Doctoral Disserations/Theses

An Intuitive Inquiry into Experiences arising out of the Holotropic Breathwork technique and its Integral Mandala Artwork: The Potential for Self-Actualization.  Doctoral Dissertation by Rubye Lee Cervelli, Ph.D., 2009.  262 pages.


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. 


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From States to Stages: Exploring the Potential Evolutionary Efficacy of Holotropic Breathwork; Masters Thesis by Christopher Robedee, The Graduate Institute, 2008, 246 pages.*


Two areas through which human consciousness is being researched are non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC) and consciousness development. A growing number of theories describe adult consciousness as having the potential to develop through vertical stage-like levels that represent the evolution of consciousness through the human experience. Holotropic Breathwork (HB) is a method of inducing NOSC to access the potential benefits that such states may offer. Although both of these fields are concerned with the nature of consciousness, there has been very little written about and, prior to this study, there has not been research showing a potential relationship between participation in HB and the vertical development of consciousness.

Twenty-two volunteers with previous HB experience were interviewed. Interviews were analyzed for reported life-changing effects that the participants considered to be related to their HB experiences. Additionally, self-reported descriptions of various aspects of the participants’ lives, both at the time of the interviews and retrospectively before having first participated in HB, were analyzed using the framework of Susanne Cook-Greuter’s Ego Development Theory to determine evidence of potential vertical developmental change. All participants reported effects that they characterized as “life-changing,” commensurate with the existing literature about HB. The retrospective, interpretive analysis of the data has also shown evidence of what appears to be vertical developmental movement for a majority of the participants between the time of their first session and the interview for this study. Thus, vertical development and engagement with HB coincided, and given evidence from previous research on the effects of HB, this study supports a potential relationship between HB participation and the development of consciousness up to the leading edge of consciousness within Western culture. Additional research is recommended and suggestions are offered.

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


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. 

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


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.


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


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.

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


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.


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


    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.


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


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.


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Somatic Memory in Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness, 2003, by Chris Lyons, BSc, MB, BS, MRCGP., 82 pages.


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. 

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Mythic Interpretations of Holotropic Breathwork, By Dennis R. Archambault, 2010, 226 pages.


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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