Category Archives: Alumni features

Moonlight Beach: Writing Love Notes to the Universe & Living Zen

Ji Hyang Padma, Ph.D. has been practicing and teaching Zen for twenty years, 15 of those years as an ordained nun. She has completed several 90-day intensive retreats in Korea and North America. While her practice has been situated within the Korean Zen tradition, she has had the benefit of studying with teachers across a wide spectrum of Buddhist lineages. She is gifted at finding an entry-point into practice for people who are just beginning their journey.

Ji Hyang has combined an academic career with her work as a Zen teacher. She holds a Ph.D in psychology from Sofia University. Her dissertation research focused on consciousness & healing, through the lens of traditional Buddhist healing practices. She currently serves as Director of the Comparative Religion and Philosophy Program at California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas, CA. Her first book, Living the Season: Zen Practice for Transformative Times, was released by Quest Books last year.

We have re-posted the following blog from her website.

Taking a walk along Moonlight Beach, discovered these designs, which brought me joy. The act of writing love notes to the universe upon beach sand is one of the most romantic endeavors of which human beings are capable.


Love and compassion are like the weak spots in the walls of ego. They are like a naturally occurring opening. And they are the opening we take. If we connect with even one moment of good heart or compassion and cherish it, our ability to open will gradually expand. Beginning to tune into even the minutest feelings of compassion or appreciation or gratitude softens us. It allows us to touch in with the noble heart of bodhicitta on the spot.  –Pema Chodron


So I work on… generating more warmth, more open heart. A good way for any of us to do this is to think of a person toward whom we feel appreciation or love or gratitude. In other words, we connect with the warmth that we already have. If we can’t think of a person, we can think of a pet, or even a plant. Sometimes we have to search a bit. But as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, “Everybody loves something. Even if it’s just tortillas.” The point is to touch in to the good heart that we already have and nurture it.

At other times we can think of a person or situation that automatically evokes compassion. Compassion is our capacity to care about others and our wish to alleviate their pain. It is based not on pity or professional warmth, but on the acknowledgment that we are all in this together. Compassion is a relationship between equals. So in any moment of hardness, we can connect with the compassion we already have—for laboratory animals, abused children, our friends, our relatives, for anyone anywhere—and let it open our heart and mind in what otherwise might feel like an impossibly frozen situation.   –Pema Chodron

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Fitting In: Sociocultural Beauty Standards and The Psychology of Body Image


Sarah Astarte, PhD is an  ITP at Sofia University alumna where she graduated with her Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology. She provides spiritual guidance and counseling in Fair Oaks, CA. She and her blog posts can be found through her website

Her first book “The Lover Within: Exploring the Relationship Between Body Image in Adult Women and Archetypes of the Lover” was released in 2010. Her book was based on research indicating that negative self-image, which produces self-abusive thoughts and behavior, is a sociocultural problem for adult females in the United States. Body image is an important part of overall self-image.

We have re-posted her article on Sociocultural beauty standards here.



downloadI had a dream one night during the week that I was teaching about body image and self-esteem in my psychology of women class. I was in the garden of a small house, and it had a large tree with a tire swing and tall grass growing in it. A young girl, about age four, with blonde hair and blue eyes, was my daughter. As more people gathered in the garden, I noticed that the little girl became more self-conscious, and her slender body became more artificial looking and like a doll.

At one point I was on the tire swing with her, and she hugged her knees to her chest, causing her to break into pieces. Her eyes became like glass orbs instead of flesh. I woke up feeling disturbed. Firstly, someone with dark features like mine is unlikely to give birth to a Nordic-looking child. Secondly, I felt pain at the thought of this little girl breaking and essentially dying. I sat with this dream for half the day, and as I reviewed my lecture material, decided to include a documentary about eating disorders to my class.


Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 10.27.08 AMAs part of the lesson I have my students make a full, life-sized body map. I do this as a body image workshop as well. It is to take inventory of what we think and feel about ourselves. Each body part must be labeled with either a positive or negative message that we give ourselves. I instruct them to include scars, stretch marks, blemishes, freckles, and body art (tattoos and piercings). I also have them include emotional scars, and where they carry their tension, stress, and pain.

They write and draw on the map, using numerous colors, symbols, words and expressions. I have had both men and women taking a deeper look at themselves, some with curiosity, new awareness, reflection, and even pain. I have had a few people who will cry in the middle of the activity, as they realize that their beliefs about themselves are mostly negative.


We walk around all day with certain thoughts about what we believe about ourselves. We give messages, often subconsciously, about who we think we are, and what our self-worth is. For some, their body image is relatively in sync with what they actually look like, making them people with a good amount of self-acceptance and even self-love. For those that have a self-critical monologue going in their minds, it has very little to do with their actual appearance but more to do with the negative image in their own minds.

After looking at a magazine for three minutes, about 70% of women have a negative self-evaluation. What is also interesting is that the images that we see are airbrushed and altered by computers. In other words, the images we see of perfect bodies are not real. Over half of all American women have normative discontent, meaning that on a day to day basis, they are unhappy with themselves. For men, this is about thirty percent, and climbing.


8306032982_f261ac2c1e_bAdvertisers play on insecurities to sell consumers products that they do not need. Both women and men are sold on body types and proportions that are not found often in the general population, as about two percent of the American population looks like models. The average female model is about 5’11, a size 0 or 2, and weighs around a hundred pounds. The average American woman stands at 5’4, is a size 14, and weighs 140 to 160 pounds. Men are told to look extremely muscular and wear a large size, and stand over 6 feet tall. The average American man stands at 5’9 and is a medium to large size, and is not necessarily rippling with muscles with only 8 percent body fat.

Having an unrealistic standard to strive towards can lead to constant insecurity, fear of aging and changing with time, and continued discontent and unhappiness with one’s self. It burns a lot of cognitive energy, and can put a damper on anyone’s day. They are less likely to go out in the world with confidence. Negative body image and low self-esteem can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, unhappy relationships and sexual dysfunction. It can also lead to discontentment with life in general. Going through everyday disliking ourselves, berating ourselves, and not valuing ourselves can lead to a less than mediocre existence. The potential we have to be all we can be is diminished every time we look at ourselves in the mirror. Instead of seeing ourselves with love we see ourselves with loathing. This is beyond counterproductive.

No matter what we look like in terms of height, weight, shape, size or color, it is important for us to face ourselves. This is why I have my students do the body mapping exercise- even if we do not like what we see, before we can change anything, we must accept what is. In looking at and learning to accept it, we can develop a higher self-evaluation. Instead of having a berating belief, such as “My thighs are too big.” we could look at it as “My thighs are strong and part of the legs that I stand on,” “my thighs are part of me,” and “my thighs (and legs in general) help me to get where I need to go.” We can learn to look at something we have in a whole new way.

heart-914682_1920.pngWhen we realize how diverse body types and people are, and we can more easily find each person’s uniqueness and beauty. Our bodies tells a story of who we are and how we survived. They are deserving of respect, care and kindness. Our bodies will change with age, and that is also something to be patient with ourselves about, so we should enjoy the abilities we have while we have them. Like the little girl in my dream (who fit the standards of being the beautiful blonde but was more fearful of others judgments and had it ultimately destroy her) we can choose instead to give ourselves the right to live, just as we are. Instead of trying to fit ourselves into unrealistic outlines of appearance, we can draw our own lines and define beauty for ourselves, one person at a time.

Sarah’s first book “The Lover Within: Exploring the Relationship Between Body Image in Adult Women and Archetypes of the Lover” was released in 2010. Intuitive Inquiry was utilized to gain greater understanding of the relationship between self-image in adult females and the archetype of the lover. This research is grounded in Jungian theory. The archetype of the lover, when activated, can nurture one’s creativity, sensuality, emotions, body, and spirit, leading to greater self-acceptance. The work included a 4 session experiential process, in which co-participants engaged in creative activities such as collage making, body mapping, eating different kinds of foods, dressing up, dance/movement, and mirror exposure work. The groups of co-participants were ethnically and culturally diverse. This helped to deepen the understanding of the ways in which this archetype may be of service to those suffering from negative self-image.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

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Filed under Alumni features, The Transpersonal

Use your greatest pain as your greatest opportunity

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Dr. Valerie Baker holds a PHD in Transpersonal Psychology from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She has found business success with a new method of healing called Heart Talk Yoga® which is a holistic, continuously expanding compilation of technologies for consciousness transformation sourced from yoga, psychology, and spirituality, and organized into a comprehensive system. This system is based on my research on transformation, my personal experience, and my privilege of helping thousands of people transform common unhappiness into uncommon happiness by breaking through the old level of consciousness that created their problems.
This article has been re-blogged from her website blog


What do you do when you hit the wall, when the rug is pulled out from under you, when the bottom falls out? I see this happen again and again.

Brilliant women stopped dead in their tracks to greatness by a challenging life event. And I just wanna scream: Keep going, love! This is NOT a sign to stop! This is a sign to push through and give birth to the next level of YOU, reveal your greater GREATNESS, tap into your more powerful POWER you didn’t know you had — until this challenge showed up in your way.

So today I show you how you can USE YOUR GREATEST PAIN as your greatest opportunity. I tell a story of my most powerful lesson in this… And share something we can learn from Wonder Woman.



My 6 1/2-year-old and I finally went to see Wonder Woman and I did some obsessive research beforehand to make sure it was age appropriate. You know that I’m obsessive from the previous blog post when we had a power reclamation party. I encourage you to view this blog and leave a comment what’s wrong with you and we’ll use these as gateways of reclamation.

Today, the gateway we’ll use has to do with Wonder Woman. When Wonder Woman is a child, her trainer keeps telling her, “You’re not using your whole power. You’re much more powerful than you know.” Wonder Woman thinks that she is doing her best though. She rejects her trainer’s statements. Years later, she’s facing her arch nemesis at last. She falls down and she’s wrapped in this piece of metal and it looks like she’s not going to be able to get out of it.

Her nemesis laughs at her and asks, “What did you think you were?” She’s forgetting who she is or maybe she never knew truly deeply her power which I think is true for all of us. So she’s lying there and she’s giving up. There is no hope. Then she sees this plane in the sky and she knows this is her partner, the only man she’s known and we assume loved.

The plane blows up in the sky and she feels this deep pain the likes of which she’s never felt before, and she roars. She liberates herself from whatever was holding back her power. She rises and she taps into the power which she did not know she had.


Heart Talk Yoga


I hope you go to see Wonder Woman. It is incredible. As I watched it, I kept checking in with my daughter during the battle scenes. I’d check in with her and ask, “Is this scary?” And she would whisper back to me, “No. This is amazing.”

Amazing it was. It was amazing to see that reclamation. When we watch a movie like Wonder Woman, we get it, right? It takes this extreme circumstance, this extreme pain to tap into the power that she didn’t know she had. That makes sense, right? That’s a very common story arc of a hero’s or heroine’s journey.


But what happens when it happens in our own life? In our own life, we’re very conditioned to retreat from pain. I’m going to tell you a story of my own learning of how conditioned I was to retreat from pain. It also has to do with my daughter. A lot of cool stories have to do with her.

This was one when I was giving birth to her, and I had a wonderful doula (thank God for her) who was coaching me through. I was pushing and feeling this excruciating pain and at some point the nurse turned around to me and said, “You’re not pushing.” What? I think I am. I feel like I am. I’m feel like I’m about to explode.

Then my doula leans in to me and she said, “Well, you’re moving away from the pain. This is not like labor. This is giving birth, so your only way out of the pain is through the pain, so the more it hurts, that’s where you need to go. You need to go into the pain to get out of the pain.”

Because I was completely delirious out of my mind, so much in pain, I guess I had no resistance left in me and so I decided to take her word for it and just go. I went and I went and I went into the pain and into the pain, and at some point the pain became just a sensation which was irrelevant to what was going on. My glorious daughter emerged, all almost 10 pounds of her, and so that was my very visceral learning of how conditioned I was not to go into the pain.

It changed the way I live my life. It really did. Now, when I see the opportunity created by pain, I try to go right in. If I don’t, guess what? Life has its own curriculum. Life is not going to let you get away with not tapping into the fullness of your power. Life creates these circumstances, these painful circumstances for you to go in and reclaim your power fully.


Heart Talk Yoga


What happens is just like on a hero’s or heroine’s journey. When you declare yourself, when you declare, “I’m going to step into my power. I’m going on a journey,” the shit hits the fan. The bottom falls out. The journey actually begins.

So this is inspired by a wonderful, powerful woman I had a conversation with a few days ago. We tapped into her power. We tapped into her vision and we decided how we’re going to move into that vision. Then just a few days later, she sends me a message saying that her life has brought this extreme circumstance, a lot of pain, and that she’s not going to continue through with implementing her vision.

This pains me very deeply because those exact circumstances, this is like giving birth to yourself, right? It’s moving into the pain. Her life has created a perfect opportunity for her power reclamation. It’s perfect. It’s painful. It hurts but by leaning into that opportunity, she stands to reclaim so much of who she truly is and fully deliver her vision, fully deliver on her divine assignment in the world.

So at every point the pain comes up, we have two choices. We can move away just like I was doing when I was not pushing apparently, or we can move right in. Life gives us these opportunities to give birth to ourselves very often. Small pains or big ruptures, when the bottom falls out, and if you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I’ve been dealing with one of those in my own life. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can find it on my blog at

This has been a dance all to leading me leaning away from it and leaning into it, but by leaning into the pain what has been happening is really stepping up in a bigger way, really reaching for bigger things and playing bigger than I had ever thought possible. Because why does life create these excruciating circumstances for us? Why? Is this God punishing us? No, life is very compassionate but life knows that given a place to hide, we will hide. Given a place to hide, we will die.

So life creates these circumstances where hiding is no longer an option such as in my own life with my husband’s illness, it became not an option for me to lean back and say, “Well, it’s okay. If I don’t earn enough money, it’s okay. If I don’t make this work, it’s okay because he’s a guy and we’re married and he’s supposed to be the breadwinner.”

It’s not my conscious thinking, believe me, but that’s the subconscious conditioning that keeps us playing small. This is what Wonder Woman was falling back into when she was lying down on the ground, helpless because she hadn’t yet tapped into her power.

So what rupture are you going through in your life right now? What’s the invitation? What can you reclaim when you lean into it? Does it have to be painful? Well, no. In her wonderful book “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert told the story told to her by Ketut, her mentor, and he said that he’s traveled up to Heaven and down to Hell in a beautiful metaphor and he said to her question, “What’s the difference between Heaven and Hell?”

He said, “Heaven, you go up, through seven happy places. Hell, you go down, through seven sad places. This is why it better for you to go up, Liss… Same in end, so better to be happy in journey.”

Life presents opportunities for us to go up and be happy on the journey every day. Every day we can step up and play bigger, every day, but if there is a place to hide, we will hide. That’s why sometimes life has to pull the rug from under us. Sometimes the bottom has to fall out. It’s done compassionately. It’s not done to punish us. It’s done to help us like Wonder Woman reclaim her deepest power.


ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

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Filed under Alumni features, The Transpersonal

How Screen Addiction is Damaging Kid’s Brains

“I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict,” says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of ‘Glow Kids.’

Nicholas Kardaras

Alumnus Dr. Nicholas Kardaras received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. He currently works at The Dunes in East Hampton New York. His research has led him to focus on addiction and more recently on screen addiction in children. His book, “Glow Kids”, is a plunge into the phenomenon of screen addiction in children. Nicholas was interviewed by We have re-posted the article here.

Thumbnail image via Flickr user Sleeping TV Man





In the 80s, Graham Nash from Crosby Stills & Nash appeared on MTV for an interview. The popular band had refused to make music videos, and Nash said the reason why was that he didn’t want to provide the images that people would see when they hear his music. Instead, he said that they should instead create their own internal and unique mental visuals to accompany the track. Today, as a consequence of our constant bombardment with screen-based media, some experts believe that kids may have a harder time doing that.

A new book out on August 9 called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s top addiction experts, details how compulsive technology usage and reliance on screens can neurologically damage the developing brain of a child the same way that drug addiction can. Through extensive research, clinical trials with diagnosed screen addicts, and experience treating a variety of other types of addicts, the author explores the alarming reality of how children could be “stunting their own creative abilities” by constantly turning on and tuning in.

Dr. Kardaras, who grew up playing Asteroids and loved Ms. PacMan, discusses how game developers use tests to measure dopamine and adrenaline levels in order to make video games as addicting as possible. He also explains how technology might stagnate frontal cortex development. With Glow Kids, Kardaras seeks to push the thesis that we should let children’s “brains fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs.” VICE chatted with the author to learn more about his research, why kids are both boring and bored today, and why social media is an illusion of real connection.

VICE: In the beginning of your book, you quote the song that the Oompa-Loompas sing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featuring the lyrics, “It rots the senses dead/It kills the imagination dead.” How relevant is this to what is going on today with kids and screens?

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras: I think that Roald Dahl lyric is extremely relevant and prescient. I’ve worked clinically with over 1,000 teens over the past decade plus and one of the most amazing things that I observed was that kids raised from an early age on a high-tech/high-screen diet suffered from what seemed to be a digital malaise. They were, almost universally, what I like to call “uninterested and uninteresting.” Bored and boring, they lacked a natural curiosity and a sense of wonder and imagination that non-screen kids seemed to have. They didn’t know—or care to know—about what was happening around them in the world. All that seemed to drive them was a perpetual need to be stimulated and entertained by their digital devices.

Kids’ brains develop during key developmental windows when they engage their active imagination in such things as creative play. These windows are when the body builds the most neuronal connections. Kids who are just passively stimulated by a glowing screen don’t have to do the neural heavy lifting to create those images. The images are provided for them, thus stunting their own creative abilities.

I grew up in the 1970s and started playing Atari around middle school. I was enthralled with the video games, but still remained active. What’s the difference between how young people engaged with gaming back then compared to today?
The real key difference with that generation of video games and today’s generation of video games is a qualitative one. Games today are more immersive, interactive, and realistic. And that’s just the two-dimensional games. Don’t get me started on immersive 3D and augmented reality holographic games. As my friend Dr. Andrew Doan, the Head of Addiction Research for the Pentagon and US Navy who has extensively researched video games, likes to say, today’s games are a multi-billion dollar industry that employ the best neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists to make them as addicting as possible.

The developers strap beta-testing teens with galvanic skin responses, EKG, and blood pressure gauges. If the game doesn’t spike their blood pressure to 180 over 140, they go back and tweak the game to make it have more of an adrenaline-rush effect. The problem is that adrenaline rush affects what’s called the H-P-A Axis (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis) and creates the fight-or-flight adrenal response. But that fight-or-flight response in nature is a fairly brief event—you get chased by a dog, your heart races, and your adrenaline surges, but then you calm down when the threat is gone.

With video games, however, the kid sits and plays for hours of adrenal-elevated fight-or-flight. This is not a good thing. Research has shown that this latest generation of games significantly raises dopamine levels, the key neurotransmitter associated with our pleasure/reward pathways and the key neurotransmitter in addiction dynamics. One study showed that video games raise dopamine to the same degree that sex does, and almost as much as cocaine does. So this combo of adrenaline and dopamine are a potent one-two punch with regards to addiction.

I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict—Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

A friend of mine has two kids, and he takes them everywhere with him, but both kids are always engaged with their tablet and have headphones on. The only time we hear from them is when their battery runs out. What are some long-term effects of this type of behavior?
What you have observed is exactly what I just talked about: Kids who are so habituated to their hyper-stimulating and dopamine-activating immersive screen reality that they choose to stay in the digital Matrix. The reason why this effect is more powerful on children than adults—although we all know of many adults who are screen-addicted—is that children still don’t have a fully-developed frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, decision making, and impulse control.

Neuropsychologists call the frontal cortex a person’s “brakes,” but that part of the brain doesn’t develop until our early 20s, which is why teens engage in all sorts of risky behavior—from bungee jumping to unprotected sex. They don’t have the impulse control and “consequential thinking” parts of their brains developed. Adding to the problem, research shows that both drug use and excessive screen usage actually stunts the frontal cortex and reduces the grey matter in that part of the brain. So hyper-arousing games create a double whammy. Not only are they addicting, but then addiction perpetuates itself by negatively impacting the part of the brain that can help with impulsivity and good decision making.

Can a screen addiction even compare to a heroin or cocaine addiction? Most people would say no, especially since phones are a necessity in today’s world.
Well, I definitely think that screen addiction meets all diagnostic clinical criteria for addiction. As does the Chinese Health Organization and many other countries throughout the world. The US is a bit late to the dance. We don’t have it as an “official” diagnosis in our DSM, but we do have the topic marked as requiring further study and review. While phones may be a necessity—and I say may because, let’s face, we can live without a phone—they’re definitely not a necessity for an eight, nine, or ten-year-old.

My whole thesis is that we should let the child’s brain fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs (which they definitely are). I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict, precisely because they’re so ubiquitous in our society that people inevitably have to interact with them on some level. Not so with heroin. In my clinical experience, the key to digital addiction prevention is to be mindful of the potential dangers of screen addiction and limit usage during those key developmental ages before it creeps over into digital addiction, because that’s a real bitch to treat.

How does screen tech affect behavioral disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and psychosis?
Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ research has found that screen exposure increases the probability of getting ADHD, and several peer-reviewed studies have linked internet usage to increased anxiety and depression. I think some of the most shocking research is that which shows how kids can get psychotic-like symptoms from gaming, wherein the game blurs reality for the player. It’s known as “Game Transfer Phenomenon” and has been extensively studied by Dr. Mark Griffith and Dr. Angelica de Gortari in England. Gamers hear and see elements of the game long after they’ve stopped playing; Minecraft players start seeing the real world in the cube-forms of the game. I’ve worked with several teens who’ve had apparent psychotic breaks from their excessive gaming, and two who needed to be psychiatrically hospitalized. It’s scary stuff. We know that children develop their sense of what’s real and what isn’t—what psychologists call “reality testing”—between the ages of three and ten. If they are exposed to reality-blurring imagery during that key developmental stage, it compromises their ability to discern reality. That’s less likely to happen to an adult gamer, but it’s occurred.

Even though we are seemingly more connected than ever with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it seems there’s a big disconnect in the way people communicate in person because of all the texting and social media. How does the screens play into that?
I like to call social media the illusion of connection. Author Johan Hari calls it a “parody” of genuine connection. We are social animals hardwired for social connection, but that seems to require genuine, in-depth, face-to-face intimacy and connection—not Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Research has shown that the more Facebook friends one has, the higher the likelihood of depression. That’s been attributed to the “comparison effect”: I get more and more down about my life the more and more idealized images I keep seeing of peoples projected happy lives . Let’s face it, most people don’t post Facebook pics of when they’re struggling. Instead, it’s just, look at how wonderful my vacation is! types of photos. You see enough of those and you can begin to feel pretty crappy, if that’s your only social connection.

Order ‘Glow Kids’ here.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni features

8 Ways to Remedy Stress on the Cheap

The Corless Family Fall 2016-29.jpg

About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC  received her Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado who specializes in couples and  women dealing with major life transitions. We have re-posted an article from her blog here.

reducing Stress overwhelmed relaxation denver therapist valerie abitbol


Don’t break your piggy bank yet. Here are a few cheap remedies against stress. Start here and now!

Here’s my “prescription”: Practice at least two of the tools below every day to increase your resilience to stress, and get back to feeling more grounded, faster.

1- Don’t be a hamster, breathe!

stress anxiety denver therapist valerie abitbol

Yes. It really is that simple. So basic. But when we’re stressed, we forget about our breath; we tighten it, hold it, or simply have a hard time breathing normally. Having less oxygen circulating in your body and your brain will increase your stress and/or anxiety.

And there you are, the little hamster stuck in the wheel.

Here are 3 different options depending on the time/place:

Option 1:

Make it a habit to take a deep breath every day when getting up, leaving the house, getting in/out of the car, going to a new place, meeting new people, before eating, and when noticing tension in the chest or the body in general. Think of the breath during transition points, from one activity or place to another.

Option 2:

Inhale on 4 counts – hold the breath two counts- exhale on 8 counts. Repeat until you feel calmer.

Option 3: 

Take a deep inhalation, filling first your belly with air, then moving to your chest. Hold the breath for two counts. Exhale, emptying fully the chest and belly. Repeat 10 times and continue as needed.

2- Flex those muscles

Practice some progressive muscle relaxation:

muscle relaxation stress denver counseling valerie abitbol

First, tense a muscle group in your body, such as your calves, thighs or shoulders.

Hold it for a few seconds.

Next, release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them.

Repeat with other muscle groups as needed.

For a guided version, you can download my free progressive muscle relaxation audio recording.

Note: Very important! Always check with your doctor before doing anything physical, especially if you have any medical conditions or injuries.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation | Flow Counseling | Denver
Valerie Abitbol MA, LMFT


3- Show your stress the way out

Option 1: When stress starts to go up but is manageable: go for a leisurely walk around the block, focus on the breath and surroundings. Notice the colors around you, the smells, noises, touch some trees. Feel the ground supporting you.

Option 2: When stress becomes more intense: alternate walking one block quickly, with running or walking faster the next. When you start feeling better, slow down and go to option 1.

Include any other physical activities beside walking/running that you enjoy. Go at the speed that feels right for you at that moment. Today may be different from yesterday.

And of course, do what you can based on your physical shape, health situation, and seek medical advice first.

4- Bathe your mind in calm

Bring to mind soothing and calming images of people or pets in your life, things, places and memories. Anything that helps make you feel safe, loved, supported, peaceful, and helps you calm down.

Stay with the image and notice as many details as you can to make the image more vivid.

Notice how it makes you feel in your body, as well as the emotions, and sensations you experience. Let your mind connect freely, from one positive experience to another, and follow the trail.

5- Meditation…

meditation mindfulness  stress denver therapy valerie abitbol

I recommend you use “static” meditation (vs. walking meditation) once you feel a little calmer, to help you maintain and reinforce that state. It can be frustrating at the beginning to try meditating when you feel restless. Use one of the more physical tips above first to release some tension.

If you have a meditation practice, go for it. If not, you can use a guided meditation app. Regular use will provide the most benefits. Here are few free ones I like:

The Mindfulness App for iOS and Android

Headspace for iOS and Android

Stop, Breathe, and Think  for iOS and Android

6- Playful and relaxing activities

Remember when you were a kid?

Wrestle with your partner, your kids or nieces and nephews – have a tickle fight, jump on your bed… bring back the silly and lightness that goes with it.

Take your dog for a walk, play with your pets, or simply give them a long petting session. You’ll both get benefits out of it.

7- Give yourself the spa treatment

Do I even have to mention massage? No matter what kind (back, foot, neck, from partner or professional), get one, or do it yourself.

Get a foam roller similar to this one on Amazon, and start rolling.

Here are a few ways you can use it. How to use a foam roller.

overwhelm stress denver counselor valerie abitbol

Take a warm relaxing bath at end of the day, include essential oils, candles, music… soak in for a  minimum of 10 min.

And if you have more time available, consider making a de-stress trip to some hot springs.

Here’s a list of 30 Hot Springs in Colorado if you’re local.

8- Naps

Short naps can be very beneficial to manage your stress better.

Go for 15-20 min and remember to set a timer. Wash your face with cold water after waking up to feel more energized.

Try at least two of these tips on a regular basis and leave me a comment to let me know how they are working for you.

If none of these hit the spot, consider getting some professional help to get to the root cause and find more customized tools. Just don’t keep letting stress be in charge of your life and relationships.


ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

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Alumna Rosie Kuhn, Ph.D Talks Cultivating Spirituality in Children

rosiekuhn.jpgMost parents, grandparents and guardians have great hopes for their children, but they do not take seriously enough their role in creating an environment that truly empowers children to fulfill their fullest potential as human beings… We are not attending to their human needs beyond their survival. We are not attending to their needs as spiritual beings.” Rosie Kuhn, Ph.D.

Interview re-posted from Psychology Today.

Welcome to Childhood Made Crazy, an interview series that takes a critical look at the current “mental disorders of childhood” model. This series is comprised of interviews with practitioners, parents, and other children’s advocates as well as pieces that investigate fundamental questions in the mental health field. Visit the following page to learn more about the series, to see which interviews are coming, and to learn about the topics under discussion:

Rosie Kuhn, PhD, began her career over 30 years ago as a clinical therapist for addictionrecovery programs in Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1999 she founded The Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group and in 2001, she created the Transformational Coaching Training Program in Silicon Valley, where she facilitated the program for over a decade. She is currently a coach, author, and trainer.

EM: Your work as a Transpersonal and Transformational Life Coach embraces a much larger perspective of well-being than that of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists. What contributed to you choosing such a different orientation to mental health and well-being?

RK: Initially, through my Masters degree in Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, I cultivated the foundational perspective that we are a member of many systems. An individual’s symptoms, especially a child’s symptoms, are indications of a breakdown within the family system, or any one of the primary systems within which a child interacts. This will lead to a breakdown within the individual member of the system.

Through a second Masters degree, in Social Work, I was exposed to patients within the mental health hospital system. All had been diagnosed and were being treated with medications. And from my humble experience, what contributed to their hospitalization was rarely acknowledged, nor were they given many opportunities to reveal that which triggered their mental health issues. They were learning to manage and cope with life and their diagnosis. Their identity became attached to their diagnosis, which limited their capacity to see themselves beyond the handicap and disabilities defined by their diagnosis.

I spent eight years in the field of addictions and recovery. Working with families dealing with addiction and recovery issues revealed to me the huge absence of support for spiritual crisis within the therapeutic model. And, with the incredibly positive influence that the 12-step program has on individuals who work with this programs, it made sense to me that I begin to find a program which allowed me to understand more fully the influence that spirituality has on our human experience.

Through my final degree, a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology, I specialized in the field of spiritual guidance. After three masters degrees, a Ph.D., and 30 years of experience supporting and empowering all people, including children, I see each individual child and grown-up as whole and complete, and quite brilliant in how they come to create the myriad of strategies they use to survive their circumstances. My work empowers my client to see just how empowered they are to create these strategies and to survive. If they can empower themselves in the way they have so far survived, they certainly have the capacity to choose more self-fulfilling strategies.

EM: What is the single most common trigger for children seeking professional health assessments?

RK: Childhood is filled with firsts, presenting every one of us with so many moments of testing ourselves in an unknown world. Every child experiences anxieties as they continually enter realms of human experiences that are unfamiliar and perhaps challenging to comprehend. Each child assesses their situation from their own unique youthful orientation. Depending on the temperament of each child, they all confront anxiety to one degree or another. And, depending on the degree to which a child feels safe and secure in their environment, they handle the everyday stresses and anxiety with ease or with fear.

6239670686_65fdd9e0eb_b.jpgI see the most common trigger for children potentially requiring support from a health professional is a crisis of trust. Quite often, something happens; it could be something significant or something that, for many, could seem very mundane. But, in that moment, for that individual child, their reality is shattered. In their experience, what they believed was true, and the person they believed they could trust, was taken away, and their way of being required a shift. They begin finding patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that allowed them to compensate for any restlessness, irritableness and anxiety that arose. They create survival strategies in their logical, rational mind, which they believe will keep them invulnerable from ever experiencing that kind of shattering ever again.

The more distressed a child is, the more intense their survival strategies. When parents and other guardians ignore, deny or distract themselves from the child’s symptoms, perhaps hoping the symptoms will go away, the child is most likely going to intensify their symptoms until they are acknowledged. Good parenting requires intentional focus on what’s working, and what’s not.

In my work as a life coach, it is not uncommon for my adult clients to share that specific moment when their childhood innocence was shattered. They remember specifically how they began to think and act differently to assist them in not feeling the trauma of the shattering, or hiding it from others. Again, the degree to which a child feels safe being seen and heard within their family system is the degree to which they can share and perhaps be supported through these childhood crises.

EM: What treatment do you suggest?

RK: My suggestion is that the whole family enters into family therapy. A child’s world, the systems within which he operates, contributes to his or her way of being. The family system is the number one source of support and comfort, except when it isn’t. If the family doesn’t participate in treatment a huge component of the child’s reality is left out of the healing process.

EM: You wrote a book for parents called Cultivating Spirituality in Children: 101 Ways to Make Every Child’s Spirit Soar. Why did you write this book?

RK: I wrote Cultivating Spirituality in Children because I believe that though most parents, grandparents and guardians have great hopes for our children, we do not take seriously enough our role in creating an environment that truly empowers our children to fulfill their fullest potential as human beings.

4568163813_2a9b9db088_b.jpgWe don’t take seriously our role in their development, on all levels. We are mostly concerned with making sure their survival needs are taken care of, and that they have the education required. By attending to survival needs, we teach our children to attend to their survival needs and not to the needs of their spirit-selves, that which inspires them to thrive beyond the limiting perspective of consensus reality. We are not attending to their human needs beyond their survival. We are not attending to their needs as spiritual beings.

In dysfunctional family systems (dysfunctional corporate, religious, and educational systems as well), individuals are not allowed to know what they think, feel, need or want. Given such circumstances where an individual’s creativity, imagination, and ability to express themselves fully is diminished, emotions and psychic energies build up and they have to be expressed in some way or another. Depression is caused through the process of self-deprecation. When deprived of the freedom to discover their own expression, children learn to deprive themselves of their own knowing of their own truths and natural exuberance. Again, they begin to suppress their natural exuberance, and develop strategies that will minimize the anxieties that arise. Anxiety arises when we feel unsafe.

EM: In your opinion, how does spirituality contribute to mental health and mental illness issues?

RK: I see spirituality as an essential component of mental health. We are born seeking love and expression of our whole self. We are trained to desire creative outlets, and ways to express ourselves – through language, affection, connection, activity, and our need to truly get to know who we are – as our essential self, intuitively.

woman-1264729_960_720.jpgWe feel our heart’s desires and are inspired to fulfill those desires. We are encouraged to use our imagination to create – what we want to be when we grow up. We feel what is true in our hearts. We are perhaps taken to churches, synagogues, or mosques, so we can learn to believe in those who are unseen, cultivating faith, and a capacity to surrender our will to a higher power. Creation, love, connection, inspiration, faith, and intuition are all aspects of our spiritual selves.

At the same time, the majority of our family, educational, and religious systems provide conflicting messages. Children who are spontaneously singing, laughing or playing, are told to stop making so much noise. They are told that they are wrong or bad for being themselves. They are told they can’t have their dreams or their desires. Now, as a parent or teacher, these may be necessary tactics to control a child’s behavior, but for the child, it can be very confusing. This can trigger a crisis of trust. And, again, they begin to compensate by developing ways of being that is more acceptable to authorities but may wreak havoc with their spirit-self.

Every grown-up knows this spirit self exists. And, it is so understandable that with today’s stresses, it is so challenging to attend to our children’s spiritual development, let alone our own. That’s why I wrote – Cultivating Spirituality in Children.

EM: What is the role of a parent as an advocate for their child?

RK: The role of a parent is to be an advocate for their child. Too often, parents turn their power over to those who consider themselves authorities. The child often feels helpless, and so do the parents. It makes sense that parents look to experts in the field of mental health for support, however, turning their power over to anyone means that they often relinquish responsibility for the current circumstances. That means that they let other people make decisions that may not be in their child’s best interest, even though they are experts. From a child’s perspective, if a parent relinquishes control or responsibility, the child may feel abandoned or betrayed, which only exacerbates the situation for both parent and child.

Parent as advocate requires them to participate in every aspect of decision-making. It requires them to educate themselves on symptoms, medications and treatment modalities, both standard and alternative. Parents need to talk with their child, discuss what feels right for them – what are their ideas and thoughts. Too often those who we put in powerful positions don’t always act in the best interest of their clients or patients. They utilize standard procedures, and miss important personal aspects of a person’s reality – especially related to our human-spirit.

EM: What do you suggest parents do to prevent mental health issues?

images.jpgRK: Attend to your children, give them quality time every day – even just 15 minutes a day will give your children a good sense of value and worthiness. Give them your presence – put away your iPhones, iPads, computers, and walk away from the television. A parent cannot be present to their children while on an electronic device.

Listen to your child as though what they have to say is important. Rather than tell them what to think or what to feel, ask them questions about what is happening for them. The sooner you begin cultivating a trusting open relationship with them, the sooner they will trust that they can come to you when life gets to be too much, too confusing, or when something is going on that they just don’t know how to deal with. If they learn to trust you at a younger age, you both can continue to cultivate and nurture that trusting relationship into adolescence, early adulthood and beyond.

Get to know who your child is, how they think and feel inside themselves. Ask questions that allow them to use their innate intelligence – stretching their intuition and imagination and to feel into what is true for them – not just mental constructs that are fed to them. This way of being with your child allows them to develop healthy interpretations about themselves – that they matter in your world, and in their own, no matter what.

Bottom line, when a child is having mental challenges, parents and guardians need to get therapy, education, and support for themselves.  In essence the child may need rehabilitation, but the parents need some healing, support and training so as to advocate for and empower their children’s lives, so that their spirit is able to soar.


If this article touched you and you have a passion for teaching children, you can  learn more about Sofia University’s Master of Education in Transformational Arts  which can help you  engage with your students in a more powerful and innately mindful way.

To learn more about this series of interviews please visit


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Sophie’s Story – Saying Yes to Spirit and Becoming a Spiritual Entrepreneur


Sophie F.JPGSophie Skover Frabotta is an alumna who received her degree from the Sofia University Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology Global program with a specialization in Spiritual Psychology.

Through her education at Sofia, she realized that she had the gift of sacred remembrance and is devoted to sharing that with her community. Whether it is helping one remember the lost parts of their truth and one’s connection to source,  or how to release the past, embrace the future, experience joy in the moment, work towards their vision, and have healthy relationships,she believes all that she is doing is helping them access that sacred truth that sits deep within their being.

Her Background. Sophie arrived at Sofia with an undergraduate degree in psychology. She had been a practicing Life Coach for the past 6 years and running her own business, but began to feel like her practice was running a little flat. She started looking at Master’s programs, but didn’t want anything that was traditional. And that is when she found Sofia, or as she likes to say “heard the call from Sofia.”

Clarity of Spirit.”Sofia changed my life and connected me back to who I really was. Sofia awakened me. From the very first seminar I had a lot of fear that started to unravel.  I had to dig through the depths of my soul and deal with it to a point where I was able to transmute the energy and move into a new space.

In my second year I took this class, Entrepreneurial Spirit and my world was flipped upside-down. At that point, I was thinking [my business ]Awaken was going to be a spiritual center that needed substantial funding in order to happen. In that class, I ended up creating a 50-page business plan. I worked nights, weekends, and poured my soul into this project. It was intense and challenging on deep levels. After seeking funding, and going through the process of presenting my idea and meeting with potential investors, my idea of Awaken the Spiritual Development Center began to shift.  I began to see that I already had momentum in my coaching business and could use a much smaller investment to re-brand and grow what I had already created. I felt that the class truly unlocked the spiritual entrepreneur in me, and that space of driving spiritual transformation into commerce was born.

It was probably the most difficult 10 weeks academically I’ve ever been through. It was rather like boot camp; you’re happy when it’s over; I really got stronger during that, but through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.”

team-building-1381084_960_720.jpgA Supportive Tribe. Sophie found that the faculty at Sofia was transformational in itself and that she felt safe academically and spiritually, at the same time “Most teachers carried this similar vibe of holding of space for the students to really search and express the true self. I found this experience to be so soft and kind.  I just really felt that I could just be myself and I was going to be loved, supported and encouraged no matter what.” .In addition to classes and teachers, she loved the seminars, her fellow students , and cherishes the friendships she made.

And Then This Happened.  “I had this whole experience during my master’s program. I was saying yes; yes to spirit, yes to my purpose, yes to whatever wanted to come through me, and yes to whatever I needed to do in the world. This practice opened up a funnel and all this energy began to flow, creating an improved version of my Life’s work.

A Career Worth Loving.  Sophie has had her coaching business for the past 8 years. Near the end of her master’s program she began to feel that her company was in need of an awakening, a make-over, itself. She began rebranding, and Awaken was born. Awaken, however came with a much bigger presence than her former company.  Mid-way through her re-branding she realized that she was building a lifestyle brand that focused on transformation in three areas: life coaching, meditation and crystal education.

My intention is to bring spirituality into the business world and to integrate transpersonal awareness while creating beneficial business.”

Sophie GMATP.JPGSophie describes herself as a Spiritual Entrepreneur and says, “I believe it means you believe in commerce and  want to be a profitable, abundant person. However, you have this intense amount of spirituality rushing through your veins. This makes it very important to be in tune with what you are doing, which also creates profit and can support the lifestyle you desire to live. What I’m working on in my own life is blending the two, finding the best of both worlds. I have a lot of dreams, a lot of things in this world that I want to experience, and I know it takes money to get there. I also know that I have some spiritual gifts that can help people transform their lives. So Spiritual Entrepreneur means to me that I’m blending my gifts with the ability to create financial abundance.” Sophie wrote her final paper for her MATP masters program on Being a Spiritual Entrepreneur in Modern Business Society, and defines spiritual entrepreneur below.

Spiritual Entrepreneur (n.): (a) one approaching commerce with a divine alignment first of all and innovatively identifying needs and finding solutions that create profit and make a meaningful difference in the world; (b) one pursuing morally sustainable commerce, providing the consumer with a meaningful resource, while making a profit;

(c) one creating business with an outer force and an inner force that are in balance; (d) one with a practice of opening to the divine flow, thinking outside of the box, finding a community need and fulfilling it, welcoming things already happening instead of always making things happen, and acting with inspiration as soon as the download is complete; Synonyms: Spiritual Leader, Spiritual Trailblazer, Beneficial Business Pursuer, Conscious Commerce Practitioner.

Sophie wants to experience everything. “Part of embodying the spiritual entrepreneur is being in tune with two very opposing ideas, and blending them together in a way that is innovative. I don’t feel like they’re opposing, but when I talk about it with others, sometimes I’m met with a little bit of confusion.”

Building A Life Worth Living

I think that one component that I offer clients, is that I believe in them. They may have forgotten what they are capable of, but I know it. I hold that space for them naturally and help them remember their greatness.” 

Sophie currently works with clients, teaches meditation, holds local and virtual workshops and designs and makes crystal jewelry, which she sells online. “I have this gift of hearing things that are said underneath words. I’m very word sensitive and when I work with people and I hear what they are saying, there are specific words that pop out and I can usually go deeper into what needs to heal. I then help them to release whatever is blocking them from their inner alignment and what they truly want.”

“What my true credentials are and what they will always be is that I do the inner work. I live the work; I am dedicated to the work. So the spaces that I’m able to travel to with my clients are because I’ve been there myself. I know what it looks like to be bulimic, depressed, anxious, suicidal, 70 pounds heavier, and so on. Darkness is darkness, but the light can save us all. I understand that those spaces of darkness in the soul can heal, and find it natural to go there and bring the light.”

This past summer, Rich—Sophie’s Husband—saw an amazing opportunity to take
Sophie’s healing vision and technique—using crystal jewelry—online. Coming from the corporate world, Rich knew she could reach more people on the world wide web. So they partnered up and created an online platform for her to sell her crystal jewelry and teach people about healing crystals online.


Awaken.JPGHer Business: Awaken. Awaken’s different healing modalities: life coaching, meditation, crystal jewelry, and crystal education, are often weaved together. Her days are spent seeing clients one on one. She also teaches local classes and workshops on meditation, crystals, and the chakras.

She began her virtual work as a way to expand her reach and work with people all over the world. She always uses a video platform as she believes that having a face-to-face connection preserves the intimacy and connection of in-person transformational experience, so one requirement for her clients is that they have internet connection and front facing camera.

“I find that there are different ways to connect with people. Some people are more comfortable with eyes closed, in that meditative space, to do their inner work, which is where the meditative lessons come in hand. On the other hand, crystals offer this very stable, transmittable vibration due to its molecular structure. Different stones offer a variety of vibrations. I use crystals as companions for people as they go on their healing journey..”

One important component of Sophie’s work is structure. She provides structure for people going through what is an unstructured journey. “Typically I work with people from 8 to 32 weeks. The length of time depends on what they put into it, as that is what they get out of it. I offer accountability, forward movement, strategic planning and goal setting, but the most important principle is doing the inner work to heal the blockages in front of one’s desires. Simultaneously I know that people will also begin to have a spiritual awakening and the speed at which they awaken, is the speed they awaken. And there’s no rushing that.”

The entrepreneurial aspect also comes into play on the business end. Sophie describes, “there’s a business end to all this as well. Client’s are paying for a transformational experience, a seat in my office and that costs money. That’s not something that I offer for free.” She feels it is important to acknowledge her time and she balances the sharing of her gifts with financial reimbursement, which is an important aspect of being a spiritual entrepreneur.

“To me the biggest principle is that living your life’s work is a balance. And balance fluctuates…. Sometimes my practice will be more driven by spirituality and sometimes more by commerce. And both are okay.”

For Sophie, it all comes down to being in tune with your soul purpose and sharing that with the world. She encourages us to create a joyful life by accepting our true self, falling in love with who we are, and living with an open heart!

Connect with Sophie

Instagram: @SophieFrabotta  & @AwakenCrystalGallery

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What can I do with an M.A. in Transpersonal Psychology?

So what is Transpersonal Psychology?

At Sofia University, transpersonal psychology is described as the study of an individual’s highest potential for the betterment of humanity and the sustainability of the planet. An article by  added that the focus of transpersonal psychology is to better understand human consciousness and experience using multiple disciplines as well as helping  individuals develop spiritually, emotionally and personally.

Poirier Teaching Developmental Psychology

Transpersonal psychologists work across disciplines and draw on insights from not only the various areas of psychology, but also the sciences of cognition, consciousness, and the paranormal; philosophy; social and cultural theory; integral health theories and practices; poetry, literature, and the arts; and, the world’s spiritual and wisdom traditions.

What careers are available for transpersonal psychologists?

Careers in advises that there are a variety of jobs for Transpersonal Psychology Masters graduates, and it all depends upon their level of education and their career goals. Transpersonal psychologists often spend time in research facilities studying the effect of spirituality and holistic living on the overall health of individuals, in educational settings, and in corporate settings as well. Just a few of the positions often held by these professionals include but are not limited to the following:

Teaching Positions
Corporate Consulting
Research Positions
Life Coaching
Art Therapy


Teachers and health care workers can employ analytic thinking abilities when evaluating statistical data and use research methods when performing psychological experiments and writing scholarly articles.

Master’s degree holders with several years of experience in business and industry can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research, while other master’s degree holders may find jobs in government, universities, or the private sector as counselors, researchers, data collectors and analysts. Today, most master’s degrees in psychology are awarded in Clinical, Counseling and Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I/O) which enjoy established occupational niches. I/O psychology focuses on the relationships of individuals to the workplace environment, organizations, and other employees.
Persons with master’s degrees in clinical, counseling, school and testing and measurement psychology often work under the direction of a doctoral psychologist. Some jobs in industry — for example, in organizational development and survey research — are held by both doctoral- and master’s-level graduates. But industry and government jobs that focus on compensation, training, data analysis and general personnel issues are often filled by those with master’s degrees in psychology.

Life coaches help clients create plans to reach their life goals, while at the same time boosting clients’ self-awareness and confidence. Prospective life coaches often receive their training through a program accredited by the International Coach Federation or through certificate or degree programs at a university. Sofia University offers both a stand alone certificate program as well as a Masters degree with a certification in Life Coaching. 

Alumni Highlights

Alumnajenny-buergermeister2-400x451, Jennifer Buergermeister graduated from the M.A. in Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She’s an adjunct instructor at several universities, a writer for various blog sites, newspapers and magazines, Director of Programming for Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer, and the CEO and Founder of Breathe the Cure, Inc. which consults and facilitates programs for children and adults incorporating wellness such as Jennyoga and the Texas Yoga Conference. Untitled


Another proud Sofia alumna Lindsay Zwicker, graduated from the M.A. in Transpersonal Psychology. Lindsay is a holistic therapist. She believes that to achieve mental health we must explore and heal the connections between our mind, body and spirit. Moving through life with a feeling of dis-ease can be exhausting, and it is her goal to help individuals achieve a sense of wholeness and well-being.

Associations for Transpersonal Psychology

There are a few different reputable organizations for transpersonal psychologists, including the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, European Transpersonal Association, Eurotas. and the American Psychological Association. The associations mentioned are great resources for finding continuing education sources.  They also provide opportunities to share your knowledge as a speaker. Psychologists who have the ability to attend conferences and workshops within their industry should definitely do so. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn new trends within the industry, as well as network with like-minded professionals.



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What can I do with a B.A. in Psychology?

If you’ve been yearning for a new career path or wanting to finish what you started years ago, you may find what you’re looking for through our Bachelors Completion program in Psychology.

Our unique program offers a rich and transformative learning experience through a flexible online format, which is suitable for working professionals, parents, and global students. This completion program allows you to complete your Bachelor’s degree online so you can finally start your career in the field of psychology.

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Loretta Farris, one of our BAC graduates said:

I had my doubts about receiving an education on-line, but I’m pleased to say that the experience was an overall success. I was fortunate to have a kind academic advisor who provided the guidance and encouragement I needed to help me complete my capstone project. Instructors with real-world expertise in their respective fields showed me how to go beyond my expectations of learning. Perhaps most importantly, my classmates shared their experiences with love, honesty and integrity and I will always be grateful to have been a part of their journey at Sofia University.

But what can one do after graduating with a B.A. in Psychology?


BA Completion graduate, Devi Prem shares her success story:

I am most grateful to the quality and flexibility that the Sofia offers. For my BA completion I have received the most wonderful support to create my own body of work “Seven Sacred Rhythms of Leadership”, a dance meditation coaching offering. I will be continuing with the Global MA in Transpersonal Psychology program, which is truly a choice of my heart.

And BAC graduate Nisha Jumn shares:

I have nothing but great things to say about Sofia. This is an amazing program which offers students the stepping stones that propels us into worlds we may never have thought of entering. I am grateful for my professors and all they had to offer. The BAC program and the knowledge I gained from it resulted in me creating, Adi Shaktee, as an oasis for healing and a platform which I intend using for my women’s movement.

Below is a list of key elements that might help you increase the chances of landing the job of your dreams.

  • Plan early. Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your career interests and options and identify the unique constellation of knowledge, skills and characteristics you need to enter the career of your choice.
  • Assess yourself. Figure out who you are and what you want from a job. Consider these questions: ‘What are the 10 traits that describe you best? What working conditions must you have? How much money do you need to make? What are your long-term goals? What skills do you have and which do you most enjoy using?’ Your answers will provide a foundation for your job search and enable you to pinpoint the opportunities best suited to you.
  • Capitalize on your connections. Think about the people you’ve met who could give you job leads—perhaps you completed an internship, participated in a service learning event or volunteered at a school. Be sure to stay in touch with your professors since local agencies may contact them looking for “good” graduates to fill a job. And don’t forget, even after you graduate, you will need references or letters of recommendation, so staying connected with faculty is a smart choice.
  • Look beyond Internet job postings. With such sites as and,,, and, the Internet is a wonderful tool for finding jobs. Many corporations may not list their jobs there, so be sure to visit company websites that may interest you and send an email to introduce yourself.
  • Take advantage of campus services, even after you graduate. Your campus career center and alumni office are both interested in your long-term success.

Kendra Cherry wrote an article on (About, Inc. company) entitled “Careers Options With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology”.

In this article Kendra mentions that as an undergraduate, chances are you have done a considerable amount of research and writing, and these skills would be useful in positions as a library assistant, probation officer, business manager, case worker and many other related areas. She also points out that the biggest advantage of a bachelor’s degree in psychology is its adaptability.


So what are the most commonly held careers for those with a bachelors degree in psychology? According to The College Majors Handbook, some of the top occupations that employ those with a bachelor’s psychology degree are:

  1. Top- and mid-level management and administration
  2. Sales
  3. Social work
  4. Other management occupations
  5. Labor-relations, personnel and training
  6. Administrative positions
  7. Real estate, business services and insurance
  8. Marketing

As you enter the job market, consider jobs that require the skills you obtained during your psychology education. These abilities include:

  • Critical thinking
  • One-on-one and small group communication
  • Effective written communication skills
  • Understanding of individual human behavior
  • Knowledge of group and organizational behavior
  • Creative thinking skills

Some students even decide to continue their education due to specific careers that require further training. Therefore, many graduates of B.A. in Psychology programs eventually go on for their Masters in Counseling Psychology to become licensed therapists, the Masters in Tranpersonal Psychology to become educators and authors, or choose our doctorate level programs to become licensed psychologists and/or researchers.

Whichever path you choose, you are sure to set a solid foundation for your career success with our Bachelors Completion program.

For more information about our B.A. in Psychology program, please contact our Admissions team at or 1-888-98-SOFIA.

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What are the differences between a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology and a Psy.D in Clinical Psychology?

According to Psychology Career, psychology careers are a highly regulated industry. Earning a degree, especially a doctorate, is very important to ones upward mobility and success. In fact, most research and teaching positions at major universities or government organizations require a doctorate degree.bb_vocalfry_free

Before deciding on which degree is the best fit for you, it may be helpful to know the differences in career potentials for both degrees.

Our Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology program is a non-clinical, research-focused degree, whereas our Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology is a clinical, applied-psychology program that is designed to lead graduates towards licensure as a clinical psychologist.

Below you’ll find additional information on common careers and employment areas pursued by individuals who obtain a doctorate degree in psychology and those who obtain a doctorate degree in clinical psychology.

Careers in Transpersonal Psychology

Some of the most common areas where graduates with a doctorate degree in Transpersonal Psychology may work include: government, business, research, and education. They may also become authors, coaches, speakers, and facilitators of workshops and public programs.

Alumna Julie Gohman, graduated from the Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology program at Sofia University and became a professorjulie.cropped-276x300 of psychology and author of 10 Sacred Questions for Every Woman.

Julie writes about women’s development, motherhood, spirituality, and the art of self-inquiry. Most of what Julie does, in both her personal and professional life, is dedicated to human growth and development, teaching and learning, and understanding the complex dimensions of human behavior. It’s her goal to be mindful and present, to be loving and kind, and to live with wisdom and grace. Julie also believes in the power of gratitude as a game-changer for everything in her life.


Alumna Bertita Graebner also graduated from the Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology program at Sofia. Bertita takes an approach that draws from the whole person and integrates principles from Transpersonal Psychology, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, Solution-based Therapy, Somatics, and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology. Bertita has faith in the coaching process to transform individuals and to create enduring change. She believes in the power of meaning-making to enable transformation and shift towards what is next. She also supports women between the ages of 45 and 85 in transition.


Dr. Rosie Kuhn, is another graduate from the Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology program at Sofia. She is the author of the popular ‘Self-Empowerment 101’ and founder of The Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group in Silicon Valley, is the preeminent Thought Leader in the field of transformational coaching, coach training and leadership development. Rosie specializes in identifying and transforming belief systems that hold people back in business and in life. She empowers individuals, executives and organizations to fearlessly embrace transformation and realize previously untapped potential.

Careers in Clinical Psychology

According to My Graduate, graduates of applied or clinical psychology programs often become mental healthcare practitioners who diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders through the use of therapy. However, they may also work within the field of academia for research purposes as well.

“This is a very broad category that includes any occupation in which the psychologist interacts with clients for the purpose of assessment, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of mental health issues (in most careers as a clinical psychologist), or to help clients deal with challenges of daily living (in most careers as a counseling psychologist).”


Many graduates of clinical psychology programs go on to work in private practice, hospital settings and clinics, or with businesses as a practitioner, administrator, or both. Some specialize in Forensic psychology and work closely with courts and juries. While others may go onto work in government agencies, correctional facilities, or as school psychologists.


Alumna, Dr. Sarah Neustadter is a Clinical & Transpersonal Psychologist, with her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Sofia University.

Her clinical experience as a psychologist includes working with the severely mentally ill population with bipolar and schizophrenia, crisis-management, suicide prevention, and additionally, in the Los Angeles public school system with at-risk teenagers dealing with all kinds of modern-day adolescent issues.

“My work integrates my “no-nonsense” New York ethic and sense of responsibility with a humanistic approach to psychology, incorporating psychodynamic depth-work, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, alternative modalities of healing such as meditation, mindfulness, shamanism, and other mind-body practices”


MeghanFraleyAlumna Meghan Fraley also graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology from Sofia University. She is now a licensed psychologist in California and works at the Sofia Counseling Center. She is also actively engaged in grassroots organizing work addressing economic and social justice issues with the Raise the Wage South Bay & Peninsula Coalition, Politically Inspired Action, and the ACLU of Northern California

“Overall, my passion is to help people feel more connected to themselves and the people and world around them. My approach to therapy is warm, compassionate, and empowering. I support individuals in overcoming the obstacles that prevent them from living freely, authentically, and joyfully. My clinical specialties include: depression, anxiety, life transitions, spiritual/existential concerns, and women’s issues”.


markformanAlumnus Mark Forman, Ph.D. is also a graduate of the Psy.D. program at Sofia and is now a licensed clinical psychologist with fifteen years experience working with individuals, couples, teens, and families. Mark has found success as the Clinical Director of Life Design Centre and Lead Trainer of the Certified Integral Psychotherapist (CIT) Training Program. He currently teaches courses in Integral Theory at Sofia.


No matter what path you decide on, both degrees provide the opportunity to work in administrative roles within universities, public or government institutions, or in businesses.

For more information about careers and salaries for individuals with degrees in psychology, read The 25 Most Lucrative Careers in Psychology.

To learn more about our doctoral programs, please contact our admissions team at

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