Historical Roots, International Institute for Humanistic Studies--Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy

Existential Psychotherapy

The existential approach is first and foremost philosophical based on the philosophical thinkers such as Buber, Dostoevsky, Frankl, Heidegger, Husserl, Jaspers, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Satre, Tillich and others. It is concerned with the understanding of people in relationship to the world in which they live and with the individual search for what it means to be alive. It is committed to exploring questions about living and dying. These philosophical roots were forwarded into a therapeutic frame in America in 1958 by Rollo May with editors Angel and Ellenberger in a landmark book, Existence, a collection of formerly untranslated papers by European existential psychiatrists works such as Binswanger and others, applying existential philosophical thought to the existential analytic model of psychiatry. Further development of this theoretical frame was set forth in 1980 in Irvin Yalom's book, Existential Psychotherapy (1980) ending with the conclusion that "existential therapy is a dynamic approach that focuses on concerns rooted in human existence" (Yalom, 1980, p. 485).

Humanistic Psychotherapy

The humanistic approach considers human nature to be open-ended, flexible and capable of an enormous range of experience. The person is viewed in a constant process of becoming and psychotherapy is a process of allowing and fostering that becoming. Major contributions to this field have been made by Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961), and Abraham Maslow,

Toward a Psychology of Being (1962). A major difference in this model is the lack of emphases on the limitations of being which is a focus in the existential model.

Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy

In 1978 Jim Bugental's landmark book, Psychotherapy and Process, brought these two models, existential and humanistic, together in a powerful form of psychotherapy. In this model of therapy people are not reduced into types. Instead there is continual pointing to possibility of human experience which often overlaps and simultaneously unique to the individual. This therapy is process-oriented not directed by categories and interpretations of clients but rather pointing toward potentials and limitations. Humanistic values such as unconditional positive regard and empathic listening have been elaborated upon through presence and intentionality in this model of therapy. The existential givens of living are fundamental to this model of therapy (Bugental, 1987): freedom and responsibility, embodiedness and change, choicefulness and relinquishment, and the continual draw between being a part of and a part from or relatedness and separateness.

The Present Moment of Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy

The Actual

The "actual in psychotherapy" needs the clinician's full attention in order to bring the moment into the client's awareness.and thus explore it for further in-depth therapeutic work. Too often psychotherapists and their clients unknowingly slide into conducting their "work" on a hypothetical level in which they are dealing with supposition, fictional example, story telling, and tentative speculation. Psychotherapy that sets as its goal aiding the client to make genuine and lasting life changes must concern itself with that which is actual--at least potentially rather than being content with speculative, hypothetical, or fictional steps and products. The work of the actual has been a part of the existential-humanistic model for years but has become central in Jim Bugental's book, Psychotherapy Isn't What You Think.

Freedom and Responsibility

The process of individual psychotherapy releases new found freedoms and responsibilities in the individual. Existential-humanistic psychotherapy is concerned with communicating responsibility by integrating the gains proposed by psychology and made in psychotherapy into the world in which each individual lives. One response to this call for psychological responsibility has been the formation of the International Institute for Humanistic Studies. The work of Existential-Humanistic psychology is basic to this institute and taking responsibility for honoring and holding true to the individual in the global setting in which we live. This institute is supporting and encouraging psychotherapists to participate and to make a difference in humanizing today's globalization process. Training psychotherapists in placing value on each individual in the community has begun in various countries through this institute; Canada, China, England, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. Writings in this area of development are part of this ongoing two year training program: Unearthing the Moment.

Further information concerning I.I.H.S. can be obtained from this Web site and by emailing mheery@sonic.net or 707-364-1189.