- Decide whether you can approach these experiences and their aftereffects in an open and unbiased manner.
- Each experience is unique. Expect to hear accounts that, on the surface, sound bizarre, unlikely or impossible to you. They may challenge your beliefs, experiences and assumptions.
I have had the privilege to have many amazing spiritual teachers who without their wisdom and guidance I may have lost my way and been delayed my progress of integration by many years. I had some teachers who did not see themselves as my teacher but as my spiritual friend. These people had already traveled the road I was on and could share their awareness of the potential detours and pitfalls with me. They were more interested in helping me develop my own strengths and wisdom to prevent delays and suffering, and to help me shine my light and unique talents into the world than they were in promoting their own brand of spiritual teaching.
They very wisely guided me to my spiritual master who always guided me back to my Inner Self, which always knew the answers to the questions I was asking. My relationship with my spiritual teachers/friends was my first introduction to coaching education. The only agenda an integrous spiritual teacher/friend has is to help the student develop an inner strength, wisdom, and connection to their divine/sacred source that will sustain them in any situation.
Just as integrous spiritual teachers/friends are not interested in making themselves special because of their own experiences and knowledge, a good coach is only interested in developing their client’s strengths, and abilities, and in helping them accomplish the desires of their hearts and to live out their potential. They don’t project their own opinions and personal agendas onto a client.
Just as an integrous teacher never gives information to a student that is he not ready to process, a good coach doesn’t give a client information they have not asked for or share personal information that is not relevant or helpful.
Integration and Coaching
The following italicized information is provided by ACISTE and creates a basis for the coach to begin the conversation with the client as to which areas of their life they are ready to focus on. This will help the client and coach develop an individuated integration plan.
Research demonstrates that the profound changes and aftereffects associated with spiritually transformative experiences (STE) typically require an extended, period of adjustment. Integration is ideally achieved when the experience, its meaning and its aftereffects have been incorporated into one’s life to a degree that is assuring to the experiencer and when accompanying challenges, stresses and disruptions are reduced to an acceptable minimum. When integration is complete, experiencers recognize that their STE is now an important part of their lives, congruent not only with their attitudes but also their actions.
What does it mean to have thoroughly integrated an STE?
**In the most recent online survey, ACISTE asked the following open-ended question of 50 experiencers.
In your view, how would you describe someone who has thoroughly integrated their spiritually transformative experience into their lives?
12% volunteered that one can never thoroughly integrate an STE – that it is an ongoing process of growth, exploration, work and learning. From the diversity of responses, it is suggested that both the integration process and desired outcomes are highly individualized. There is no one size fits all.
Nevertheless, the survey indicated that there are general clusters of ideal understandings, states of mind, attitudes and fulfilling activities that an experiencer may wish to be working or growing towards or feel they have achieved.
Those include the following in order of prevailing responses:
- At peace: Feeling at peace, having no fears or anxieties, feeling safe or comfortable in most situations.
- Respectful: Respects, forgives, listens, accepts, understands and does not judge others who hold different views. Several indicated that this would include the lack of a need to impress their views or values on others.
- Balanced: Being emotionally and mentally balanced, whole, grounded, centered or able to live effectively with a foot in both worlds.
- Aware: Being aware, enlightened, evolved, awakened, realized, or being fully conscious.
- Connected: Able to appreciate connections, feel oneness with God, their spiritual nature, and others. They’d see the divine in others and in all situations or things. Spirituality would be present in all aspects of one’s life.
- Living with Purpose: Doing work that is creative, meaningful and/ or serves humanity or the greater good. Involved in activities that are valuable, enjoyable, fulfilling or inspirational for others.
- Financially Stable: Able to comfortably maintain one’s home life, has a secure financial base, is successful or has the resources to pursue one’s inspiration.
- Present: Able to focus on the here and now, be present in meditation, accept, learn or live well within each moment or is present when needed or when events arise.
- Loving and Compassionate: Loves, cares or is compassionate for all.
- Accepting: Has accepted the experience, one’s self, being here, trusts that the spiritual realm is always available, has no fear of death, accepts not everyone is ready to hear of their experience, and trusts that one is always being guided.
- Joyful: Is happy, content, blissful, ecstatic or able to enjoy life.
- Healthy relationships: Has loving, supportive, like-minded or fulfilling relationships.
- Authentic: Truthful, walks the talk, genuine.
- Open: Able to share freely, hearts are open.
- Respectful of Body: Loves one's body, respects one's body as a divine tool.
In the United States there are several organizations dedicated to training mental health and guidance professionals on the therapeutic issues of spiritual experiences. There are many more programs and organizations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Brazil than is listed in this paper however an internet search will provide a wealth of resources.
ACISTE – The American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences. They provide training and certification for mental health professionals, social workers, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, spiritual life coaches, psychiatric nurses, and psychological assistants. They are the only organization that offers coach specific training and certification to spiritual life coaches the author is currently aware of. They also offer an on-line community for experiencers. Their website address is http://aciste.org/
The Spiritual Emergence Network created by Christina Grof. This organization offers training and certification to graduate level students in the mental health field. Their website address is
Center for Spirituality & Healing – The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing enriches health and well-being by providing high-quality interdisciplinary education, conducting rigorous research, and delivering innovative programs that advance integrative health and healing. Their website address is http://www.csh.umn.edu
Dr. David Lukoff, Spiritual Competency Resource Center – A guide for clinicians and a self-help resource for people integrating a spiritual crisis. Personal experiences and opinions can be shared on an online discussion forum. Offers online course for therapists who work with clients in spiritual emergency. San Francisco, CA. Their website is
Integrative Mental Health University – Founded by Dr. Emma Bragdon a pioneer researcher in the field. In 2012 the President of the Spiritist Psychiatric Hospital in Goiania, Brazil asked her to be their ambassador to non-Brazilians. She is now leading trips for health professionals to visit the hospital and learn from the psychiatrists and spiritual healers who collaborate there. Their website is http://www.imhu.org/
I am the co-founder and Executive Director of HOPE – Holistic Options for People Everywhere, a non-profit organization in Lubbock, Texas dedicated to providing safe and loving community to experiencers and to educating and training the local mental health community about spiritual emergence and emergency.
We hosted our first educational symposium in the fall of 2013 and are indebted to Dr. Janice Holden of the University of North Texas and to Yolaine Stout, Executive Director of ACISTE for the kindness and professional courtesy given to HOPE. Without the help of these extraordinary professionals we would not have had such a successful launch of our Spiritual Emergence Support Network programs in West Texas. We will be expanding to our first sister city in Abilene, Texas in January 2014. . We will also be co-sponsoring ACISTE’s 3rd National Conference on the Therapeutic Issues of Spiritually Transformative Emergence in Dallas, Texas along with the University of North Texas in October 2014.
If you are interested in creating similar local community and education programs go to www.http//hope-nonprofit.org or contact me directly at 806-928-7242, [email protected]
Battista, J. (Editor), Chinen, A. (Editor), Scotton, B. (Editor), (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. United States, Perseus Books Group.
Bragdon, E. (2013) The Call of Spiritual Emergency: From Personal Crisis to Personal Transformation. United States: Lightening Up Press.
Grof, C., Grof, S., (1992) The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth through Transformational Crisis Spiritual Emergency. United States: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam.
Grof, S., (2005) When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Non-Ordinary Reality. United States: Sounds True.
Grof, C. (Editor) , Grof, S. (Editor), (1989) Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis. United States: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam.
Lucas C. (2011) In Case Of Spiritual Emergency. Scottland: Findhorn Press.