Psychology Home at The University of West Georgia

Philosophical Roots of the Master's Program

Humanistic, Existential, Phenomenological, Critical and Transpersonal Approaches


The UWG master’s in psychology program features many courses that focus on existential themes and issues which we all share in our psychological lives, such as:

• the nature and structure of consciousness,
• perception and cognitive neuroscience,
• psychological development throughout the human lifespan,
• the body in its lived and physical dimensions,
• narratives and critical approaches to discourse,
• affective life and feeling,
• dreams and depth psychological theories of dreaming,
• gender and sex roles including feminist psychology,
• marital and family relationships,
• social and cultural relations,
• spirituality including feminist and ancient wisdom traditions,
• transpersonal and paranormal experiences,
• psychopathology and the meanings and forms of psychological disorders, and
• the transformative power of psychotherapeutic relationships.


Exploring Great Thinkers

Some courses center on intensive studies of some of the great psychologists including the depth psychological work of Freud, Jung, Horney, Lacan, pioneers within the English Object Relations tradition, R. D. Laing and Fritz Perls, and important figures within the marital and family therapy tradition. Courses have also centered on the continental, phenomenological thought of Edmund Husserl, Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Alfred Schutz, Paul Ricoeur, and J. H. van den Berg, and the themes of the existential-phenomenological tradition are regularly interwoven throughout other classes.

The important work of such pioneering American third-force psychologists is also regularly discussed, including the writings of William James, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Arthur Combs, Virginia Satir, Sidney Jourard, Rollo May, and Amedeo Giorgi. These and other influential thinkers illuminate psychological life in the service of clarifying both a truly human psychology and understanding of the lives we live. Finally, the perennial philosophy, spiritual traditions, and fourth-force psychology are explored through the writings of Charles Tart, Aldous Huxley, Ken Wilber, Frances Vaughan, Michael Washburn, Krishnamurti, Tarthang Tulku, and the classics of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.


Foundational and Critical Studies in Traditional Psychology

We also believe that to fully appreciate the positive transformations fostered by a truly human psychology, students should be exposed to a critical examination of how traditional psychology approaches psychological life. Historically, humanistic, phenomenological, and transpersonal psychology developed as reactions to problems in the traditional accounts of the human psychological condition. Knowing what those problems are, by direct examination and explication of them, can enrich our appreciation of the contributions being made through the human science tradition and help us orient to its viable alternatives. Hence, there are many courses and ongoing discussions in the program focused on traditional in psychology. These include:

• Personality and Motivation
• History and Development of Psychology
• Perceptual Psychology
• Research Methods
• Advanced Social Psychology
• Developmental Psychology
• Advanced Abnormal Psychology
• Psychotherapy, and
• Psychological Assessment.

These offerings in our curriculum pull from, then often reformulate, traditional accounts within psychology. Here, our intention is for you to know what the tradition is, to disengage its sense from its nonsense, and to see the value of possible alternatives to it.


Honoring Ancient and Modern Multicultural Traditions

Finally, this program has always reached to consider other cultural contexts besides American life, for the value that these situations may have in helping us to understand and flesh out more holistic portraits of psychological life. For example, Oriental and Indian forms of thought and practice have been utilized as they have helped us clarify psychology and our own personal growth and development.

Native traditions of healing and spirituality, shamanism, the psychology and meditative disciplines of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions are other contexts which inform many of our regularly offered classes. Considerations have also been shown toward the rich cultural traditions in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, South Africa, and Alaska. All this is aligned with a cardinal value in our approach to psychology: to provide a holistic, contextual appreciation of the spectrum of psychological life, including the ensemble of situations through which it is both contingent and ultimately known.