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David Lukoff, Ph.D.

David Lukoff, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and co-author of the DSM-IV and DSM-5 diagnostic category Religious or Spiritual Problem which increased awareness of spiritual issues in clinical practice.

Dr. Lukoff has published over 80 articles on spirituality and mental health, and is an active workshop presenter internationally on spiritual competency, grief, death, recovery, and spiritual crises. He is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA and previously served on the faculties of Harvard and UCLA.

My initiation into spirituality both personally and professionally began with some lived experience in my early twenties that met all the diagnostic criteria for a psychotic episode. This 2 month episode was also my spiritual awakening. It led me from being an atheist to becoming a spiritual seeker. I started a meditation practice and attended retreats with Lamas and Zen Masters, trained in qigong and aikido, and studied Medicine Wheel teachings and ceremonies with Wallace Black Elk, a Lakota Medicine Man. (Link to a video of my personal spiritual crisis and integration). This experience also led me to decide to become a psychologist.

My initial professional focus was on spiritual emergencies like my own, and that led me to becoming one of the coauthors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s category Religious or Spiritual Problem (also in DSM-5) which covers such episodes without diagnosing them as mental disorders. As a result of its acceptance, I received requests to conduct trainings related to spirituality. But having worked in public mental health at Camarillo State Hospital, UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, and the San Francisco Veterans Hospital, I knew that spiritual emergencies themselves were not a common diagnosis. Yet surveys show that most clients do want to talk to their therapists about religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. So for over 25 years, my workshops have focused on training mental health professionals in the broader coverage of spiritual competencies that includes spiritual crises, but also focuses on clients’ spiritual strengths.