The Ph.D. degree in Psychology is focused on the study of Consciousness and Society. It is grounded in the  program's approach to psychology as a distinctively human science. It will educate future scholars and practitioners at the highest level of the discipline to make original contributions to theory and knowledge. Our graduates will serve as researchers, consultants, leaders, and teachers who can creatively facilitate transformations in a global society.

Ph.D. Program in Psychology: Consciousness and Society


The program will reflect three theoretical approaches to analyze the intersection of consciousness and society: Humanistic, Critical, & Transpersonal. These approaches will serve as reflexive and reflective anchors to the scholarly trajectory of our students in developing their own research interests. The doctoral program draws on the humanistic-existential foundations that addresses the phenomenological grounding of consciousness and interrogates relevant research in psychology and other disciplines, from philosophy to the neurosciences. This entails drawing upon the classical texts in the discipline and studies emerging in transpersonal psychologies, with their interest in mind/body questions, and current interdisciplinary work in embodiment and mind/body. The program’s study of consciousness will also be informed by critical traditions that examine the historical position of the discipline as well as cultural representations and practices in order to understand the constitution of consciousness and the subject within institutional and social contexts. Our commitment to praxis entails a commitment to engaged forms of research such as those consonant with the Social Justice movement in psychology.

Values and Commitments

All of the theoretical perspectives that inform the curriculum indicate a fundamental value of the program, to privilege the question of one’s subjective accounting of an event, either in experiential or discursive terms. Whether in terms of reflexivity or awareness, this value links each of these traditions to more qualitative approaches to which the program's teaching is also committed. It is assumed that a truly ethical approach cannot hide behind generated knowledge but reflects values and an understanding of the historical and cultural place of the discipline and one’s own place and desires as a researcher.

In all of our classes and projects, the Psychology program will offer a more integrative and nuanced approach toward consciousness and society, including an awareness of the less explored spiritual dimensions that inform individual and community life. This promise is made good in our foundation in transpersonal psychologies with their articulation of the wisdom traditions. Our broad based sense of the place of community life for the individual translates into our support of social justice and ecological and integrative thinking. It dovetails with our effort to continually creatively address the relationship between theory and praxis through more ethically informed and engaged modalities of research.

For several decades, the Psychology program at the University of West Georgia has drawn international attention for its unique set of programs reclaiming psychology as the holistic study of human experience. Historically grounded in humanistic and transpersonal psychology, the department has integrated these traditions with critical and psychodynamic perspectives. The result is an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates literature, history, art, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, global studies, neuroscience, and Western and Asian philosophy.

The faculty hold the belief that in order to understand psychology effectively and help others, a holistic approach is essential. Classes in integrative health and eco-psychology are examples of such an approach. Within the courses offered, an emphasis is made toward what has been called "psychology as a human science" which encourages students to explore human experiences as primary sources of psychological data. The additional dimension of social and cultural research has lead into study that more closely examines the intersection of the collective and the individual and thinks deeply about social representations and practices, a must in today’s media saturated climate. Students are even required to think through the history of psychology itself: the aim is the crafting of a new kind of psychologist.

Beyond traditional classes in psychological theory and research, students are exposed to a variety of experiences that foster rigorous and creative scholarship alongside social engagement and transformation. The program’s strong humanistic, cultural/critical, and transpersonal foundations mean that scholarship is linked to social engagement. Faculty encourage and guide Ph.D. students to submit articles to national and peer reviewed journals as well as a variety of national publications for professional development. Each semester students receive opportunities to present papers and posters at regional and national conferences that represent their areas of interest and further advance the goals of evolving perspectives in psychology, human science, discursive psychology and qualitative research.

The University’s stated aim is to foster "educational excellence in a personal environment,” and this program is doing just that. The program prizes theoretical dexterity, judicious employment of psychological concepts in everyday life, attention to the ways culture and history shape the discipline and its practitioners, personal awareness of one’s subjective position, identity, values, and vocational inclinations, and knowledge of the major career areas in psychology. Students are using their skills in the community which wholly supports the University's emphasis on scholarship, critical thinking, vocational discernment, personal growth, and creativity.

See What We Look for in Ph.D. Canditates