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Can I Earn a Degree in Buddhist Psychology?

Buddha statue

While there is no individual major in Buddhist Psychology offered at an American university, there are several options for studying this field at a postsecondary level. You can choose to do a minor in this field, earn a closely-related degree in Transpersonal Psychology, design your own major, study in a continuing education program, or earn a graduate certificate.

Buddhist Psychology in Higher Education

Studying this field at the university level includes theoretical and historical perspectives of Buddhism, as well as practical information on putting the philosophical tenets of Buddhism into practice. Regardless of the type of degree or certification courses you take in this field, you will gain a multi-faceted understanding of the topic.

Minor in Buddhist Psychology

New College at the University of Toronto offers a minor entitled Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health, which is designed to offer students a broad view of how these three topics are interrelated. Courses counting for the minor include titles such as:

  • Socially-Engaged Buddhism
  • Buddhism and Psychotherapy
  • Buddhism and Cognitive Science
  • Buddhist Psychology: Theories and Applications
  • Buddhism and the Science of Mindfulness Meditation
  • Yogacara Buddhism and Western Psychology

Designing a Major

While no university currently offers a B.A. in Buddhist Psychology, some universities allow motivated students the option of designing their own undergraduate degree program. If you pursue this option, you will have more responsibility in choosing your courses and creating independent study options for yourself, but you will also have an unprecedented amount of freedom and individual guidance from the professor with whom you work on an individualized major. For students ready for a challenge and able to work independently, this option is a good one.

The University of Washington is one example of a university that will let you create your own major. This exciting option, called Individualized Studies, requires you to submit a detailed plan for your B.A. studies and have the pre-approval of a supervising faculty member. You must also choose a back-up major as part of your proposal, such as Psychology, Philosophy, or Sociology.

Continuing Education Program

Maitripa College in Oregon offers continuing ed classes in Buddhist Psychology. For the practitioner especially, courses like these provide a rich understanding of the tenets and applications from the field:

  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy
  • Meditation Based Enhancement of Social Health
  • Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Graduate Certificate

The Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley offers a graduate-level certificate in Buddhism and Contemporary Psychology. This certificate is not an advanced degree, nor does it grant a license for practicing; admission to the program is contingent on holding licensure for some sort of counseling, or proof that you are pursuing such a license. The one-year graduate certificate includes the following required courses:

  • Aspects of Buddhist Psychology, I: Indian Foundations
  • Aspects of Buddhist Psychology, II: Encounter with Western Psychologies
  • Buddhist Pastoral Counseling
  • Buddhist Practice
  • Buddhist Traditions of East Asia
  • Buddhist Traditions of South Asia
  • One readings course: Theravada Buddhist Literature, Vajrayana Buddhist Literature, or Mahayana Buddhist Literature
  • One course in meditative practice and one additional elective

Advanced Degree with a Focus on Buddhist Psychology

UWest in California offers a 48 semester-hour MA with a few different tracks, one of which is Buddhist Psychology. Choosing this track means that your MA in Psychology will include important elements of Buddhism, such as the principle of mindfulness and the practice of meditation. Incorporating these aspects into western counseling is possible, as this degree includes a license for the graduate to become a Marriage and Family Counseling practitioner.

Graduate Degrees Transpersonal Psychology

While there are no degrees yet that are titled Buddhist Psychology, there are degrees in Transpersonal Psychology, which is closely related. Using aspects like mindfulness, community, and cognitive sciences, transpersonal studies focus on many Buddhist philosophies even if the course titles don't necessarily mention Buddhism.

Sofia University in California offers an M.A. in Transpersonal Psychology that consists of a combination of online and face-to-face courses, as well as an on-campus Ph.D. program in the field.

Buddhism and Psychology

Whether you are getting ready to start your bachelor's degree in this exciting area of study or you are a licensed and degree-holding psychologist looking to expand into a new field, Buddhism offers cutting-edge ideas to the western psychologist. For maximum integration of western and eastern philosophies on mental health and how humans think and behave, the degree programs and study options mentioned above offer depth and breadth in the field.

Can I Earn a Degree in Buddhist Psychology?