Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Integral Psychology: My Spiritually Based Guiding Metatheory of Counseling

Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Integral Psychology: My Spiritually Based Guiding Metatheory of Counseling

Article excerpt

This article explains the author's guiding theory of counseling based on her understanding and adaptation of K. Wilber's (2000b) integral psychology (11). She discusses, from an IT perspective, how the psyche develops and changes and the role of counseling in change. She explains her particular resonance to IT, which she considers an inherently developmental, multicultural, systemic, and spiritual metatheory that brings order to the multiplicity of other counseling theories. The author hopes that readers will find in this article both a useful contribution to their own counseling perspectives and practices and a stimulus for further discourse regarding the infusion of spirituality into counseling.


A client--an individual adult or adolescent or a couple--arrives at my office for the first time. Clearly, the client seeks something and expects that, in exchange for the expenditure of time and money, I will facilitate the acquisition of what the client seeks. What does the client seek, and how do I best facilitate that acquisition? To answer these questions is to enter the domain of counseling theory: the system of concepts that guides my work with clients. My purpose in this article is to explain my guiding theory of counseling based in my understanding and adaptation of Ken Wilber's (2000b) integral psychology (IT). Specifically, I discuss, from an IT perspective, the development of the psyche; how the psyche, once it is developed to a given point, changes--that is, develops further; and the role of counseling in this developmental change of the psyche. I hope that other counselors who read this article will find it, at the very least, helpful in conjunction with their own counseling perspectives and practices and, at best, an inspiration to pursue Wilber's primary references as a possible foundation for their own counseling perspectives and practices.

Since the last time I wrote publicly about my theory of counseling (Holden, 1993), I have become familiar with IT, which actually is a metatheory and one that resonates with my counseling perspective. Rather than culminating in specific techniques to facilitate change, IT culminates in the systematic application of already existing techniques across the spectrum of psychotherapies, from psychoanalytic to existential, and beyond psychotherapy across the spectrum of spiritual practices. As a whole, this full spectrum of growth-facilitating practices addresses the full spectrum of development, from the infant to the infinite. My interpretation of IT includes my own elaborations that, I believe, are consonant with Wilber's premises.

To address meaningfully the specific topics of personality development, personality change, and the role of counseling in personality change, I first discuss the fundamental philosophy out of which my specific beliefs about those topics arise. Therefore, I begin with an overview of IT.

Overview of IT

IT is so named because it reflects Wilber's (2000a, 2000b) ongoing process of integrating the entire range of human knowledge--past and present, Eastern and Western, subjective and objective, individual and collective, secular and sacred, from sensory through rational to contemplative--into one comprehensive understanding of everything. Although not without his critics (Ferrer, 2000; see also the Web site Reading Room,, Wilber has proposed what I have found to be the single most complete perspective on the universe and the place of the individual in it. I am drawn to both the inclusivity and the order of Wilber's theory, what I experience as a "yes, and" quality. That quality provides me with a basis to value absolutely every manifestation of Spirit and also to prefer some manifestations to others.

I also feel drawn to Wilber's (2000a, 2000b) theory because of its quintessential alignment with two basic philosophical themes of counseling--developmentalism and multiculturalism; its coincident attention to both individual and systemic dimensions; and its basis in and attention to spirituality, which I have found unparalleled in any other counseling theory. …

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