Integrative Health, Transpersonal Psychology

Shaman SUH Sun Sil [Jeju Island, S Korea]

Integrative Health, Transpersonal Psychology — along with cultural exploration and intercultural understanding, these are the primary themes of this writer. But what do they mean?

Integrative health is a concept that takes the ‘biopsychosocial’ model and ‘holistic health’ concept a step further. As we are whole and complex human beings, the fragmentation represented by specialisation, while useful for addressing specific disease, will never fully express our humanity. Integration, the opposite of fragmentation, means that you are not simply a heart, or a reproductive system, or a skin condition, or even (as much as we relate this to our concept of ‘self’) a brain, but all of these and far more.

Integrative health is indeed a bodymind approach. It also allows for ‘spirit’ — even among the non-religious, as the term can be used to refer to all those less easily explained aspects that make us who we are: intuition, instinct, personality, accumulated wisdom, memories, relationships, community, context, humanity, paradox and the abstract, resonance with nature, appreciation of the arts, and even the very concept of consciousness. It includes energetic phenomena of the human body such as qi, prana, dosha, vitality, or essence. It expands the concept of gender to include its nonbinary, fluid expression. And it integrates our culture — our deep roots, heritage, ethnicity, language, traditions and ceremonies, group identity, perceived norms.

A bio-psycho-socio-spiritual-cultural-energetic model of health, if you will. The full story of YOU.

Some traditional systems of healthcare, such as India’s ayurveda or China’s Taoist medicine, represent such integration. Body and mind are considered not separately but as aspects of a whole; the flow of energy and core essence, as well as natural and social correspondences, are included, and context is all. While they are widely applied outside of their cultural origins today, they may not always fit neatly into other cultural settings and their function and efficacy often cannot be adequately described within the framework of scientific methodology.

Transpersonal Psychology, a philosophic framework which emerged in the 1960s, represents an integrative model of the mind and mental health. While not focused on the biological aspect, it otherwise integrates the spiritual, cultural, and energetic with the psyche — the latter term itself a more inclusive approach of soul and spirit along with ‘mind’, and the conscious with both personal and collective unconscious.

This field of psychology has the theories of Dr Carl Jung at its base, filtered through the humanistic psychology model and reintegrating the ‘psyche’. It allows for concepts including the metaphysical and esoteric, altered states of consciousness, and self-actualisation, generally seeking to further the foci of Jung.

Its practice, drawn from the client-centred approach and meaning-making construct of humanistic psychology, may incorporate symbols and myths meaningful to the individual, dream analysis, meditation and trance, breathwork, ritual and creativity, peak experience and transcendence, ego dissolution, and many other processes, with a focus of transformation from fragmentation to wholeness.

The transpersonal psychologist is not unlike the shaman, who goes into trance in order to shift consciousness and enter the Otherworld; there, he/she seeks an individual’s missing soul fragments, retrieving and returning them to the conscious plane and assisting the person in their full reintegration.

Let’s now integrate these two constructs.

Integrative health is an approach to wellness which considers the individual in all his/her aspects and acts accordingly. Transpersonal psychology is an approach to mental well-being that also concerns itself with the whole individual, allowing that mental health extends far beyond the brain and mind and indeed, beyond the person’s own bodily integrity.

Both have the aim of transcendence, perceiving wellness as a state which both includes all aspects of personhood and the greater context. Both also define the healthy state as much more than the simple absence of disease. If we include transpersonal psychology in the model of integrative health, therefore, we are finally approaching a model that expresses our humanity in its entirety.

In upcoming articles, topics related to integrative health and transpersonal psychology, alongside the previously addressed area of cultural exploration and intercultural understanding, will be explored in all their many facets and intersections.

As well, the crossover points between these article series, within the framework of cultural psychology — both the mental-emotional system of a culture and the ways in which one’s culture(s) affects the individual psyche — will be investigated.

We will explore Jungian constructs also found in transpersonal psychology, and their practical applications for the individual, to include such areas as archetypes, collective unconscious, shadow, persona, animus/anima, complexes, symbols and myths, ritual, synchronicity, and more.

Integrative health articles will focus on topics such as breathwork, meditation, nutrition and exercise, the role of stress, somatic psychology and therapies, concepts of traditional Chinese medicine including Taoism and 5-element theory, the nature of trauma, and psychological aspects of addiction, to name a few.

I invite you to join me in this quest.

Dr Anne participates in a traditional ceremony [Jeju Island, S Korea]


Since the mid-1990s Andorra has begun to engage more closely with other nations…. However, in many ways it remains highly independent, neutral, and seemingly indifferent to the rest of the world – as only a small, remote mountain society could.


Armenia, a Transcaucasian state in northwesternmost Asia, with elements of European, Asian, Russian, Persian, and Levantine cultures, is an ancient people: the state was organised in 860 BCE, its unique alphabet since 405 CE — with a troubled history.

South Korea

Korea, long known as ‘The Hermit Kingdom’ for its reluctance to engage with the world, has burst into the global consciousness in recent years.

hiatus, return, renew

Dr Anne here. After a long, loooong pause…we’re back. <Phew!>

The pandemic ground our ‘100 Countries’ project to a halt, like so many things, evaporating every scrap of motivation to carry on. By March 2020, all remaining travel for research I’d scheduled for the year (27 countries, scaling back after 55 countries in 2019) was of course cancelled. And even as the field research for 105 countries and 5 territories, more than we set out to do, had already been completed, somehow even writing up the remaining 20 or so photo essays seemed a Herculean task. Following a spate of such in July 2020, we’d not returned to this blog.

Yet here we are. At last. When 2022 arrived, it came in on a fresh breeze, as if something had shifted. With the more recent Lunar New Year, that feeling intensified. A new beginning. The pandemic rages on. We must still take many precautions. And yet — something new is unquestionably in the air, and many report a feeling of hope, and a movement forward. Not back, not reclaiming, but toward something yet to be discovered.

A view across the Golden Horn from Beyoglu to Fatih, the Bosphorus just to the left. Photo by Dr Anne Hilty, 2021.

I find myself now settled in Istanbul. My summer base since 2018 with annual visits starting in 2009, this ancient city was my landing point when the world ground to a halt in March 2020 and I’ve made it my home. A true ‘centre of the world’ and blend of European, Asian, Middle Eastern cultural features, with even a dash of Russia and the Caucasus, and of course: the Central Steppe heritage that the Turks brought with them when they migrated to this land. Beneath it all lies Anatolian culture, and much further back, the Mesopotamian cradle of humanity. An ancient and extraordinarily complex region indeed.

Hong Kong’s iconic harbour and skyline. Photo by Dr Anne Hilty, 2019.

EWP remains headquartered in Hong Kong, a land close to my heart and where I last spent 7 weeks in early pandemic days, just before the world shut down. As the SAR has especially strict entry requirements now, I don’t know when I’ll see it again — and considering its turmoil in the past few years, indeed starting with the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ of early 2014, I remain concerned for its future.

A piece of my heart remains always in South Korea, where I lived for a total of 10 years, and particularly on Jeju Island, where 5 of those years were spent in deep cultural research. I’m working on 2 new Jeju-related books at this time: Goddesses and Strong Women: Mythology of Jeju Island, South Korea, and Tamna: Jeju Island’s Unique Cultural Heritage, both due out later this year. As well, the next photo essay in this 100 Countries series will focus on South Korea — the cultural content of which has been bursting onto the global stage of late.

In other news…we’ve a new EWP site address! I’ve also a new site on Medium — just now launching, articles coming soon. My original blog from long ago, sleeping since 2012(!), has been renamed as LiteraryNomad, reorganised, and reactivated, to host articles on a wide range of topics. This very EWP site has also been renovated, including my writing portfolio. New cultural research, here in 5 regıons of Türkiye, is scheduled for this spring. I’ll be doing some guest-blogging and writing more newspaper and magazine articles this summer. and offering webinars and online courses in autumn.

And so it goes. I hope you too are experiencing a renaissance of sorts. May the world, imagined as a turtle in many indigenous cultures, turn itself right side up soon. Be well.