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Unleashing Otto Rank: The Creation of Modern Depth Therapy

An International Conference

Join Us!

November 4, 2023 @ 9:00 am November 5, 2023 @ 1:30 pm PDT

Nov 3rd Update: The conference has sold out. We are very appreciative of the community’s interest in this topic and look forward to continuing this exploration with you into Otto Rank and his influence in coming years.

Co-sponsors: KU Leuven, Existential-Humanistic Northwest, Existential-Humanistic Institute Europe

When: Saturday, November 4th – 9am to 1:30pm Pacific Time & Sunday, November 5th – 9am to 1:30pm Pacific Time

Where: Live Online through Zoom

Fee: $60 Professional/General*; $40 Elder & Student (65 and older, or enrolled in a graduate program). One ticket for all presentations. Conference registration is limited to a maximum number of total participants in order to best support opportunities for engagement in the small groups.

*We also have a limited number of slots available at a $10 “Economic Inequality/Hardship” rate (no questions asked). If interested, please contact Michelle through our contact form here, and if there is a reduced fee ticket still available, she will email you a discount coupon code.

Continuing Education*: 8 CEs Fee: $42
Previously registered attendees will receive an email with instructions on how to request Continuing Education credit for this conference or you may request them directly from Michelle via email at program@ehinstitute.org.

International attendees can request a Certificate of Attendance, gratis. (This certificate is not valid for US continuing education requirements).

Description and Overview

The most brilliant of Freud’s students, Otto Rank transformed psychoanalytic practice and laid essential groundwork for the contemporary psychotherapy practiced by millions of therapists around the world today. And yet, his contributions and influence remain woefully under-appreciated. This conference, unprecedented in the annals of both psychoanalysis and existential-humanistic psychology, will re-introduce the legacy, focus, and implications of Rank’s genius for a new generation of depth psychologists and psychotherapists. 

Otto Rank (1884 – 1939) had a highly productive life as a lecturer, therapist and writer and his work had great influence on many notable figures. Chief among them include the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the client-centered psychotherapist Carl Rogers, the existential psychoanalyst Rollo May, the existential therapist Irvin Yalom, and the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker. It was his profound influence on May and Rogers in particular that gave birth to existential-humanistic psychology in the U.S.

image of Otto Rank in a what looks like a lounge chair in the sun with his dog, Spooky.
Otto Rank with Spooky

Specifically, this conference will highlight Rank’s revolutionary contributions primarily in the following areas:

  • His move away from an emphasis on the interpretive prowess of the “expert” clinician to a focus on the experiential world of the client and the central healing role of the relationship between the therapist and the client
  • His prioritization of the relevance and significance of the “here and now” experience of the client in the therapeutic encounter, inclusive of how the client’s psycho-developmental history organically shows up in the “here and now” of therapy – and how that individual developmental trajectory is affected by societal developmental processes
  • His focus on the central role that one’s relationship to existence plays in one’s psychological health and growth, and its importance beyond biological drives and correlated cognitive structures and functions
  • His influence in spotlighting the essential roles that the experience of birth and the shadow of impermanence play in confronting and making sense of one’s existence
  • His emphases on creativity, artistry, will and authenticity in psychological health and growth
  • His consideration and exploration of mystical and spiritual influences in psychological and psycho-social development and healing

Today, many therapists inherently take for granted and employ truths Rank espoused in differentiating himself from many of the relevant theories, theorists and trends of his day. Join us for an immersion into the ubiquitous underlying influence of Otto Rank, particularly as it relates to contemporary depth psychotherapy and existential, humanistic and psychodynamic psychology. This groundbreaking conference features eight speakers representing a wide range of perspectives on Rank:


Robert Kramer
Otto Rank and the Creation of Modern Psychotherapy
In 2023 millions of mental health professionals practice therapy worldwide. Almost all of them are following in the footsteps of Rank, the first psychoanalyst to assert that the quality of the relationship, not an interpretation, is the healing factor in psychotherapy. If the 20th century was the century of Freud, the 21st is shaping up to be that of Rank, the “brooding genius waiting in the wings,” as Irvin Yalom calls him. 

Ludwig Janus
Otto Rank as Psychohistorian
Rank showed that the primal preverbal experiences from the beginning of our individual life is present in our adult experience, but he also showed that this is the case as well in the collective mentalities in history manifest as magic, mythical and religious experience. In this sense he understood the history of humankind as a process of internalization of earlier reenacted primordial experiences in the societal life. He was the first one who could reflect these facts of human condition. This laid the foundations of psychohistory.

Ellen Handler Spitz
Otto Rank on Art, Artists, and Creative Process
Otto Rank, at the age of 23, shyly introduced himself to Freud with an essay titled “The Artist.” Rank went on densely, albeit with remarkable acuity, authenticity, and originality to explore the theme of artistic creativity, specifically, the mental processes of working artists. He lays bare the dynamics of artists’ inner conflicts, which arise not only during but often at the anguished beginnings and endings of work. Rank frames these as struggles over birth and death, and he explores bonds and ruptures between artists’ past and present work, both their own and that of others. He writes of inspiration and of the role of the muse. This presentation spotlights a selection of nuggets from Rank’s contributions to this field of inquiry.

Marie Helen Becker
Heavenly Escape
This presentation is based on Otto Rank’s discussion of the origins of the soul and religion in ART AND ARTIST (1932). Problematic to all humans from primitive to contemporary cultures is the wonder at our physical impermanence and the ensuing desire to defeat transience. Even though the subject of soul is no longer ascribed the popular attention it once was, the presenter will use her own artwork as an example of her process of rendering an art history of the soul.


Matthew Fox
Otto Rank as a ‘new personality type’ Calling for the Unio Mystica: a Reunion of Psyche and Cosmos
Rank observed that “new personality types are created during social and spiritual crises of religious, political or economic origin.”  Was Rank himself such a new personality type?  In this presentation we will explore Otto Rank’s teachings on the “Unio Mystica,” (his words) including the role of love and art, the more-than-rational, the seeking for a “beyond,” letting go, being present to the “Now,” and creating.  His prophetic role includes moving beyond patriarchy, “beyond Freud,” (his words) and Freudian psychology, beyond the one-sidedly rational and modern consciousness therefore.

Sara Ekenstierna
Problems of the Beyond: Exploring Holistic Thought Through Otto Rank and David Bohm 
The presenter’s own research offers a revision of current positivist understandings of self and wellbeing in mainstream therapeutic psychology, by elaborating on Otto Rank’s existential-psychodynamic philosophy of the psyche. The particular focus of this presentation is on Rank’s recognition of holistic and co-creative notions of selfhood as essential properties of human existence, and on how these approaches can further advance contemporary psychotherapeutic practices of the self. 

Siebrecht Vanhooren
Therapy is the Place to Be
One of the many revolutionary ideas Rank launched is that not only the client’s sufferings and joys can be understood in terms of existence. The process of therapy itself is the place and time where we – client and therapist – meet our nothingness, something-ness and everything-ness: our life and death. The consequences of this vision are far-reaching. Can I, as a therapist, be alive and live with my client at this very moment? Can I attune to the existential process I am a part of, listen to my own ever-changing voice, and allow myself and my client to be?

Kirk Schneider
Recasting Psychoanalysis in Existential Terms: The Lasting Legacy of Otto Rank
Otto Rank reframed psychoanalysis in terms of our relation to existence, beyond and inclusive of our relationship to our biology, our cognition, and even ourselves. Rank also delved deeply into the experience of that relationship, inclusive of our fears, our sorrows, and our exuberances—as well as our “here-now” embodiment of such sensibilities. In this light, and in the light of Robert Kramer’s research on Rank’s impact on both Carl Rogers and Rollo May, Rank can justifiably be called the founding figure of both existential-humanistic and existential-integrative psychology. In this talk, Dr. Schneider will describe how prophetic Rank’s reformulation of psychoanalysis has proven to be, and how vital it is not only for Western psychologies, but for contemporary industrialized societies as a whole. To elucidate this foundation-shaking thesis for our times, Dr. Schneider will touch on some of his own work on existential-integrative therapy, life-enhancing anxiety, and the cultivation of the sense of awe toward living.

Each presentation will be followed by interactive small group discussion!

  • Each day will feature 4 presentation segments and each segment will be divided into 2 sections: the presenter’s delivery of their presentation to the large group followed by everyone being moved into breakout rooms for small group discussion of the presentation.
  • Each small group will be co-led by one of the conference presenters and participants will remain in the same small group throughout the 2 days.
  • Each day will end with approximately 35 minutes of large group Q & A.

Conference registration will be limited to a maximum number of total participants in order to best support opportunities for engagement in the small groups.

Presenter Bios

Robert Kramer, PhD, was Visiting Professor of Psychology at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest, where he taught existential-humanistic psychotherapy. During Spring 2022, he was Professor of Psychoanalysis at ELTE, only the second person in Hungary to hold this title. The first was Sándor Ferenczi.

During academic year 2015-16, he was the inaugural International Chair of Public Leadership at the Budapest National University of Public Service. In 2016 he resigned his Chair in protest against the corruption of the Orbán regime. He’s now designing a Rankian leader development program for the Democracy Institute of Central European University in Budapest. The program will address the needs of national and local leaders; politicians; policy experts in public administration and think-tanks; and civil society activists who are working to promote democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe.

He has published in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Times of Israel (Tel Aviv), and The New European (London). He edited and introduced Otto Rank’s A Psychology of Difference: The American Lectures (Princeton University Press, 1996) and co-edited, with E. J. Lieberman, The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). In 2022 he published The Birth of Relationship Therapy: Carl Rogers Meets Otto Rank (Psychosozial Press). In 2023 he will publish Otto Rank: A Dream That Interprets Itself with Phoenix Books (U.K.). His next book, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2024, is entitled, Otto Rank and the Creation of Modern Psychotherapy.

Ludwig Janus, M.D., grew up in Essen, Germany, and has been a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist in Dossenheim near Heidelberg since 1975. He is the Past-President of the International Society for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine (ISPPM) (www.isppm.de), Past-President of the German Society for Psychohistory and Political Psychology (www.psychohistorie.de), and current head of the “Institute for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine” (www.praenatalpschologie.de). He is the author of numerous publications on prenatal and perinatal psychology and on psychohistory (www.Ludwig-Janus.de), and is co-editor of the International Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine. published by Mattes Verlag, Heidelberg, 1989-2012.

Ellen Handler Spitz, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in Humanities at Yale University. She writes, lectures, and teaches in the fields of art and psychology, literature, and aesthetics. Her books include:  Art and Psyche; Image and InsightMuseums of the Mind; Inside Picture BooksThe Brightening GlanceIlluminating Childhood; and Magritte’s Labyrinth. She is on the editorial board of American Imago and a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. Her work has appeared in The New RepublicThe New York TimesThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Baltimore SunArtcritical, and other popular venues as well as in numerous scholarly and psychoanalytic publications, including The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child.

Marie Helen Becker, M.Ed., DFA, grew up in St. James on Long Island, New York. Her early childhood experiences created a determination to pursue an education that would explain and illuminate the roots of baffling, inauthentic, and sometimes destructive behaviors of select adults. She sought freedom from the burdens of this unwanted legacy.

While attending Syracuse University, Marie received a diverse liberal education in a wide array of social sciences such as anthropology, psychology, political science, and philosophy. These all provided much learning but did little to bring enlightenment. Syracuse’s Early Childhood Education program, with its grounding philosophy of John Dewey charting creative, democratic classrooms, helped settle the quest.

The distractions of love, marriage, children — and several physical moves, the last one to British Columbia, Canada — closed the window on work opportunities for some time. 1974 was a year of reworking and editing the rejected manuscript Marxism and Psychoanalysis, which eventually became Escape from Evil.

A degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of British Columbia helped enrich a new career working as a liaison between children, teachers, and parents in classrooms from Vancouver, British Columbia to Owen Sound, Ontario. Private practice and a career in painting followed and continue to this day.

Matthew Fox is a spiritual theologian committed to bringing alive the non-dualist spiritual tradition of creation spirituality. He is author of 39 books on spirituality and culture including Original Blessing; The Reinvention of Work; Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet; Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times and The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. He considers Otto Rank to be a contemporary mystic and prophet and has written a number of articles on him and taught many classes on him (including one with Robert Kramer).  He founded the University of Creation Spirituality, is an Episcopal priest, and a visiting scholar at the Academy of the Love of Learning.

Sara Ekenstierna is founder of Ekenstierna Psykologkonsult and Oakstar Coaching & Consulting. She was educated at Lund University in Sweden and at University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and is currently a PhD research candidate at the University of Queensland, Austraila. Sara is a licensed psychologist (Sweden) and has fifteen years’ worth of experience in the field, spanning private practice, psychiatry and organizational psychology. Her research topics include health and wellbeing, authentic living, self-actualization, and she is specifically interested in holistic thought, metaphysics, existential-integrative perspectives including humanistic psychodynamic theory, and quantum existentialism. Sara focuses on evidence-treatments, predominantly STDP (short term psychodynamic therapy), and is also familiar with Existential-Integrative Therapy, ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy); and Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy. Sara is a published writer. She was a columnist for the popular Swedish professional magazine Psykologtidningen. 

Siebrecht Vanhooren, PhD, is professor of clinical psychology at KU Leuven (Belgium). He teaches counseling, person-centered, experiential, and existential psychotherapy and is the director of the person-centered therapy training programs and the existential well-being counseling program at KU Leuven. He is the co-director of KU Leuven’s Meaning & Existence research center and a committee member of The Eugene T. Gendlin Center for Research in Experiential Philosophy and Psychology. He enjoys living, spending time with his family and friends, long hikes, and tries to get a good sound out of his saxophone.

Kirk Schneider, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and leading spokesperson for contemporary existential-humanistic and existential-integrative psychology. Dr. Schneider is co-founder and current president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI), a Council Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), an adjunct faculty member at Saybrook University and Teachers College, Columbia University, past president of the Society for Humanistic Psychology (Division 32 of the APA), past editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, and a Member of the Steering Committee of the Psychotherapy Action Network (PsiAN).

A Fellow of 7 Divisions of the APA, Dr. Schneider has published over 200 articles, interviews and chapters and has authored or edited 14 books, including The Spirituality of Awe, The Polarized Mind, Awakening to Awe, The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, Existential-Humanistic Therapy, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy, The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy, The Depolarizing of America and his most recent, Life-Enhancing Anxiety: Key to a Sane World. Dr. Schneider’s work has been featured in Scientific American, The New York Times, Psychology Today and many other health and psychology outlets.

Introductory Video on Otto Rank

Arash Farzaneh, Arash’s World Podcast, talks with Robert Kramer and Kirk Schneider, two of the organizers who are also some of the upcoming speakers for the long-awaited and fascinating Otto Rank International Conference. Arash, Robert and Kirk talk about the amazing work and wonderful and profound insights provided by Otto Rank, whom theologian Mathew Fox considers a “saint” and who has left a long-lasting legacy, influence, and mark upon various fields and disciplines across time and space. Rank’s ideas are still valid, pertinent, and relevant today and, in fact, more so than ever.

*Continuing Education Information

*Continuing Education: EHI is approved for 8 hours of CEs for psychologists (see note below**) through Division 32 of the American Psychological Association, The Society of Humanistic Psychology. Full participation and attendance both days are required. Please reach out to Michelle for disability accommodations and for additional questions regarding the continuing education programming. Email Michelle at program@ehinstitute.org or call her at 415-689-1475.

APA Division 32, Society for Humanistic Psychology is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. APA Division 32, Society for Humanistic Psychology maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

**LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCs: You too might be able to use APA Continuing Education Credit! State licensing boards for LPCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs often accept CE credits for psychologists from an APA Approved Provider of Continuing Education like APA Division 32, Society of Humanistic Psychology. (NY does not. Licensees should always check with their board to ensure they can use the credits.)

Example: California BBS accepts CEs from APA Approved Providers!

International attendees may request a Certificate of Attendance, gratis (this documentation of attendance is not valid for US continuing education requirements).


logo for Existential-Humanistic Institute Europe

Please save these dates and join us for this trailblazing venture into the reawakened legacy of Freud’s unsung protégé and contemporary torchbearer. 

Online through Zoom, November 4-5, 2023

$60 Professional/General* | $40 Elder & Student (65 and older, or enrolled in a graduate program).

Existential-Humanistic Institute

View Organizer Website