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NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Graduate Psychology Professor, Eric Cowan, travels to India

By Becca Price
02/14/06

PHOTO: Eric Cowan in IndiaHaving a personal interest in the country, culture, religion, and delivery of mental health services, Dr. Eric Cowan spent his winter break touring India for personal and professional growth. Dr. Cowan is an associate professor in the graduate psychology program at James Madison University where his main interests lie in psychotherapy, human potential and consciousness studies.

He arrived in India’s capital having only a couple of connections through an Indian graduate student at JMU. Quickly, however, many new friendships emerged as everywhere he went he was welcomed with wonderful hospitality and treated as an honored guest.

In Delhi Dr. Cowan first visited the Gnostic Institute, a center for study and meditation which is “based on the Integral Yoga philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, [and is] working towards creating a community for research and training in growth of consciousness …based on an inner core of self-discovery and self-mastery. ”

Dr. Cowan also visited the Vimhan Clinic, a treatment center for underserved populations in neurosurgery and mental health. Dr. Cowan was able to visit with graduate psychology students and staff and present a case study from his recent book, “Ariadne’s Thread: Case Studies in the Therapeutic Relationship.” Afterwards they discussed prospective points of view from the East and West. It was at the Vimhan Clinic that Dr. Cowan was able to observe first hand the differences in mental health services. “In the West, when a person is institutionalized, it can often be a depersonalizing experience. The person is separated from the community and there is a danger of becoming alienated. At Vimhan’s, and at another hospital I visited that was associated with an ashram, there was much more of a community feel. The families were sometimes involved in the day treatment programs. It was like an invisible partition between the staff and families of the patients had been lifted and, in a sense, a community had evolved within the institution itself. Also, because they are doing so much with few resources the psychologists and staff are very invested and devoted which lends the provision of services a real sense of humanity.”

Dr. Cowan also had the pleasure of visiting the Sri Aurobindo Institute for Integral Studies in Delhi which has its’ international headquarters in the southern city of Pondicherry. “The teaching of Sri Aurobindo starts from the ancient sages of India that behind the appearances of the universe there is the Reality of Being and Consciousness, a Self of all things, one and eternal. ” However, the philosophy also integrates ideas and concepts from Western psychology regarding “how Self, with a capital “S” relates to self with a small “s,” in other words, how different levels of individual consciousness and transformation happen in the experience of the person.” Dr. Cowan also had the opportunity to explore this Eastern/Western synthesis of thought at Nehru University where he interacted with faculty and sat in on various presentations. “At all the places I visited there are opportunities for collaboration and connection between JMU and our Indian friends.”

Jyoti Saika and Kakoli Banerjee run the Rehabilitation Clinic for village girls. The rehabilitation clinic is located on an organic farm, where the focus is education, rehabilitation and marketable skill development. Dr. Cowan left Delhi and traveled throughout the Rajasthan region of India, visiting many cities and villages. “It’s a wonderful region of the country. Udaipur the lake city, and Benares, especially, by the banks of the Ganges is very special. Toward the end of the journey Dr. Cowan visited a rehabilitation center for young women located on an organic farm north of Delhi.

Dr. Cowan’s latest exploration has resulted in a new graduate psychology course, “Transpersonal Explorations in Psychology,” that will focus on Eastern/Western psychology, mythology, and psychotherapy. He plans to travel back to Pondicherry this summer to finish preparing for the upcoming summer class. His recent trip has left the door open for future connections, “there are many opportunities in the future to explore the cross-culture in how mental health happens.”