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    Saybrook University
  Apr 25, 2024
2023-2024 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Spring Addendum 
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2023-2024 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Spring Addendum

Ph.D. Psychology, Existential and Humanistic Psychology Specialization

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree in Psychology; Specialization in Existential and Humanistic Psychology

Overview of Program

The Existential and Humanistic Psychology (EHP) Specialization is rooted in a holistic conception of what it means to be a person within the frameworks of humanistic psychology, existential psychology, and phenomenological psychology and philosophy. This Specialization is closely tied to the historic mission and vision of humanistic psychology and Saybrook University. The Specialization is committed to carrying forth Saybrook's long history of maintaining the legacy of having the leading existential and humanistic scholars on its faculty, while producing the next generation of leaders. Though specialization does not prepare you for licensing as a psychologist, there are master level licensed professionals who are interested in acquiring a Ph.D. in Psychology and deepening their understanding of Existential and Humanistic practices. 
The EHP Specialization focuses on a growth-oriented perspective emphasizing human potential, intended to foster an in-depth understanding of individuals, including an honest appraisal of the human condition. The Specialization encompasses both the important history and contributions of existential and humanistic psychology as well as contemporary directions in these fields. Many of the faculty in this specialization are established leaders in the existential and humanistic psychology fields. 
From a practice/application standpoint, applications of the EHP approach apply to healthy people engaged in a lifelong journey toward self-knowledge as well as to individuals in psychosocial or spiritual distress. The course of instruction is designed to direct students’ attention toward the growth-oriented dimension of personality, even when people are struggling with psychological distress, and to the role of higher states of consciousness in achieving psychological balance and transformation. However, particularly within the existential tradition, the transformative possibilities inherent in suffering are also important considerations within the Specialization. 
Augmenting the usual offerings, which focus on behavior and cognition in psychology, the EHP Specialization presents dynamic theories that define personality as a total gestalt, in the context of a spectrum of states of consciousness beyond what are traditionally considered to be the psychopathic and the normal. These states can reach into the realm of self-actualization and the transcendent. An emphasis on fostering existential and humanistic principles in practice and research is encouraged and are viewed as an essential aspect of serving the highest and best interests of humanity. 

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Critical Thinking: Graduates will demonstrate advanced critical thinking skills, utilizing a humanistic lens to analyze complex psychological phenomena and apply theoretical frameworks to real-world contexts. 
  2. Cultural Competence: Graduates will possess cultural competence, displaying an understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures, experiences, and worldviews, and integrating this awareness into their professional practice. 
  3. Ethical Awareness: Graduates will exhibit a strong ethical awareness, adhering to ethical guidelines in their research, teaching, and practice, and demonstrating a commitment to the well-being and autonomy of individuals and communities. 
  4. Research Proficiency: Graduates will develop proficiency in conducting rigorous research informed by humanistic, existential, transpersonal, and phenomenological perspectives, employing qualitative and quantitative methodologies to advance the field of humanistic psychology. 
  5. Social Justice Advocacy: Graduates will engage in social justice advocacy, actively promoting equity, inclusivity, and social change by addressing systemic disparities, advocating for marginalized populations, and contributing to the creation of a just and sustainable society. 
  6. Applied Skills: Graduates will possess practical skills and interventions grounded in humanistic psychology, enabling them to facilitate personal growth, foster resilience, and promote well-being in various settings, including research, educational, community, and organizational contexts. 


Ph.D. Psychology with Specialization:

Any student enrolled in the Ph.D. degree program in Psychology may opt to declare one of the Specializations offered through the HP department. Specializations are available to students at both the Master and Doctoral levels; they include: 

  • Creativity, Innovation, & Leadership (CIL)
  • Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health (CSIH) 
  • Existential and Humanistic Psychology (EHP) 
  • Psychophysiology (PHI) 

College, Degree Program, or Specialization change

Students who wish to change their degree program will be reevaluated by the Department Chair as to the appropriateness of admission to that new program of study. If admitted, those students will be held accountable to the degree program requirements as specified for the academic year in which such a change of enrollment is granted. For those wanting to change their specialization, the new Specialization Coordinator will review the student’s objectives for acceptance and the Department Chair approve the change. In all cases, where possible, current Saybrook completed courses will be considered for application toward the new degree program and/or specialization. Students who change degree programs will have their transfer credit evaluated again by the Department Chair of the new program. Transfer credit awarded is not guaranteed to apply to the new program. 
M.A. Psychology to Ph.D. Psychology

While in the M.A. in Psychology degree program at Saybrook University, students may decide to apply to continue to the Psychology doctoral program. Once such students have completed the modified admissions process to the doctoral program, they may be accepted on the condition of completion of the M.A. degree requirements (i.e., successful completion of the thesis or project and all other degree requirements). Students that are accepted on the condition of completion of the M.A. degree may take an additional 9 credits of coursework while completing the thesis or project. If the student is admitted to the doctoral program, these 9 credits will be considered toward the Ph.D. degree. If the student does not continue to the doctoral program, those additional credits completed are awarded toward the M.A. degree. That is, admission into the doctoral program does not commence until the M.A. is complete. Such students will be required to adhere to the University catalog that is in place when they matriculate into to the doctoral program (i.e., after completion of the thesis/project), not the catalog in place at the time of their conditional acceptance into the doctoral program. In terms of transfer credits for students once they have attained the master’s degree in Psychology, a maximum of 30 credit hours may be applied toward the Ph.D. in Psychology.

Career Opportunities

Graduates of the Ph.D. Psychology program with specializations in Creativity, Innovation, & Leadership (CIL), Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health (CSIH), and Existential and Humanistic Psychology (EHP) are well-positioned for diverse and impactful career opportunities. With a Ph.D. in Psychology, students can pursue academic positions as professors or researchers in universities and research institutions, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in their specialized areas. They can also work as consultants, trainers, or leaders in organizations, utilizing their expertise in creativity, innovation, and leadership to foster positive change and growth. In the realm of consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health, graduates can pursue careers as integrative health practitioners, spiritual counselors, or wellness coaches, supporting individuals in their holistic well-being journeys. The EHP specialization opens doors to careers as humanistic researchers, psychology educators, or consultants, providing compassionate and existential guidance to individuals seeking personal and professional growth and fulfillment. Additionally, Ph.D. holders may choose to establish their own private practice, offering specialized services in their respective areas of expertise. With their advanced knowledge, research skills, and specialization-specific training, graduates of the Ph.D. program are equipped to make significant contributions to the field of psychology and positively impact individuals, communities, and organizations. 
Our Ph.D. in Psychology program is intended for professionals who wish to pursue nonclinical careers or expand on their existing licenses. This program is not designed to prepare graduates to qualify for clinical licensure or certification. 

Program Requirements

Admissions Requirements

Degree Requirements: Master’s degree

At a minimum, you must have received, or anticipate receiving prior to the start of the semester you are applying into, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college or university before applying for a doctoral degree at Saybrook. 
The minimum expected grade point average (GPA) requirement is 3.0 from the last degree-granting institution, though exceptions may be made. 

Transfer Credit

Transfer credits based on equivalent graduate courses taken at another regionally accredited institution in the same or similar discipline where the student received a grade of B or better may be transferred and will reduce the number of course credits required to be completed at Saybrook. Allowable transfer credits must be suitable for transfer to the intended degree as determined by the Psychology Department Chair. Transfer course credits do not affect the minimum number of credits required for the degree. 
Transfer credit to be applied toward required electives: 
Ph.D. in Psychology - May include up to 12 transfer credits completed in the Psychology discipline, 6 of these credits may be from cognate fields, non-degree Saybrook Certificate credits, Saybrook CE credits, or other non-degree credits taken at Saybrook University within the last seven years.*
*Exception to the amount of transfer credits may be made when students complete the M.A. Psychology program within Saybrook (with specialization (CSIH, Creativity Studies, and EHP) and without specialization) within the last one year.

University Learning Experience

Virtual Learning Experience (VLE) - Required even falls; spring optional, Community Learning Experience (CLE) - Optional

All new students begin their studies with a Welcome Week. Welcome Week activities, including a degree program orientation, are held online during the week ahead of the start of the fall and spring semesters. Participation is strongly encouraged.

Starting with the fall 2022-2023 academic year, all psychology students will be required to attend only the five-day fall VLE each academic year. Our VLEs are an important part of your learning experience as they nurture intellectual and relational creativity, enrich the educational environment, and foster faculty and peer interactions. There are courses being launched, workshops, independent learning activities, peer learning opportunities, community events, and other hands-on experiences intended to nurture professional development, skill building, and transformative change. 
Doctoral students attend until they have advanced to doctoral candidacy (upon satisfaction of essay orals). 


The program requires a total of 66 earned credits, which may vary based on the specialization chosen. These credits encompass a rigorous curriculum that includes core courses, specialized coursework in the chosen area of focus, research methodology and analysis, and the completion of a capstone project or thesis. Through a combination of theoretical exploration, experiential learning, and research opportunities, students gain the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary for success in their future careers or further doctoral studies. The credit units and hours invested in the Ph.D. degree ensure that students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded education, empowering them to make significant contributions to the field of psychology. 

Mode of Delivery

At Saybrook University, we are committed to providing a dynamic and flexible online learning experience that combines both asynchronous and synchronous delivery methods. Our Ph.D. Psychology program with specializations in Creativity, Innovation, & Leadership (CIL), Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health (CSIH), and Existential and Humanistic Psychology (EHP) embraces the advantages of online education, allowing students to pursue their studies at their own pace while also fostering meaningful real-time interactions.

Through our asynchronous delivery, students have access to a user-friendly online platform where they can engage with course materials, lectures, and multimedia resources at a time that suits their schedule. This flexibility empowers students to balance their studies with other commitments, ensuring an optimal learning experience. They can participate in discussions, complete assignments, and collaborate with fellow students, all while benefiting from the expertise of our dedicated faculty who provide timely feedback and guidance. 
In addition to asynchronous learning, our program incorporates synchronous elements to foster a sense of community and enhance real-time engagement. Through virtual classrooms, students have the opportunity to participate in live lectures, interactive discussions, and group activities led by faculty members. These synchronous sessions provide valuable opportunities for students to connect, ask questions, share ideas, and engage in collaborative learning experiences. Our virtual classrooms utilize video conferencing and collaboration tools to simulate the benefits of face-to-face interaction, ensuring an immersive and interactive learning environment. 
The combination of asynchronous and synchronous delivery methods allows us to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive online learning experience. Students benefit from the flexibility of self-paced study, while also experiencing the richness of real-time interactions and discussions with faculty and peers. This blended approach cultivates a supportive and interactive community, enabling students to develop critical thinking skills, engage in meaningful discourse, and forge lasting connections within their chosen specialization.

Length of Program

The degree completion time for a full-time student enrolled in the Ph.D. Psychology program following the default course sequence will range from 5 - 6 years. Any breaks in enrollment and/or reduced enrollment may impact completion time.

Required Courses

Research Course Sequence (taken in order):

Core Ethics Course (select 1 of the following courses):

Core Multiculturalism, Social Justice, & Diversity Course (select 1 of the following courses):

EHP Specialization Electives (any course with EHP prefix): 6 credit(s)

Other Electives: 12 credit(s)

Upon completion of all required courses:

Upon completion of Essays Candidacy and Orals Defense:

Total: 66 Credits **

** Dissertation to be completed in a minimum of two semesters. Students registering for the Doctoral Dissertation with required degree coursework outstanding must complete all degree requirements within 10 consecutive semesters, inclusive of summer. Students registering for the Doctoral Dissertation with no outstanding degree requirements must complete their degree program within 9 consecutive semesters, inclusive of summer.

Elective Courses

EHP Specialization Electives (any course with EHP prefix): 6 credit(s) 

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