Naropa University is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution with a mission of contemplative education. This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. The university comprises a four-year undergraduate college and graduate programs in the arts, education, environmental leadership, psychology, and religious studies.
Naropa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Higher Learning Commission
30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400
Chicago, Illinois 60602-2504
312-263-0456; Fax 312-263-7462
Naropa University represents the vision of the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Trungpa Rinpoche (1940–1987), a Buddhist meditation master, scholar, and teacher, founded Naropa in 1974 as a summer institute. It was his view that Western education would be greatly enhanced if combined with the mindfulness training offered by Eastern traditions.
While Naropa University is Buddhist-inspired, it is also nonsectarian and open to all. The mission of the school is to create a safe container where students of all faiths can explore their spirituality. A Naropa education is marked by a spirited interchange among persons of diverse views and traditions, provoking a greater understanding of the breadth of human experience. The majority of our students are not Buddhist, nor are the majority of faculty and staff.
Naropa University’s learning philosophy of contemplative education is rooted in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The integration of contemplative disciplines into the curriculum helps students to devote their full attention to their studies, classmates, and the community at large. Each class or degree program integrates varying degrees of Buddhist philosophies and traditions. Classes may open with a short period of silence or require meditation practice, while others will be conducted as a traditional college course.
Contemplative education balances the study of specific academic and artistic fields with the traditional practices for training in mindfulness and awareness. Through the practice of contemplative disciplines such as sitting meditation, yoga, and t’ai-chi ch’uan, students develop a strong sense of awareness which assists the absorption and assimilation of new information, as well as synchronizing body, speech, and mind. The contemplative approach inspires openness, inquisitiveness, and kindness to oneself and others.
No, for applicants from the United States, test scores from the GRE, SAT, ACT, or other standardized tests are not required for admission to Naropa University. However, international applicants from countries where English is not a primary language must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores as part of their admissions materials. For more information about applying as an international applicant, please refer the international applicant admissions requirements.
Because we are a private college, tuition rates are the same for both in-state and out-of-state students.
Naropa University’s graduate programs may accept up to 6 semester credits of graduate transfer credit from other universities. This is not an automatic policy; it is at the discretion of each department. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Credits must have been earned within five years of application to Naropa and must carry the grade of “B” or better. No Pass (P), Credit (CR), Audited (A), or Satisfactory (S) work will be accepted. Credits must come from a regionally accredited institution (international on a case-by-case basis), and no credit will be awarded for contemplative practice courses or life experience.
Naropa University charges tuition per credit taken, not via a block system. Since our graduate programs range in number of credits and also vary in their length of time, semesters attended, and unique fees required, it is difficult to give an exact answer. Please visit your graduate program page for more information about your specific program of interest.
Naropa University does not offer PhD programs at this time. Naropa’s graduate programs offer Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Divinity (MDiv) degrees.
Yes, Naropa offers online courses which change from semester to semester. In addition, there are low-residency graduate degree programs in MA Clinical Mental Health, Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling, Master of Divinity, MA in Ecopsychology, MA in Yoga Studies and MFA in Creative Writing.
Of 173 alumni who responded to a recent survey, 136 are working in the field of their graduate degree. Of those 136 people, 98 took an average of 4.5 months after graduation to get a job in their field. Of those 136, 34 earned under $25,000; 47 earned $25,000–$39,000; 22 earned $40,000–$54,000; 4 earned $55,000–$70,000, and 6 earned more than $70,000. Several respondents chose not to divulge their salary.
Naropa offers an excellent and diverse selection of seminars and classes for those who are not pursuing a degree. There are online courses through the Distance Learning Program, and upcoming events and workshops can be found through the Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education, and the Joanna Macy Center. Please note that registration for Extended Studies and Distance Learning courses is handled by the Naropa University Registrar’s Office, not the Office of Admissions.
The following deferral policy applies to all of the graduate programs at Naropa University.
Completed applications may be deferred for up to one year by notifying the Office of Admissions. Please note that the application must be complete, with no outstanding pieces. Those applicants who have already been accepted into a graduate program or who have made a confirmation deposit to enroll in a graduate program may defer their application, but they will lose their confirmation deposit. Academic programs may review the application and potentially re-interview the applicant for admission the following year.
All five of Naropa’s MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs (the Somatic Counseling concentration, the Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling concentration, Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy concentration, Transpersonal Art Therapy concentration, and the Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology concentration) prepare students to take their counselor licensure tests after graduation. For more information, please visit the Graduate School of Counseling & Psychology Licensure page.
- Program Length: All five concentrations are three years in duration (Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling has a fourth year option if necessary; Somatic Counseling can be completed in four or five years if necessary).
- Professional Training: Students get hands-on experience in the mental health field through placement in agencies during their practicums and in their final year during their 700-hour internships.
- Professional Outcome: The professional outcome of the five programs is also similar. Graduates from these programs are able to work in a variety of settings, including mental health agencies, social services, human resources departments, nonprofit agencies, and private practices.
- Contemplative Practice: All five concentrations have meditation as a part of the core curriculum. The Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology meditation requirement extends throughout the duration of program to include five hours per week of sitting practice, regularly scheduled meetings with the student’s meditation instructor, specific classes (e.g. “Psychology and Meditation”) and the Maitri program. This ongoing meditation requirement creates a common ground for the members of each class as they study and discuss the main principles of both Buddhist and Western psychology. The Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling, Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy, and Transpersonal Art Therapy meditation requirements include four classes (two years) of the Psychology of Meditation. During those classes, the student fulfills a sitting practice requirement and meets regularly with their meditation instructor. However, continuation of meditation practice after the completion of the courses is up to the student. The Somatic Counseling meditation requirement includes two credits of coursework in the first year of study; additionally, contemplative practice takes place through conscious engagement with movement and sensate awareness.
- Developing the Therapist: All five concentrations are similar in that they emphasize attendance to the personal and spiritual development of the therapist, with the aim of working more effectively with others. While students develop skillful means to work in a variety of clinical settings, they learn to acknowledge their clients as whole human beings, by first uncovering and acknowledging their own innate qualities of wisdom and compassion.
Main features of each Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree concentration:
Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology
- Community: The feature of intentional community is a strong learning component of the Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology program. Students begin the program and take every class together, including the off-campus Maitri retreat. Community serves as a mirror to one’s mind as well as a continual laboratory for working with others. Classmates become a close intimate group during the three years of the program.
- Contemplative Practice: Because the ground of working with others is familiarity with one’s own experience, the program places great emphasis on student meditation practice and body/mind awareness.
- Buddhist and Western Psychology: The Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology program is the only program in the United States that joins psychotherapy training with Buddhist meditation and a deep understanding of the mind. Grounded in the belief that one’s ability to be present with whatever arises in the moment is the foundation of meaningful psychotherapy, the program aims to assist future therapists in developing the abilities that allow them to form genuine healing relationships with their clients.
- Spirituality: All three concentrations in Transpersonal Counseling (Transpersonal Art Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling, and Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy) consider spirituality to be fundamental to wholeness. The concentrations include techniques derived from modern psychology, consciousness research, and ancient spiritual practices. Students engage in a process that emphasizes intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual awareness.
- Transpersonal Vision: All three concentrations in Transpersonal Counseling share a commitment to the transpersonal vision and excellence in counselor training.
- Flexibility: Flexibility in course scheduling includes some evening and weekend classes, as well as course sextions offered at a variety of times.
- Transpersonal Art Therapy: Approved by the American Art Therapy Association, the innovative Transpersonal Art Therapy concentration integrates intensive studies in the visual arts and the social sciences with psychotherapeutic skills. The program prepares the student for additional credentialing as a Registered Art Therapist.
- Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling: The Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling concentration offers both experiential and theoretical study. Its primary methods include meditation, Gestalt awareness practice, psychodynamic approaches, and client-centered therapy. Students have the opportunity to explore areas of personal interest through a variety of elective offerings.
- Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy: Grounded in nature’s ability to nurture spirituality and human wholeness, Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy refers to a broad field of psychology that utilizes wilderness as a context for therapeutic intervention. The concentration offers students theoretical and practical experience in the fields of ecopsychology, ecology, adventure therapy, outdoor skills, and group dynamics and leadership. Most of the second year takes place in outdoor settings.
- The Body: By attending to the bodily foundation of experience, the Somatic Counseling program brings an appreciation of the unique role of the body and its movement to understanding and transforming human behavior. In this approach, the body is the vessel of feeling, the tool of perception, the vehicle of action and the storehouse of memories and belief systems.
- Therapist Training: Based in awareness practices that draw from traditional cultures as well as modern neuroscience, the program provides students with the theoretical, clinical, and professional skills to be effective psychotherapists, grounded in the integration of body, mind, and spirit.
- Dance/Movement Therapy: Approved by the American Dance Therapy Association, the Dance/Movement Therapy concentration focuses on the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process that furthers the emotional, cognitive, social, and physical integration of the individual. Beyond the foundational Somatic Counseling curriculum, students in the Dance/Movement Therapy concentration are trained in classical as well as innovative forms of dance/movement therapy. This program is approved by the American Dance Therapy Association, and graduates qualify to apply for the Dance Therapist Registered (DTR) credential upon graduation.
- Body Psychotherapy: The Body Psychotherapy concentration focuses on integrating body work, movement, and somatic education principles with counseling and psychotherapy skills. Beyond the foundational Somatic Counseling curriculum, the students in the Body Psychotherapy concentration are trained in traditional and innovative therapeutic practices with attention to sensation and body states, which allow unconscious material to manifest and be worked with using breath, touch, movement, sensation, and imagery.
- Program Length: Both programs are three years in duration (Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling also has a fourth year option).
- Professional Outcome: Graduates from both programs are able to work in a variety of settings, including mental health agencies, social services, human resources departments, nonprofit agencies, and private practice.
- Meditation: Both programs have meditation requirements as a part of the core curriculum. The Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology meditation requirement extends throughout the duration of program to include five hours per week of sitting practice, regularly scheduled meetings with the student’s meditation instructor, specific classes (e.g. “Psychology and Meditation”), and the Maitri program (see below). This ongoing meditation requirement creates a common ground for the members of each class as they study and discuss the main principles of both Buddhist and Western psychology. The Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling meditation requirement includes four classes (two years) of the Psychology of Meditation. During those classes the student fulfills a sitting practice requirement and meets regularly with their meditation instructor. However, continuation of meditation practice after the completion of the courses is up to the student.
- Community: The feature of community is a strong learning component of the Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology program. Students take every class together, including the off-campus Maitri retreat. Community serves as a mirror to one’s mind as well as a continual laboratory for working with others. Classmates become a close group during the three years of the program. The Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling program—due to flexibility in the scheduling of classes—does not rely on community to such a degree, although it is still present. This flexibility in course scheduling is a unique feature of the Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling program, where each class is offered at a variety of times, including evening classes. So, for a student who needs a lot of flexibility, and for whom the aspect of community is not as high a priority in their educational experience, the Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling program may be the best option for them.
- Counselor Training Approaches: The counselor training approach of the Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology program includes training in current counseling theories and their applications, theory and practice of group therapy, participation in Group Process, a meditation practice requirement, and the Maitri program. Throughout the three-year program, students spend a total of about ten weeks living together as a learning community. Held in a retreat center in Northern Colorado, the Maitri programs include intensive sitting meditation, the study of Buddhist teachings, and the Maitri space-awareness practice. For more information on the Maitri practice please visit the Contemplative Psychotherapy & Buddhist Psychology program page. The counselor training in the Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling program includes one year of training in a client-centered approach and one year of Gestalt. The students work with these therapeutic modalities under the guidance of professional therapists. It is here that the sense of community comes into play in the Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling program.