Facing The Psychological Challenges of Spiritual Emergence

By Don Elium, MA MFT


Spiritual Emergence is a term that covers a wide area of experiences and natural processes that have healthy intent but at times can become troublesome in any human being. The term was defined by Researchers Christine and Stanislav Grof,  "the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature, and the cosmos. An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one's life and in the universal scheme of things." (Grof & Grof, 1990)


My psychotherapy practice works with circumstances from everyday problems to more challenging situations of complex traumas and difficulties. However, I also work with non-ordinary states than create emotional and physically felt processes that are under the umbrella of Spiritual Emergence. When a spiritual process becomes rapid, extreme states can happen that can be felt more as a spiritual emergency than an emergence.  Assistance can be needed stabilize and ground psychologically the rapid changes than can occur. I do my best to work psychologically within your chosen spiritual approach if you have one, but no ideology or identified spiritual approach is needed to work with these situations.

This psychotherapy includes:

IFS: Internal Family System.

An evidence-based psychotherapy method that includes engaged self-awareness. IFS: Internal Family Systems is used to stabilize and process emotional concerns.  IFS  helps stabilize your inner world of mental, emotional and energetic activity that is an outcome of the rapid speed that traumatic material can surface in order be processed and released.

• IFS counseling helps to develop a calm center inside,engaged self-awareness.

This is essential and necessary so a steady internal base can be establish from which to address both your relationship situations and internal concerns. 

• Distinguishing between Transformational and Dissociational activity.

Due to the periodic experience of non-ordinary states that are a by-product of this condition, there is attention to educational aspects of the difference between states of dissociation that are a product of protective nervous system and brain detachment due to overwhelm, and transcendence activity that is a product of non-attachment engaged-transformational activity.  In sum, the difference between being detached and "spaced-out" and "present and engaged with life." Grounding in the here and now is essential.

EMDR, Bi-Lateral Nervous System Stimulation and Mindful Meditative Activities.

These three approaches can help assist the brain and nervous system process traumatic experiences that can become stimulated in spiritual emergence processes.  Each of these techniques are evidence-based methods that I sometimes use to help loosen blocks and open issues that have been difficult to address.  They are not required but are often helpful to support a spiritual emergence process.

• Calming Fear and Supporting Authenticity.

The psychotherapy includes the understanding and practice of calming fear reactions in your brain and nervous system.  Support and counseling helps you move toward more authentic interactions with all relationships and life-choices. In-authenticity often drives the fear response as the rapid release of blocks to authenticity began to loosen and release. There are many beneficial outcomes to the condition. Authenticity toward what is actually occurring in life, is one of the main and more observable hallmarks of this transformational process.

For more information and questions about this type of counseling, please call/text me, Don Elium, at 925 256-8282 or email at don@don-elium-psychotherapy.com . I will be glad to spend 20 minutes on the phone to discuss your situation, and if you are interested, schedule an appointment.