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Types of Spiritual
Emergence / Emergency


"It is important for helping professionals to have an understanding of these phenomenological categories, in order to conduct culturally competent assessments, when encountering individuals who may seek services presenting with these spiritually oriented concerns" (Garbe, 2020).

Meditation - can open us up to insights that may be difficult to integrate. A recent Brown University study suggests that meditation related stress is  under-reported.

Meditation Related

A near death experience - is a profound psycho-spiritual event that may occur close to death, or during physical or emotional crisis. Near death experiences can alter the way we view the world.

Learn more here.

Near Death Experience



A shamanic crisis - stemming  from indigenous tribal cultures, a shaman utilizes altered stated of consciousness as a healing modality.  Some experiences, otherwise diagnosed as schizophrenia or mood disorders, can be seen as analogous to the psychological turmoil experienced by prospective shamans.

Learn more here.

Kundalini - is as an energetic force or potential within the body that, once awakened, works to clear  blockages that hinder  growth. This clearing  may result in psychological and physical challenges.

Learn more here.



Psychic Opening - The opening of the "psyche" - the human soul, mind, consciousness and unconsciousness, to new information, understandings, and intuitions. If these come too quickly, they can be overwhelming, leading to a spiritual emergency.

See video



Mystical Experiences - Spontaneous feelings of interconnectedness and ego transcendence; feelings of  timelessness, spaciousness, nothingness; feelings of ultimate surrender; feelings of rapture, love, ecstasy, or contentment that transcends suffering; clarity, or a shattering of preconceived notions.  Dr. Michelle, director of ACISTE, discusses her mystical experience and where to find support.

Mystical Experience

Past Lives - Many cultures believe in reincarnation. Individuals may have  sudden understandings, memories, and feelings, that they intuitively understand as being  sourced from previous lives. Some of these memories and feelings can be traumatic.

Read more here.

Past Lives

Hearing voices - is not seen as pathological in many cultures. Research is validating the experiences of individuals who hear voices, accepting that these experiences can be empowering and not necessarily pathological.

Read more here.

Hearing Voices

Loss of Faith -  Individuals may lose faith in their religious or spiritual leaders and communities. This may result in disconnection from their primary social support systems. This is where spiritual (cultural) competence is vital within the helping professions.

Loss of Faith

Pew Research Center: Religious and Public Life (2009). 

Many Americans mix multiple faiths.


About half of the U.S. public (49%) says they have had a mystical or religious experience. The 2009 Pew Forum survey found that mystical and religious experiences were more common among those who are unaffiliated with any particular religion.

Hodge, D. R., & McGrew, C. C. (2005). Clarifying the distinctions and connections between spirituality and religion. Social Work & Christianity, 32(1) 1 - 21.

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