MA in Psychology: Contemplative Counseling Psychology

MA Contemplative Psychotherapy is a unique 63-credit clinical training program integrating Western psychotherapy with the contemplative tradition of Buddhism. A pioneer in the use of meditation as a foundation for the clinical training of counselors, for forty years MA Contemplative Psychotherapy has challenged students to recognize their own “Brilliant Sanity”, and to discover compassionate presence as a ground for their clinical work.

Contemplative Psychotherapy may be said to have two parents: the 2,500-year-old wisdom tradition of Buddhism and the clinical traditions of Western psychology, including the humanistic, contemporary psychoanalytic and existential schools. Like all offspring it has much in common with its parents and yet is uniquely itself at the same time. From Buddhism comes the practice of mindfulness-awareness meditation, together with a highly sophisticated understanding of the functioning of the mind in sanity and in confusion. From Western psychology comes the investigation of the stages of human development, a precise language for discussing mental disturbance, and the intimate method of working with others known as "psychotherapy" or “counseling." Practitioners of Contemplative Psychotherapy become expert at recognizing sanity within even the most confused and distorted states of mind and are trained to nurture this sanity in themselves and in their clients.

Students in the Contemplative Psychotherapy program move through their studies as a cohort. They participate in small and large process groups throughout the program. This group aspect of the program takes mindfulness-awareness practice into relationship and allows students to offer each other support and to study their relational patterns in real time. Another important aspect of the MA Contemplative Psychotherapy program is the five maitri meditation retreats. Maitri is a Sanskrit term that means “unconditional friendliness,” and this teaching and practice become the ground for the total of nine weeks that students spend on retreat. Each retreat has a different focus, beginning with a strong emphasis on sitting meditation, and gradually incorporating practices designed to cultivate relational awareness, compassion, and emotional intelligence. One of these practices, Maitri Space Awareness, was designed by Naropa’s founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and has become a hallmark of the program.

The MA Contemplative Psychotherapy program prepares students for a counseling career. The semester-long practicum and the supervised internship provide essential clinical experience. While in their internship, students participate in tutorials with clinical faculty, and practice applying contemplative view to their counseling relationships. These groups provide intensive mentoring to help students with the transition into the world of professional counseling.

The curricular arc in the MA Contemplative Psychotherapy program is designed to guide students on a journey of practice and study that leads toward inner resilience and warmth, as well as giving them basic confidence in their capacity to help others.


Learners are strongly encouraged to carefully research the educational requirements for the intended licensure or certification in the state(s) where they intend to seek licensure or certification. Please see the Licensure section of the Graduate School of Psychology page for further information about the curriculum of the various Graduate School of Psychology counseling programs and licensure/certification eligibility.

Student Success

Because of the professional nature of this training program, students are evaluated on an ongoing basis to assess their readiness for maitri retreats, internship, and continuing in the program altogether. The program may deny a student permission to continue in the program. Although grades are one indication of progress, other criteria for evaluation include how the students interact with each other and with faculty and administration, as well as how they handle obstacles that arise and how they work with feedback based on any of the above criteria. Please see the program handbook for details.