 

It is also noteworthy that Columbia is by no means the first university to offer such a concentration; it is merely the first Ivy League institution to do so. Many other universities offer studies of spirituality within the broader framework of psychology– including the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco– and spirituality has been a part of psychology study at a variety of different universities with religious affiliations for many years.

Students pursuing psychology studies focusing on spirituality can pursue a broad range of topics within practices that have traditionally combined psychology and spirituality, such as meditation, prayer, the social aspects of group worship, and religion. Graduate students pursuing the concentration can study those who practice an organized religion and record the complex responses the mental acts of prayer and meditation have on the body. Yet they can also study spirituality in a less religious context in a world where many individuals are starting to declare themselves “spiritual but not religious”.

Despite the growing popularity of recognizing the value of spirituality to psychology, critics of programs such as that which is now offered at Columbia are still being heard. The fact that the term “spirituality” lacks a concrete, clear definition complicates its study in a science where statistics, defendable theories, and objectivity are highly valued. 

Yet many of those who work within psychology have been noticing an increasing tendency of psychologists to begin to come out with statements that are much more reminiscent of Deepak Chopra than of Freud. It is highly likely that the coming years will show an ever further meshing of the studies of spirituality and psychology.

About the Spiritual Author

Debolina Choudhury

Cynthia Walters is a counsellor and business consultant who has blogged on a variety of topics related to religion, spirituality, and psychology. The focus and enthusiasm she finds when pursuing her own, unique spirituality have allowed her to make outstanding achievements in a recent consulting project with In her spare time, Synthia enjoys travelling, reading, and spending time with friends and family. 


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