Ira Helderman, Author and Psychotherapist


Author and Psychotherapist

Ira helderman, PhD, LPC



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I am a scholar, published author, screenwriter, and commentator. I hold a PhD in “Religion, Psychology and Culture” from Vanderbilt University and, currently, my writing is primarily in the field of religious studies. Writing has always been a passion of mine, however, and I also have an undergraduate BFA in screenwriting from New York University’s film school. Many twists and turns in my life after NYU, I began working in the mental health field in 2001 and am a practicing psychotherapist in private practice in Nashville, TN. If you want to learn more about my psychotherapy practice please click here. It was only after some years of working full time as a therapist that I became deeply fascinated by religious studies and started down an entirely new path.

Today, my research examines how psychotherapists and psychotherapeutic ideas shape the way that people are religious in the United States.

My first full length book project, entitled Prescribing the Dharma: Psychotherapists, Buddhist Traditions, and Defining Religion, is now available for pre-order from the University of North Carolina Press with a March 2019 publication date. Prescribing the Dharma maps the surprisingly diverse ways that psychotherapists have related to Buddhist traditions as a case study of how concepts of the “religious” and “not-religious” function in the lives of contemporary communities.  I have already published some of my initial findings in peer-reviewed journals like The Journal of the American Academy of Religion and have presented my work both nationally and internationally. You can find a listing of some of my publications here.

Over the years, my interests have taken me to a number of different areas of the religious studies subfield called “religion and psychology.” I have previously done some research on the continuing debates about how Sigmund Freud viewed his Jewishness and looked at the uniqueness of "pastoral counseling" as a discipline in a more interconnected, religiously diverse world.

My next major book project, however, is a historical study of how psychotherapists have contributed to contemporary understandings of the term “spirituality” (e.g., the relatively new idea that “spirituality” refers to a quality that is neither “religious” or “secular”).

While my available writing is currently mostly focused on religious studies, I anticipate returning to creative writing soon so stay tuned!

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Select Publications

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Prescribing the Dharma: Psychotherapists, buddhist traditions, and defining Religion

2019, University of North Carolina Press.

Order today!


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“Descriptive Disenchantment & prescriptive Disillusionment: Myths, mysticism, and Psychotherapeutic Interpretation"

2018, In Mysticism and Depth Psychology, edited by Thomas Cattoi and David Odorisio, available from Palgrave Macmillan Press.


Drawing the Boundaries between "Religion" & "Secular"  in U.S. Psychotherapists’ Approaches to Buddhist Traditions

2016, The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 84.4 (2016): 937-972

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“The Conversion of the Barbarians": Comparison and Psychotherapists’ Approaches to Buddhist Traditions in the United States

2015, Buddhist Studies Review 32.1: 63–97.

Media & Publicity

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Sara Wigal, JKS Communications,




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