Academic Programs and Teaching

The M.A specialization in Integrative Psychotherapy Body-Mind-Spirit in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at the University of Haifa

The M.A specialization in Integrative Psychotherapy: Body-Mind-Spirit was established in October 2018, breaking new grounds as being the first academic program in Israel to offer a master’s degree in this field The purpose of the program is training individuals to become therapists and/or researchers specializing in integrative psychotherapy. The psychotherapy field has undergone major changes in the last two decades, from focusing on the individual and inner-dynamic processes from his or her past, to a wider, more integrative approach addressing the whole of one’s existence. The approach of the MA Program in Integrative Psychotherapy: Body-Mind-Spirit is concerned with the body, mind, and spirit and the connection between them; recognizes the importance of both emotion and cognition; gives current relationships and the present center stage; and takes the patient’s overall life context – familial, social, cultural and ecological – into account. This approach stems from a humanist, inter-cultural point of view, and aims not only to address difficulties, restore balance and reduce distress, but also to promote personal development, self-fulfillment and thriving; or, as it is often called in current research, “wellness”. It employs both eastern philosophies and therapies (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese philosophy) and western insights, outlooks and therapies (e.g., psychodynamic, gestalt and humanistic approaches), recognizing that combining the two allows for a wider and deeper understanding of human beings and the ways in which they can be helped.

Current research shows that these approaches are meaningful and effective (Zarbo, Tasca, Cattafi, & Compare, 2015), and introduce new treatment methods which may be especially effective in special populations, such as at-risk youth, people with a history of trauma, people with physical or mental illnesses, and distressed parents of special needs children (Caldwell, 2017). For example, a meta-analysis of dozens of studies examining integrative therapies that included a spiritual component found significant improvement in patients’ wellbeing (Smith, Bartz & Richards, 2007).

The training of therapists who view the person as a whole from an integrative outlook, hold a holistic approach towards the individual and his or her environment, and who are trained in a variety of methods combining body-mind-spirit and eastern and western approaches, holds great promise for many types of potential clients. This kind of therapy may be useful for anyone; however, it is more likely to appeal to those who can relate to these integrative perspectives.

Establishing this kind of academic program in Israel can enhance and advance research on this type of counseling and therapy and expand our knowledge of methods derived from this wide, integrative approach. Research on this topic can also help us to better understand the implications of holistic, integrative perspectives on wellbeing, which may also be relevant in other contexts such as the workplace or child rearing. There are currently several certificate programs teaching mind-body psychotherapy in Israel, offered by either private institutes or continuing education departments in higher education institutions. This is the first program in Israel to offer an academic degree from an accredited university. It will thus encourage the academization of this field, while relying on research-based interventions.

Similar programs are also available in universities abroad. For example, there are several excellent MA and PhD programs in this vein in various US academic institutions, such as Teachers College Columbia University, John F. Kennedy University, Naropa University, Sofia University, Antioch University and the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). There are also associations dedicated to this field, such as The International Integrative Psychotherapy Association (IIPA), founded in 2001, and The Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI), a major academic organization which has also established an APA journal on this topic – Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. In addition, a handbook of psychotherapy integration was published over a decade ago by Oxford University Press, and an integrative psychotherapy research center was established in Johns Hopkins University.