The Holotropic Breathwork Community

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Doctoral Dissertations

A number of individuals have made Holotropic Breathwork the subject of their academic Doctoral dissertations, including the following. Note that several of these full text documents are a scan of the dissertation document in pdf format, and so makes up a rather large file (size noted). Click on the dissertation name to download. Many thanks for the generosity of the authors who have allowed us to share these materials online!

More dissertations will be made available at this site as author permissions are obtained.

The psychological and spiritual effects of Stanislav Grof’s holotropic breathwork technique: An exploratory study, 1993, by Todd Evan Pressman, Ph.D., 201 pages, 10 MB.

This research, employing 25 female and 15 male volunteer subjects, was conducted with a pre- and post-test control group design. Subjects were randomly assigned to a treatment or control condition. The treatment condition consisted of six Holotropic Breathwork sessions; the control condition consisted of six sessions where subjects listened to Holotropic Breathwork music whilst lying down with eyes closed. The research asked: Does Holotropic Breathwork have demonstrable psychological and/or spiritual effects? The methodology included three questionnaires that yielded quantitative data and interviews that recorded the subjects' responses to five questions. The six sessions of both treatment and control conditions were held once every two weeks, and the questionnaires were administered before the first and after the last sessions. The interviews were conducted after each of the six sessions. The data obtained from the questionnaires provided only partial validation of the hypothesis, while the interview responses provided strong evidence that Holotropic Breathwork has beneficial psychological and spiritual effects. No deleterious effects were found.

Grof's Basic Perinatal Matrix Theory: Initial Empirical Verification, 1997, by Stephen Binns, PhD., 27 pages, 8.5 MB

Stanislav Grof’s theory of Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs) was tested via the development of subjective experience self-report scales, their inter-correlations, and correlations between them and the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI). The sample consisted of 149 female and 39 male non-clinical participants with a mean age of 34 years. Items for the BPM questionnaire were constructed using concepts extracted from Grof’s writings, selected according to expert rater judgments and submitted to participants. BPM scales were formed using the maximal internal consistency method. Thirteen of the fourteen BPM and BPM/PBI inter-scale correlations predicted by Grof’s theory reached significance, thus supporting the BPM theory. A post-hoc analysis of the data of the hypothesis that was not supported indicated that BPM3 may be a multidimensional construct. Data gathered using the BPM questionnaire provided quantitative support for the qualitatively developed BPM theory. With more extensive validation the BPM questionnaire could be used in assessing BPM subjective experiences in individuals for clinical and research purposes.

Reported Effects of Holotropic Breathwork: An integrative Technique for Healing and Personal Change, 1997, by Gilles Brouillette, 368 pages, 1 MB.

This research studied the experience and effects of Holotropic Breathwork™ on personal transformation and healing as reported by participants in the Grof Transpersonal Training. Three specific questions have been explored using a qualitative approach in which data were gathered in four different ways: (a) the recording of people's sharing, (b) the recording of short interviews, (c) the recording of two long interviews, and (d) by consulting people's self-evaluations. Quantitative data were also gathered through Ring's Life Changes Questionnaire developed by Ring (1984). The three specific questions were: 1.) Will participants have any experiences at the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels, and will these experiences be felt or experienced as transformative and/or healing? 2.) Have participants perceived any life changes as a result of their Holotropic Breathwork™ sessions and, if so, will these changes be consistent over a period of 6 months? 3.) How do they express the essence of their experience in images, symbols, words, or metaphors? All trainees participated in at least 23 Holotropic Breathwork™ sessions both as breathers and sitters.

Healing Through the Remembrance of the Pre- and Perinatal: A Phenomenological Investigation, 1999, by Anne Marquez, Ph.D., 256 pages, 1 MB.

This existential-phenomenological study focused on the experience of healing through pre- and perinatal recall. It asked and suggested answers to the question, "Since birth remembrance is so painful, why would anyone choose to do it?" Interviews were conducted with 7 adults who, by virtue of recalling their conception, gestation, and/or birth, attested to having healed conditions of: syncope, phobias, arthritis, asthma, migraines, depression, suicidality, obsessive-compulsion, severe side pain, and dysfunctional interpersonal patterns. From 11 themes, interview data revealed 2 general themes, (1) A Range of Intensely Felt, Mostly Negative, Emotional, Physical, or Feeling States, and (2) Transpersonal Experience. All co-researchers related pre- or perinatal trauma, and post-birth child abuse. While unprecedented in the literature, this continuity of negative circumstances and feeling states may reflect Grof’s (1985) “systems of condensed experience” (COEX). A 100% reporting of post-birth child abuse suggests that traumatic conception, gestation, and/or birth may contribute to abnormal childhood behavior. Further, none of the co-researchers felt wanted as children; and if they were truly unwanted/unplanned, it may suggest that parents of such children unknowingly contribute to traumatic birth conditions.

The Language of Holotropic Light: Unpacking the Experience, 2000, by Julie Lapham, PhD., 172 pages, 14.6 MB.

Beginning with a near-death experience in 1972 and continuing with many Holotropic Breathwork sessions, this research study explicates an experiential contemporary rite of passage including a ten-day wilderness quest incorporating four days of fasting with sleep deprivation in solitude with nature. The contextual essay outlines research grounded in the transpersonal paradigm that provides the conceptual framework for the study per Grof. An in-depth examination form using heuristic methodology offers a qualitative research model and the Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy is proffered as a working indigenous exemplar of human potential. The manuscript includes observations from the six-month preparation, ten-day wilderness quest and full-year of process integration. This study researches the following questions: 1.) How feasible is completion of the proposed model and 2.) What are the ramifications, consequences and social relevance of eliciting bilocation experiences through a rite of passage. The author describes development in personal physiological benefits, an increased emotional well-being and a deepening sense of spirituality. A facilitator of Holotropic Breathwork since 1990, Dr. Lapham's research observations note a plethora of developmental difficulties with birth experience; one example is a relationship between migraine headaches and/or loss of direction with forceps delivery. Contact her at Themis Institute, P.O. Box 1536, Greensboro, N.C. 27402.

Deepening Presence: How Experiences of No-Self Shape the Self, an Organic Inquiry , 2001, by Marianne Murray, PhD., 258 pages, 0.8 MB.

In modern Western culture, experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness are typically considered in the context of psychopathology. There is, as yet, little recognition for the transformational and healing potential of some non-ordinary, or holotropic, states of consciousness. There are numerous reports from individuals who claim that their world view and life experience have changed, and even transformed, following brief moments of non-ordinary consciousness: a fact that is particularly meaningful at this time in human history when the precarious global situation begs a transformation in the mind that creates such suffering. This study looks into the experiences of the inquirer and five co-inquirers. These are individuals who intentionally experientially explore the nature of consciousness through the cultivation of holotropic states and report that they have had one or more episodes of consciousness that is not mediated by a self. In the inquiry, this experience is identified as unitive consciousness or no-self. Using organic inquiry, a transpersonal approach to inquiry informed by heuristic research and grounded in the values of feminist inquiry, the study inquires into ways in which the co-inquirers have been shaped by no-self experiences. The co-inquirers tell their stories exploring shifts and changes in personal and interpersonal ways of knowing and being. The inquirer engages experientially and critically with a self-reflective process entering into synergistic relationship with the stories as a means of exploring her own experience. The inquiry and analysis, the ongoing and developmental process of an organic approach, draw upon a wide range of literature to inform the inquiry from an integral perspective. The process of inquiry, and the findings, elicit discussion of the relationship between individual development and transpersonal experience, the role of retreat in service of integration, and how the experience of no-self influences an understanding of action. The catalytic potential of working with holotropic states is discussed in relation to the field of transformative learning. Specifically, the discussion addresses the potential for intentionally cultivating holotropic states of consciousness within a learning community to leverage deep transformation.

Predicting the Outcome of Holotropic Breathwork using the High Risk Model of Threat Perception, 2002, by Patrick M. Hanratty, 185 pages, 1 MB.

This study asked the research question: Is holotropic breathwork an efficacious form of psychotherapy, and, if so, what is the mechanism of efficacy? Selected risk factors from the High Risk Model of Threat Perception were used to evaluate the efficacy using outcome measures on the Brief Symptom Inventory, Positive Affect and Negative Affect Schedule, the Marlowe-Crowne Scale, and Templer's Death Anxiety Scale, as well as the Tellegen Absorption Scale, which correlates with hypnotic ability. The significant reductions found on psychometric clinical scales in this study suggest lasting beneficial effects as a result of holotropic breathwork for this highly select group of subjects; the mechanism of efficacy in this study was likely high trait absorption.

Somatic Memory in Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness, 2003, by Chris Lyons, PhD., 82 pages, 5.2 MB.

This study looked at the incidence and significance of experiences of somatic memory recall in a group of sixty-six people using non-ordinary states of consciousness for the purpose of personal growth or healing. It found that such experiences were common amongst this group, but it was unable to demonstrate their significance for the healing process. It concluded that somatic memory recall was just one of a number of significant experiences that could emerge during non-ordinary states of consciousness work, and that the methodology used was not adequate to measure its significance for healing or personal growth. It suggested, however, that there were theoretical grounds for supposing that non-ordinary states of consciousness work might be a useful tool in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Qualitative Study of Postautonomous Ego Development: the Bridge Between Postconventional and Transcendent Ways of Being, 2003, by Dane Craig Hewlett, PhD., 199 pages, 1 MB.

This research represents a further exploration of postautonomous ego stages first introduced by Susanne Cook-Greuter (1999). Cook-Greuter added two new ego stages to replace and expand the final stage, Integrated, in Loevinger’s Ego Development Theory. These two new stages, Construct-aware and Unitive, represent the bridge between postconventional and transcendent ways of being.

This exploration involved in-depth interviews with 16 postautonomous individuals as determined by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (SCT). Interviews were conducted using a modified version of Kegan’s Subject-Object Interview. Interviews were then coded and analyzed to determine if Cook-Greuter’s postautonomous stage descriptions and scoring categories revealed themselves through an interview format and also to investigate whether any new understandings and subtle nuances of the existing theory could be discovered.

Results of the study suggest that there was a strong correlation between the interview data and existing postautonomous stage descriptions. Additionally, the interview data served to flush out a number of subtle nuances to the existing theory. Some of these areas include how postautonomous individuals handle emotions, strategies in effecting transformational change in others, and the importance of present-centered awareness. The results also pointed to two distinct styles or orientations of postautonomous individuals and the developmental challenges and imbalances that can occur at these high-end ego stages.

An Intuitive Inquiry Into Experiences Arising Out of the Holotropic Breathwork™ Technique and its Integral Mandala Artwork: The Potential for Self-Actualization, 2009, by Rubye Lee Cervelli, PhD., 262 pages, 3 MB.

The qualitative Intuitive Inquiry research method was employed to deepen understanding of experiences arising out of the Holotropic Breathwork™ technique and its integral mandala artwork. Highlighted is this transpersonal, experientially based technique with a focus on its creative expression aspect. To qualify for participation, within 12 months of this study a volunteer was required to have completed the equivalent of a Grof Transpersonal Training Holotropic Breathwork™ retreat. A total of 15 volunteers were qualified and selected to participate in this study with no attrition. Of the 15, 7 were female, 8 were male; ages ranged from 25 to 62; average age of 50 and mode of 52; 13 were college-educated; 9 were living in the United States; 2 in Canada, 1 resided in Germany, and 1 resided in the United Kingdom. Each participant was individually interviewed, the interviews transcribed, thematically analyzed, and the findings integrated using the 5 cycles of Intuitive Inquiry. The Holotropic Breathwork™ technique and its integral mandala artwork and the use of a transpersonal research method for the study’s findings both solidly contributed to the field of transpersonal psychology. The findings reveal that this technique positively impacts the process of self‑actualization and self‑healing. Moreover, results indicate that the Holotropic Breathwork™ technique and the integral mandala artwork may be effective for some individuals for spiritual development, personal-growth workshops, or as an adjunct or compliment to conventional individual, group psychotherapy or spiritual guidance and direction. Additionally, decoupled from the Holotropic Breathwork™ technique, findings suggest that mandala artwork creation is a transpersonal practice in and of itself. Hence, mandala artwork may be used independently or in conjunction with various systems associated with spiritual development and in most psychotherapeutic environments including clients of all ages. As a result, the use of mandala artwork may contribution to the field of creative expression.

Inner Work is the Hero's Journey: Mythic Interpretations of Holotropic Breathwork , 2010, by Dennis R. Archambault , 226 pages, 1 MB.

Individuals engaging their psyches through depth exploration act heroically. This process of individuation is arduous and provokes unceasing variations of issues for resolution. Success is not quick, easy, or assured, but this personal dedication to a fully manifested life often leads to a higher level of consciousness and a sense of meaning. Myths worldwide narrate imaginal stories of cultural heroes who discover their deepest truths. It takes a hero’s courage to make decisions, even everyday ones, and none is more profound than that of embracing experiential, psychic exploration. Heroic inner workers nurture manifesting spirits through psychological rebirths. From personal experience, few deep healing modalities upwell mythic imagery for their psychic insights and personal truths as successfully as Holotropic Breathwork. The most profound trauma revealed is often that from birth itself, which is too often compounded by societal unconsciousness. The survival of endangered life forms on our beautiful, blue water planet rests on this modern hero’s journey of personal exploration. Deep psychic wounds must be healed. If we are to prohibit the use of weapons of mass destruction, we must act consciously individually and collectively. Unconsciousness is historically manipulated for personal political power by “Dark Numinosity” archetypes [malefic abusers of sacral-psychic knowledge] that infect the social body with psychic epidemics that lead to wholesale death and destruction. Thwarting this predatory impetus to slaughter may very well depend upon individuals who embrace inner work, and with gained consciousness inform their fellow humans of psychologically healthier courses of action. Engaging inner work is the modern hero’s journey, and it manifests a life blessed with meaning. This is our time; planetary survival is our imperative.


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