About Existential-Humanistic (EH) Therapy

Irvin Yalom believes that Existential Psychotherapy is not defined by specific techniques, rather it is defined by its attitude. The existential therapist, according to James Bugental, “is present as the client explores her or his deepest life predicaments.” These include:

Kirk Schneider and Rollo May’s “The Psychology of Existence: an Integrative, Clinical Perspective” advocates for a therapy that focuses on experiential “liberation.” Focusing on constriction and expansion of “experiential being” Schneider and May postulate strategies for gently challenging the client to “deeper spheres of liberation.” A key element of liberation is the ability to be deeply present in our life. As Bugental states, “presence is the quality of being in a situation or relationship in which one intends at a deep level to participate as fully as [one] is able.”

The roots of the existential orientation in the United States can be traced to 1958 when May, Angel, and Ellenberger’s “Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology” was published. The roots of the humanistic orientation are traced to 1951 when Carl Rogers’ “Client-centered Therapy” was published. At the core of both orientations is an emphasis on phenomenology. As a result, the existential-humanistic perspective honors the subjectivity of conscious existence. As part of our subjective nature each individual struggles with self-awareness, basic freedom, social and intra-personal identity, the meaning of our life and death, and the anxiety associated with consciousness. James Bugental, Rollo May, Kirk Schneider, and Irvin Yalom have contemporary publications that reflect both orientations.

The roots of the existential orientation in the United States can be traced to 1958 when May, Angel, and Ellenberger’s “Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology” was published. The roots of the humanistic orientation are traced to 1951 when Carl Rogers’ “Client-centered Therapy” was published. At the core of both orientations is an emphasis on phenomenology. As a result, the existential-humanistic perspective honors the subjectivity of conscious existence. As part of our subjective nature each individual struggles with self-awareness, basic freedom, social and intra-personal identity, the meaning of our life and death, and the anxiety associated with consciousness. James Bugental, Rollo May, Kirk Schneider, and Irvin Yalom have contemporary publications that reflect both orientations.

Many of the active members of EHI have trained with James F. T. Bugental, Ph.D., Rollo May, Ph.D., and/or Irvin Yalom, M.D. They also took part in a Pacific Institute 1997 project which provided training for a group of psychotherapists from St. Petersburg and Moscow. Originally formed as a program under Pacific Institute in 1997, EHI has now expanded as a California Benefit Corp and continues to provide existential-humanistic training and public programs that aim to further the understanding of the existential and humanistic integrated orientations. The ongoing mission of EHI is to provide a perspective that emphasizes humanizing psychotherapy and therapeutic encounters. 

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Related Publications

These textbooks are recommended resources for the clinician looking to expand their EH practice.

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Existential-Humanistic Therapy

Kirk J Schneider, Orah Krug
APA Books, 2017

Existential-Humanistic Therapy [2nd Edition, 2017] provides an in-depth survey of contemporary existential-humanistic (E-H) theory, practice, and research. In particular, this uniquely American version of existential therapy, currently experiencing a renaissance, highlights E-H therapy’s historical development, theoretical underpinnings, and practical applications alongside the very latest in process and outcome research. New to this revised edition is an increased focus on a more integrative perspective, which makes existential–humanistic therapy applicable to a wider array of settings and diagnostic populations. This flexibility also makes it more adaptable to other therapeutic approaches and expands its influence on clinical psychology as a whole.

This textbook is used as a resource within our Foundations Certificate program.

Existential-Integrative Therapy

Kirk J Schneider
APA Books, 2015

Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy promises to be a landmark in the fields of psychotherapeutic theory and practice. A comprehensive revision of its predecessor, The Psychology of Existence, co-edited by Kirk Schneider and Rollo May, Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy combines clear and updated guidelines for practice with vivid and timely case vignettes. These vignettes feature the very latest in both mainstream and existential therapeutic integrative application, by the top innovators in the field. The book highlights several notable dimensions: a novel and comprehensive theory of integrative existential practice; a premium on mainstream integrations of existential theory as well as existential-humanistic integrations of mainstream theory; a focus on integrative mainstream as well as existential-humanistic practitioners, students, and theorists; a discussion of short-term and cognitive-behavioral existential-integrative strategies; a focus on ethnic and diagnostic diversity, from case studies of multicultural populations to vignettes on gender, sexuality, and power, and from contributions to the treatment of alcoholism to those elucidating religiosity, psychoses, and intersubjectivity.

This textbook is used as a resource within our Foundations Certificate program.

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The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, 2nd Ed

Edited by Kirk J Schneider, J Fraser Pierson and James F. T. Bugental
Sage Publications, 2014

The Second Edition of the cutting edge work, The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, by Kirk J. Schneider, J. Fraser Pierson and James F. T. Bugental, represents the very latest scholarship in the field of humanistic psychology and psychotherapy. Set against trends inclined toward psychological standardization and medicalization, the handbook offers a rich tapestry of reflection by the leading person-centered scholars of our time. Their range in topics is far-reaching—from the historical, theoretical and methodological, to the spiritual, psychotherapeutic and multicultural.