Humans are complicated. The field of psychology is devoted to figuring out how our brains work, why we behave the way we do. And, since humans are complicated, this social science discipline has expanded to include many types of psychology.
Among them is integrated psychology, defined by the Association for Integrative Psychology as “a branch of study and practice that seeks to unite traditional medicine, psychology, and other alternative and complementary approaches.”
What is a BA in Integrative Psychology?
Dr. Brenda Shook, associate professor and director of the bachelor of arts in psychology programs at National University, says integrative psychology considers humans as part of a larger system.
“It’s the study of the individual vs. the study of the individual as they fit into environments — a family, a state, a culture, the world,” she says, comparing it to traditional psychology.
The BA in integrative psychology includes foundational psychology and research courses. Where it differs from a traditional psychology degree is in its other required classes, where you will explore the human experience beyond a scientific perspective.
Shook explains another distinguishing factor of an integrative psychology degree is that, unlike traditional psychology, concepts aren’t based solely on “Western” ideals. Instead, it offers a more holistic and global approach. For example, cultures may differ in how they classify a psychological condition or define a state of being (such as distress).
Integrative psychology is a relatively new academic field of study, and Shook says National is one of the pioneers.
“This program is very unique,” she says. “You don’t see it in undergraduate programs in the United States often.”
What Classes Will I Take in an Integrative Psychology Program? And How Do They Differ From a Traditional Psychology Degree?
Integrative psychology involves more abstract concepts than its counterparts — other branches are rooted in the scientific method and rely on numbers and statistics. To illustrate how a similar topic might be structured or studied differently in integrative psychology than in a general psychology degree program, Shook brings up relationships.
“Our relationships are part of what makes us human,” she explains. “We recognize that romantic and sexual relationships are very important. But they are not the only close relationships people form, nor are they always the most important ones.”
Shook explains that a general psychology curriculum might include a course called “Human Sexuality,” which typically focuses on anatomy and abnormal sexual behaviors. An integrative psychology student at National would instead take “Intimate Relationships.” The latter focuses on all kinds of relationships — such as between siblings or deep friendships — and how they are affected by things like power dynamics and intimate violence.
Integrative psychology students also examine subjects a general psychology program usually doesn’t: nature and ecology, multiculturalism, and spirituality, to name a few. Going back to thinking beyond the Western way, Shook says psychology has traditionally shied away from spirituality and religion.
“For one, you can’t study it empirically,” she says. “But spirituality — the spiritual experience — is important to the majority of human existence.”
These topics — and integrative psychology’s overall broader consideration of the human mind — result in a list of interesting required and elective courses, such as:
- History and Philosophy of Psychology.
- Personal Growth and Development.
- Multicultural Mental Health.
- Spirituality and Global Health.
- Intimate Relationships.
- Global Psychology.
- Psychology of Bereavement.
- Symbolic Expression.
- World Religions.
- World Music.
- Gender and Global Psychology.
- Interactive Storytelling.
Shook says the nature of these courses leads to lots of lively online discussions.
“[The subject matter] touches them personally, and they immediately get how important these issues are,” she says. “I’ve been really amazed and impressed with how involved the students are.”
What Can You Do with a BA in Integrative Psychology?
With its broad range of topics, a bachelor’s degree in integrative psychology might be attractive to those looking for a psychology-related career in settings beyond the typical clinical ones. The online degree might also be suitable for students interested in people-oriented careers. Psychology degree program graduates often go into fields such as:
- Human or social services.
- Career/employment counseling.
- Corrections or law enforcement.
- Human resources.
- Marketing or advertising.
- Parks and recreation.
Shook says integrative psychology might also appeal to psychology professionals at all levels who wish to expand their knowledge or offer new services.
Humans are indeed complicated. But earning a psychology degree online doesn’t have to be: Learn more about National University’s online BA in Integrative Psychology at this program page.