Applied Consciousness Studies

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Certificate Director: Ruth Richards, M.D., Ph.D. 

Consciousness Studies, as with other areas at Saybrook University, offers diverse perspectives on and applications to many life issues; with Consciousness Studies, some of these are surprising, illuminating, and quite fascinating. With growing awareness of how mind and brain profoundly affect the nature of experience—both individually and together, and both internally and in our manifest world—we offer a Certificate in Applied Consciousness Studies through the Consciousness, Spirituality, & Integrative Health (CSIH) Specialization. It is intended both for registered Saybrook University students as well as non-matriculated students. It is grounded in a two-course sequence in the psychology of consciousness. Then, like a bouquet of fragrant flowers, it branches out into areas of special study, relevant to diverse applications, interests, and life goals.

Potential applications involve both areas of knowledge and process (such as transpersonal research methods, ways to use mind-body technologies, approaches to spiritual inquiry). Applications are grounded in special interests of Certificate faculty. Some examples are a focus on ethnoautobiography, mind/technology interface, non-human consciousness, transpersonal research methods, empathy and relational psychology, traditional healing in modern medicine, and understanding PTSD. We also encourage students to take initiative in developing their own Certificate focus with relevant faculty members.

We expect to draw students not just from CSIH, but from varied Specializations and Schools all across Saybrook University. Learnings may be applied in many areas including clinical practice, coaching, organizational consulting, community development, one's practice along a spiritual path, or in the field of education from the earliest levels up through college, including as well offerings for seniors and for lifelong learning.

Scope of Offerings
The scope of consciousness studies and its methods is vast, involving the scientific study of behavior, experience, and intentionality. We approach these in terms of theory, research, and applications. Our field is multidisciplinary and expanding, catalyzed by developments in the cognitive sciences, neurosciences, studies of altered states of consciousness including neuroscientific and experiential studies of sleep and dreaming, or of stages and states in human creativity. Biofeedback technology has opened not only new doorways to understanding inner states but to their self-regulation. Work on meditation, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, mind-altering drugs, and parapsychology have offered added perspectives. We draw as well on anthropology, comparative religion, philosophy, ethnopsychology, transpersonal studies, and Asian and indigenous spiritual traditions. Above all, we assume there is more we don’t know. Welcome to this adventure and, indeed, this privilege, of exploring human possibility.

The basic structure involves two required sequential consciousness courses, taken by all students, first the introductory CSIH 3000: Psychology of Consciousness, followed by CSIH 3040: Models of Consciousness. The student should note that work within CSIH 3040 may be adapted in part to special interests. Required courses are supplemented by a choice of two electives, branching out into varied Certificate subspecialties; for instance, work in ethnoautobiography, for a student exploring contextual, cultural, and consciousness-related influences on knowing and understanding life story, or the neuropsychology of dreams and dreaming, for a student exploring sleeping as well as waking manifestations of PTSD and bases for potential healing.

The four courses are followed by a 3-credit practicum/project (CSIH 8151) in the student’s area of interest. This may involve theory, research, and/or practical application. Finally there is a 1-credit integrating paper (CSIH 8950). The paper may be done separately or it can, with faculty permission, be included in an overview to the practicum work. We encourage practicum students to explore questions they might wish to pursue later for an M.A. or Ph.D. degree.

Certificate Advisement and Online Community
Entering students will plan their practicum experience with the Certificate director. They can change their study plan later, but need to make an initial plan at the outset, including a tentative plan for a one-year enrollment for those individuals not enrolled in a Saybrook degree program. Once students choose a subspecialty and Certificate advisor, they begin subspecialty planning with that individual. A list of certificate faculty, subspecialties, and interests is included at the end of this description. Subspecialty faculty can help suggest the most useful electives, and can give ongoing guidance for the emerging practicum project. The Applied Consciousness Studies student group, as a whole, will also participate in an online Community Forum with selected faculty in order to share plans, interests, resources, and experiences along the way. Each student will post once a week or more, and faculty will engage as well in active discussion. Greater activity is expected, periodically, around hot questions and popular areas.

Certificate Objectives
I—OVERALL OBJECTIVES: After completing this certificate program, the student will be able to:
• Articulate and defend her/his own definitions of mind, brain, and consciousness, comparing at least two other perspectives.
• Define and compare a theory, an epistemology, and a model.
• Describe conceptual frameworks of historical and contemporary approaches to consciousness studies, both in general and in one’s own special area of interest.
• Critically identify, analyze, and compare theoretical models, research literature, and implications in the field from neuroscientific, philosophical, psychological, and cross-cultural perspectives.
• Explain how contemporary and combined research methods, including neuroscientific, heuristic, introspective, neurophenomenological, and other qualitative and quantitative methods of disciplined inquiry can be integrated to examine questions in humanistic and transpersonal psychology or parapsychology.
• Demonstrate how quantitative and qualitative inquiry have previously been applied individually or together to a topic of the student’s interest.
• Articulate one’s own model of consciousness, and apply it to an area of particular interest.
• Articulate how knowledge in key areas such as phenomenological or neuroscientific investigations have the potential for changing major outlooks or even worldviews in such areas as exceptional human experiences, spiritual development, therapies and psychological growth, and new paradigms informing humanistic, transpersonal, and existential perspectives, including those in special areas of student interest.

II—SUBSPECIALTY OBJECTIVES:  The student, after completing this Certificate, will have opportunities to apply their new learning in many areas, and/or be in a position to develop additional objectives suitable to a self-designed focus. The following is not an exhaustive list, but gives examples of what is possible with this Certificate.
• Open up and explore mind-body distinctions vs. views of mind-body continuum as found in some Western (and Eastern) contexts, both historically and at present. May include mind-body-spirit.
• Address in a “post-human era” (as per N. Katherine Hayles) what it means to be human where there are “no essential demarcations between … cybernetic mechanism and biological organism.”
• Describe characteristics of an “embodied education,” and apply that information while designing new educational interventions, with a chance to fine tune attention and cognitive ability and provide a richer balance of experience within our learning environments.
• Articulate accepted and established boundaries of nature, culture, and gender in varied settings that may structure our experience, and be able to explain ways in which individuals may enlarge and transform their understandings of self and world.
• Explain one of more models of indigenous consciousness, after identifying group, origins, and history, and be able to contrast this with modern Western mainstream views of consciousness.
• Apply such understandings to the creation of meaningful personal and cultural ethnic narratives, using co-operative inquiry and other methods in order to expand insight into personal or group histories, or toward resolution of inter-cultural conflicts.
• Understand psychological and psychophysical experiences of veterans or other individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both during waking and dreaming states.
• Articulate neuroscientific and psychological findings related to diverse PTSD phenomena, including nightmares and disturbances of sleep, as well as common comorbid conditions, such as clinical depression.
• Suggest applications, current or potential, toward alleviating distress from certain PTSD sequelae and the scientific evidential basis, where available, for specific treatment alternatives.
• Articulate key psychosocial premises and origins of Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) in psychology as per the Stone Center, Wellesley College, and ways this can depart from mainstream Western positions, including views of individuality and identity development—viewed too as a function of gender and subculture. Be able to compare, as well, a traditional Eastern view of self and other.
• Explain neuroscientific findings, including investigations of “mirror neurons” from the 1990s, and how these expand our understanding of diverse phenomena including empathy, intersubjectivity, attunement, mutuality, or of various conditions including autism or sociopathy.
• Apply “relational approaches” to specific phenomena such as development of intimacy, friendship, group relations, clinical insight, identity development, coping with conflict and anger, collaboration vs. competition, fostering of individual and group creativity, or paths of spiritual development.
• Describe features of the spirit/body/mind relationship, existing literature, and ways these might be researched, for instance, involving states or phenomena of meditation or lucid dreaming.
• Explain how qualitative plus quantitative methods may be combined, as in neurophenomenology, to bring forth new knowledge about varied altered, transpersonal, or paranormal states.
• Apply such methodologies to conduct research around specific questions involving, for example, near death (NDE), hypnotic phenomena, or aspects of shamanic practice.
• Critically identify, analyze, and compare various studies conducted on non-human consciousness.
• Compare consciousness of humans and non-humans, and implications for human culture and for our world.
• Examine sources of bias, restriction, and limiting views of both traditional and modern healing paradigms and propose new models of health and pathology that improve on what we have.
• Suggest creative integrations of traditional indigenous and mainstream scientific approaches to psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and neuroscientific technology (e.g., biofeedback and neurofeedback) for enhancement of healing and deeper insight into psychospiritual development.

Certificate Faculty, Subspecialties, and Interests
Certificate students are encouraged to speak early with several faculty members to determine with whom they might want to work in depth, and how other faculty may contribute to their new learning. We eagerly welcome student initiative in selecting a study area and developing their own certificate plan. The faculty wish to help students explore an area of personal importance, and to pursue goals about which they are passionate. You will see below how Saybrook faculty themselves pursue interests that are not always quite as welcome in the academic mainstream. Some of these interests may be heralds of the big findings of tomorrow!

What is Next?
For more information, please contact the Admissions Office. Note you may enroll in this certificate as a non-degree student, or as a matriculated student. This Certificate will begin in the fall 2014 semester. You are welcome to consult at any time with Certificate faculty to see if this option is right for you, and to explore their areas or your own interests. When you are certain of your wish to enroll, you may go to Apply Online and select the desired options. Saybrook students may, depending upon their degree program, take this Certificate either as a part of or in addition to their degree requirements.

Call Admissions at 1-800-825-4480 for further information.