Main Session: Janet Elizabeth Colli, PhD

Am I Crazy or Spiritually Transforming? Beyond the Differentiation of Psychiatric and Spiritual Experiences


Spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) may sometimes present with the symptomatology of psychiatric disorders. What if transformational crisis happens within the context of a psychiatric hospitalization? Is there a coherent approach that finds no absolute delineation between spiritual emergence and what we sometimes diagnose as a psychiatric disorder? This presentation offers preliminary answers through case material, and a model for helping those who present with such experiences. A historical perspective begins with the presumed differentiation between authentic spiritual experience and psychiatric illness. A more functional approach takes into account the experiencer’s perspective, their communication and meta-communication skills, as well as their epigenetics. For if STEs are a biologically-based portal to transformation of the personality, we cannot neglect the role of human physiology. As the physiological underpinnings of psychological processes are more readily understood, our perspective — on expanded states of consciousness and psychiatric disorders — is transforming. An approach to spiritual emergence will be introduced that includes: 1) Psycho-spiritual support; 2) Physiological support; and 3) Community support. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it may take a team approach to facilitate STEs.

Presenter Bio

Janet Elizabeth Colli, PhD

Janet Elizabeth Colli, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in the Pacific Northwest specializing in spiritual awakening. With expertise in both Clinical and Transpersonal Psychology, she bridges psychology with the extraordinary, and the mystical. Professionally, she has been in private practice for over 20 years. She facilitates Spiritual Emergence Seattle — a consultation service integrating psycho-spiritual, physiological & community support. Her most recent book, The Dark Face of Heaven: True Stories of Transcendence Through Trauma, is a compelling account of spiritual awakening and non-ordinary experience revealed during trauma therapy. Author of the highly acclaimed Sacred Encounters: Spiritual Awakenings During Close Encounters, Janet lives on Whidbey Island and swims with wild dolphins in Hawaii.

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