#110 – Spiritual Emergencies and Spiritual Competencies


David Lukoff, Ph.D. has been a clinical psychologist for 25 years and is currently a professor of psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. He has also taught at Harvard, UCLA, Oxnard College, Saybrook Graduate School, and the Institute of Integral Studies, as well as having led workshops around the world. Much of his clinical experience has been with patients suffering from serious mental disorders. He reports that he has found spirituality to be a central part of the recovery process for most patients. Much of his treatment approach arises from a brief psychotic experience he had which lasted two months. Spirituality played an key role in his own recovery. Dr. Lukoff was instrumental in getting a new diagnostic category, Religious or Spiritual Problem, accepted into the DSM IV. Much of his current focus is training other mental health professionals in Spiritual Competency, that is to recognize and know how to work with spiritual issues in their clinical work. He is author of 70 articles and chapters on spiritual issues and mental health. He has also designed and taught online courses for the past 12 years. His Spiritual Competency Resource Center provides access to online resources that enhance the cultural sensitivity of mental health professionals, including online courses, guides to internet resources, and articles on the clinical applications of spirituality.



  1. Posted September 16, 2007 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Maybe each one of us, allows oneself to slide into a crisis to some degree. Not necessarily to the degree Dr. Lukoff has done, nevertheless, such crises, seem, be beneficial in the end, when incorporated properly into ‘healthy’ life.

    Much about this, is left unsaid. And in the end both Lukoff and Van Nuys agree, they should meet again. I can only say: do not wait too long.


  2. Thea
    Posted September 23, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I wish Dr Lukoff and others like him, every success in integrating altered states of consciousness into mainstream mental health. So many mentally afflicted people are permanently crippled by the symbiotic alliance between the American Psychiatric Association and Big Pharma.

  3. Rick V.
    Posted September 26, 2007 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Hello Dave, I am glad to see that psychedelics and their possible benefits are being discussed. I am a psych student at a major California University who occasionally uses MDMA to regain focus and connectedness with those I care about. I have been doing this many years and have acted as guide for many first timers. I cannot count how many times I have been told that I helped someone have the most meaningful experience of their lives to that point. What is interesting and I would like to hear you comment on is my own experience of being able to read with nearly 100% accuracy who will respond well and who will respond poorly to MDMA. I will often advise someone I feel not suitable for this experience not to try it. For the use of MDMA to be a spiritual and deeply moving experience the user must be comfortable with being open. Those who are not comfortable with being very vulnerable, a relatively easy thing to spot, do not fair well on this drug. Finally I agree that the use of MDMA or hallucinogens can be quite risky but if done right and in the correct frame of mind it can be life changing in a positive way.

  4. Psyche
    Posted June 21, 2009 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    As a transpersonal art therapist, it is wonderful to have the transpersonal represented.
    Like many of the podcasts so much depth gets missed due to time restraints the depth and complexity of the topics. It would be great for people to know more about the various kinds of spiritual emergence experiences. (kundalini, peak experience, near death, psychic opening, shamanic crisis, just to name a few) It also seems crucial that the mainstream understand what the actual differences are between a spiritual emergence and psychosis… A few factors were mentioned in regards to what might help a person more easily negotiate an emergence, but even if the emergence is difficult and becomes a spiritual emergency it is still different and distinguishable from psychosis and that wasn’t touched on.
    keep up the good work

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