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An Interview with Kirk Schneider, Ph.D., on Existential Humanistic Psychotherapy

David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
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Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.Drs. Van Nuys and Schneider discuss recent developments of Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy, an approach founded by Rollo May and developed by May and James and Elizabeth Bugental. Dr. Schneider has become a champion of the approach since the passing of the founders, and notes it has opened up to embrace the use of techniques drawn from other schools while retaining its intense focus on the existential anxieties (e.g., the fear of death and the various ways that symptoms develop to ward off awareness of death) and the development of clients' sense of here-and-now presence and freedom through the therapists' careful, client-focused empathic attention, genuineness and ability to create a safe environment. They discuss Dr. Schneider's new book Awakening to Awe, with Schneider emphasizing the existential anxiety associated with awe (the impermanence of life), deeper awareness of which, he proposes, deepens one's enjoyment of life.

David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC, covering topics in mental health, wellness, and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host.

On today's show, we'll be talking with my guest, Dr. Kirk Schneider, about existential humanistic psychotherapy and his newest book, Awakening to Awe. Kirk J. Schneider, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and leading spokesperson for contemporary humanistic psychology. Dr. Schneider is current editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vice-president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute, and adjunct faculty at Saybrook Graduate School, California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. He's also Fellow of three divisions of the American Psychological Association: Humanistic, Clinical, and Independent Practice. Dr. Schneider has published over 100 articles and chapters and has authored or edited eight books.

Now, here's the interview.

Dr. Kirk Schneider, welcome to Wise Counsel.

Kirk Schneider: Thanks very much, David.

David: It's good to speak with you again. I should probably hasten to let our listening audience know that you and I have a fairly long history with one another, but we haven't had any contact in the past several years. If I recall correctly, we first met when you were an intern at Interlogue and I was chairman of the board. Do I have that right?

Kirk Schneider: You have it exactly right, with James Bugental.

David: Exactly. We should let people know that Interlogue was a training organization in Santa Rosa, California, founded and run by Dr. James Bugental, who was one of the founders of the humanistic psychology movement in general and humanistic-existential psychotherapy in particular. And he was a mentor and intellectual hero for us both, I think.

Kirk Schneider: Yes, I had that very strong sense with you, as well.

David: Oh, thank you very much.

Kirk Schneider: And I should add that his wife was very important. Elizabeth Bugental was very important as a supervisor and mentor of mine, as well. David: Yes, that's right. She was kind of the unsung hero, the power behind the throne.

Kirk Schneider: Yes, absolutely.

David: I think Jim brought a lot of intellectual power to his work, and she really brought a lot of heart to it.

Kirk Schneider: She really did, and a lot of the art of therapy - she embodied that.

David: Yes. Now, unfortunately, both Dr. Bugental and his wife Elizabeth passed away not too long ago, but I think you're widely regarded as the person who's picked up his mantle, so maybe that's a good place for us to start. So let me start by - you may be demurring about picking up his mantle. Is that what you're trying to do?

Kirk Schneider: Well, I'll tell you. It's a heavy mantle, but let's put it this way: I very much resonate to the lineage that Jim and Rollo May and Liz Bugental sparked for many years.

David: Yes, exactly.

Kirk Schneider: So I'm trying to carry it forward.

David: Right, and it is a heavy mantle, and I know that I declined picking it up myself, so I'm glad that you've picked it up. So, just to get everybody on board with us, what is humanistic existential psychotherapy?

Kirk Schneider: Well, and I would put it maybe the reverse - existential humanistic psychotherapy - is basically about helping people to cultivate an optimal sense of freedom, the freedom to choose within the natural and self-imposed limitations of living. And by self-imposed, I mean limitations that have to do with human created restrictions like language, culture, conditioning and so on. And the idea of existential humanistic therapy is to help people to become more free, especially internally, free to experience the fuller ranges of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

David: And I have the impression that… maybe you can talk a little bit about the lineage. I have the impression that Jim himself went through a traditional psychoanalytic therapy, found it to be valuable in many ways, but also found it to be lacking in others, and that this approach of existential humanistic psychotherapy, at least initially, was, like psychoanalysis, a long-term, intensive approach to psychotherapy.

Kirk Schneider: Right.

David: Maybe you can give us a little background on that.

Kirk Schneider: Well, yes, it's similar in the sense that it's very intensive and it's in depth, and it also addresses the deeper and you might say subconscious layers of the psyche. I think the main difference, and the difference that Jim very much emphasized in his own cultivation of existential humanistic therapy, is that it's about promoting a sort of a whole bodied sense of freedom versus, at least in the classical version of psychoanalysis, a more intellectualized sense of freedom.

What I mean there is that in classical psychoanalysis, and even in a number of the newer versions, there seems to be more of an emphasis on, you could say, cognitive insight versus a whole body experiencing of one's struggle. So there would be a lot of references to how the past relates to the present and can inform the person's ability to deal with the present, but a lot of that comes out of explaining how past conflicts relate to the present. And the working through has a lot to do with the verbal level of understanding how one's past relates to the present and, therefore, one's ability to transcend that.

David: Are you talking about psychoanalysis now or the existential…?

Kirk Schneider: Yes, psychoanalysis, whereas in existential humanistic therapy the emphasis is more on simply being able to be present, experientially present to one's concerns, whether they have to do with the past, what's developing in the present - let's say with the therapist - with others in their present world, or in terms of future intentions. So it's much more about immediacy, kinesthesia or the embodiment of one's concerns, affect, and staying present at a feeling, an emotional level, and the here-and-now.

David: Okay. Maybe before we go any further into theory and technique, I'm curious how did you first here about this approach and/or Jim Bugental? What was it about it that drew you?

Kirk Schneider: Well, I heard about Jim Bugental, really, back in my undergraduate and early graduate days. I went to a humanistically oriented graduate school, West Georgia College, now the State University of West Georgia.

David: Oh, yes.

Kirk Schneider: Yes, and I met some terrific teachers there. One of them was Dr. Don Rice, who became a mentor of mine and who had graduated from the Humanistic Psychology Institute, which is now Saybrook Graduate School, and which is where Jim and Rollo May were very much founding spirits. And Don was very inspired by both Jim and Rollo's work and strongly encouraged me to move in the direction of enrolling at Saybrook, or at that time the Humanistic Psychology Institute. And so that's where I really learned the most about Jim's work, although I had heard about it in my studies of psychology before that. And, amazingly, one of my first courses at the Humanistic Psychology Institute - this is way back in 1980 - was a nine month long mentorship course with Jim Bugental, and that was one of the most wonderful intellectual and personal experiences I've ever had.

David: Well, that's great. I envy you that. I found out about Jim and knew about him through his writing and had been using some of his books as textbooks in courses that I was teaching on psychotherapy and then was thrilled when later he actually moved into my local area, to Santa Rosa, so that I had a chance to get to know him. Now, you did this nine month mentorship experience. Were you ever actually a client of his?

Kirk Schneider: No, I was never a client, but I was in many role plays. I probably felt some of the intensity of being a client.

David: Yes, what was that like? What was your experience?

Kirk Schneider: My experience was one of profundity. He had a very intense and attuned presence, and he had a way of helping me to connect very deeply with whatever it was that I was wrestling with. On the surface level, it was usually some training issue, but at a deeper level, it certainly stirred up my own personal struggles in some ways, and it definitely spilled over into some kinds of therapeutic modes.

David: Well, if any stories come to mind during this chat that we're having that would help to concretize that, feel free to pipe in with them. Now, I seem to recall that a major piece of the approach revolved around the fear of death and the neurotic denial of our mortality. Can you comment on that?

Kirk Schneider: Yes, fear of death is really at the core of existential thinking about psychological dysfunction and suffering. That at the bottom line of dysfunction and of polarization, if you will, are the ways that we polarize or become excessive, either on a constrictive end of the continuum with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsiveness, great fears, or on the expansive end of the continuum with the suffering that has to do with grandiosity and hyper-arousal and conduct or disorders, an emphasis on having to live at a very expansive and hyper-aroused way.

At either end of the continuum, death seems to be the looming issue. They have to do with a deep fear or anxiety about either, say, minimization and smallness on the hyper-expansive end, where the person is just terrified of associations to being less than, to being small and imperceptible and ultimately, I believe, wiped away, annihilated, and so they design their lives around hyper-expanding. Or on the hyper-constrictive end, a terror of bursting forth, of becoming larger, of venturing out in the world in some way, and ultimately a terror of some kind of chaotic non-entity, which, again, very much associates with doom and with annihilation.

David: It's interesting to me to reflect on the fact that many spiritual and metaphysical traditions emphasize the importance of keeping the awareness of death close at hand. That's something it seems to have common with other traditions.

Kirk Schneider: Well, existentialism as I've understood it and developed it over the years is very close to those traditions because it views what we're calling death, really, as radical mystery. And radical mystery or otherness is terrifying. It's unknown, it's uncharted, and so can be very destabilizing, especially when it hits us all at once, as in a trauma.

But the flip side of that is, as Rollo May used to say, freedom is the flip side of anxiety. So the flip side of that terror of radical mystery is wonder, fascination with the mystery, an ability to move into it, to reoccupy it in some way experientially, and thereby expand and enlarge one's world.

So I think a lot of the task of folks who tend to be polarized toward the constrictive end of the continuum is to come to terms with their capacity to expand, to enlarge themselves, to be more visible and more venturesome in the world.

And the task of many who tend toward the hyper-expansive end of the continuum is to be able to slow down, to restrain themselves, perhaps discipline themselves, and come into this constrictive polarity that has been so shut off in their lives and that has been associated with, usually, terrible traumas in their lives. Trauma seems to be at the core of a lot of our terrors.

David: Well, I can see how this discussion about deep mystery could easily lead into our talking about your recent book on awe, but I'm going to postpone that part of the conversation to a little bit later because I want to ask you how this existential humanistic psychotherapy has evolved.

Kirk Schneider: Are you asking personally?

David: Well, both. I know that you've been developing your own spin, so we can either go straight to that, or if there's a broader sense in which it has evolved, say, since the passing of Jim and Elizabeth, talk about that and then go on to your own specific spin.

Kirk Schneider: Okay. Well, I believe that the field has moved in more integrative directions. I think it was moving that way with Jim and Rollo, but some of us have been pressing it in that direction more vigorously in recent years. And now, the reason for that is because, I think, a number of us realize that there are many paths to the Buddha, and that even though at one time existential humanistic therapy was under a siege mentality, where many felt that they had to emphasize just the more traditionally existential humanistic aspect of the work - in other words the deeper work, exploratory work - I think we now realize that that work isn't always appropriate given a certain person, a situation a person's in, their level of being able to relate at those deeper regions. And that other approaches - physiological approaches, medical approaches, cognitive behavioral, psychoanalytic approaches - can all be very useful and helpful as appropriate to a given individual, but especially helpful within an overarching existential humanistic frame.

So something that I've developed in recent years is what I call existential-integrative psychotherapy, which is one way of understanding and coordinating a variety of therapeutic modes within an overarching existential or experiential context. Because I do think that context, that existential experiential context, is so important for the deepest healing for many people. I'm not saying for everyone, but for many people, especially toward the latter stages of substantive therapeutic work.

So we've been trying to help ourselves and help trainees to cultivate this context throughout our work with clients, and it has to do, really, with cultivating a deep sense of presence. And by presence I mean holding and illuminating that which is palpably relevant or charged between the therapist and client and within the client.

David: Now, that is so key to this approach, and it sounds a bit abstract. Is there any way that you can help us to have a better sense of what you mean by presence? Because I know that's really the key thing. If I were a fly on the wall in the consulting room when you're doing your work, what would I see that might be distinctive that would inform me that this is the approach that you're using, rather than strictly doing Gestalt, which is all about here and now, or a psychoanalytic approach, or a cognitive behavioral therapy? What strategies or techniques might I see, or things that you might say, that would help this little fly on the wall to say, "Ah, this is what this is about?"

Kirk Schneider: Yes, well, in a sense it's anti-strategy and technique, and that's part of the beauty that it brings to all these other approaches, is it's less technically oriented. It has much more to do with simple awareness, you could say mindfulness, that you're bringing to each moment in the session and in connection with one's self, as well as the client.

So what you'd be seeing, I believe, is a person sitting across from you - I say a partner or a fellow traveler as Irv Yalom puts it beautifully - who is deeply attuned; who is proceeding in a way that feels accessible, thoughtful; perhaps would make room for silences, for pauses; and that would give the client both the opportunity and sense of safety to connect at an embodied level - again, back to embodiment. Even though they may not be quite ready for that yet, at least the opportunity would be there, but it would also give the therapist an attunement to what the client is ready and desirous of or for.

I think that's one of the great values of presence, too, is that that level of attunement can help guide the relationship to what is needed at this moment with this particular client. And sometimes it's not deep exploration. It's maybe some suggestions or very explicit support or behavioral strategies, or helping them get through the night so to speak.

But the point is that this approach doesn't end with these various technical modes. It stays open to evolving to a degree that the client can evolve in terms of being able to reoccupy these parts of himself that he's cut off, in a more fully embodied way.

David: What might you say to yourself and/or to your client to bring them into the present moment, to bring them into this embodiment?

Kirk Schneider: Well, I might notice how they're holding their head down as they're speaking with me. I might - and notice this aloud - "I notice that you seem kind of contracted right now as you're talking," or "Your voice is getting lower or quieter." Or I might observe a tear forming in your eye, a moistness in your eyes. Change in, as I say, change in voice, perhaps facial expressions, speaking more intellectually.

David: What if I react to that as clients sometimes do and feel criticized, I guess. To feel like, "Oh, am I supposed to have my face some other way?"

Kirk Schneider: Right. Well, I think you do have to approach this very artfully, as I say. There may be a lot of times where, especially at the beginning of the work, where you would not want to make those kinds of observations. That's part of the art of a more integrative process. It's tuning into the client's desire and capacity for that kind of connection.

However, that said, I do think you can test the water with more clients than we realize, than we often realize in our conventional training, and take a little risk. And so what you just said to me gives me a lot of information about where you're at and would help me to adjust to tuning in to more of where you're at, that this really pissed you off. This is not something that's working with you right now. How can I be helpful to you?

David: Right, so this could lead us into me asking you about the role of resistance. How do you see resistance, and what's your approach to it?

Kirk Schneider: Well, it's similar to my approach generally, which is about - in a metaphorical sense - holding a mirror up to clients to help them see both what's emerging within them, and also how they stop themselves from what's emerging.

So when it comes to resistance, or what I call self-protections - less pejorative because it really is about a person trying survive - when it comes to these protections, I try to, again, as appropriate, reflect back to them what I'm sensing, what I'm seeing. So, "We were just talking about your boyfriend, and now you're commenting on objects in my room. Wonder what happened right there?" Or, again, somebody looking away as they are speaking about something quite profound for them. Or, "You say you can't make a phone call to this very important potential job contact, what do you mean? You won't make that phone call?" There's ways of alerting the person to, again, how they stop themselves from a fuller encounter with what really matters.

David: Okay, good. When Jim and Elizabeth passed away I really was concerned about whether or not this very deep approach that you're describing here… It's subtle and it's not something that you just grasp right away, and so I really had some concerns about whether it would disappear. And in this age of manualized, evidence-based therapies, what are existential humanistic therapy's chances of survival?

Kirk Schneider: Oh, I think they're very strong, actually, because, ironically, at the very time where we're moving more toward managed care and standardized way of working with clients, more and more therapists, especially, are realizing the value of the presence-centered kind of work and the more personable kind of work. Part of that comes from just their own experience in working with clients and what is most effective, but a great part of it comes from the latest research, which is all about the significance of what they call context factors, contextual factors in the work.

And by contextual factors, researchers like Bruce Wompold mean also what are called common factors or the dimensions that have to do with the atmosphere that's co-created between therapist and client, and those seem to be most correlated with effective psychotherapy. Those factors being empathy, the alliance between therapist and client, how much the client senses the therapist is in his or her corner; the believability of the therapist, how coherent and congruent the therapist is with the way he or she is working with the client; the personableness of the therapist, the degree to which the therapist helps create a sense of safety for the client, the degree to which he tunes in.

This is one of the most important factors that Art Bohart has certainly highlighted, which is the degree to which the therapist tunes into the client's needs at the given moment, and that's what I was getting back to before with the existential integrative perspective because it has so much to do with having the presence of mind and being to tune into what is directly needed by that client at that moment. And that has to do with developing a very collaborative relationship with a client, checking in periodically as to how we're doing together and is this working for you and what is most helpful to you at this time? And also just developing one's intuitive sense.

So these contextual factors are very related to the kinds of dimensions that we focus on, that we emphasize, that we don't just bring in incidentally in existential humanistic therapy. I think that's one of the real shames of the way therapy has been practiced in our field, is that many, if not most, of the conventional approaches to therapy bring these contextual factors in as a secondary phenomenon. The therapist happens to be personable and attuned and present and allied and empathic, but the training isn't necessarily really emphasizing those dimensions. The training is emphasizing the cognitive behavioral technique, restructuring or noting over-generalizations, dealing on the verbal level.

David: Yes, the person of the therapist, then, is really a key ingredient.

Kirk Schneider: It's absolutely a key, and it's an increasingly recognized aspect of the work because the research has forced the hand of conventional therapists and researchers to see what is most salient, most powerful.

David: Yes. Now, I don't want to let you get away without our touching on your newest book, which is about awe. And let me insert here that I'm really in awe of your productivity. It seems like just yesterday that you were this young intern, and now I discover that you're the author of eight books and over 100 articles and chapters. So tell us about this book, Awakening to Awe.

Kirk Schneider: Well, Awakening to Awe is really about a side of life that many of us don't think about very often and don't realize or aren't even exposed to in any consistent way. I think we have a sense of it when we're very young and probably when we're born because it's basically about the humility and wonder, or thrill and anxiety, of living. And by that, I mean an attunement to the adventure of being, the fact that we are just these tiny specks on a tiny speck of a world that's whirling through space and time, having really no idea of where we're headed and no idea about where we've come from, and we have all these theories and beliefs. I think, when you get down to it for many people, they recognize that they aren't gods and we are in this crazy position of knowing an awful lot, being able to do an awful lot, but also being, in the end, totally helpless as to what our fate is and direction.

David: Yes. You know, somehow this idea of awe puts me in mind of Maslow's writing about peak experiences among self-actualizers. Is there some relationship there?

Kirk Schneider: Yes, well, there's a definite relationship to it, and I much appreciate Maslow plowing this ground again. But the difference is that I'm not speaking about just a peak experience. I'm really talking about a life attitude, an attitude that needs to be cultivated and deepened over a lifetime, or a sensibility. And it's a sensibility that I believe can help to lift us, give us the bird's eye view, the sense of the bigger picture of living. And almost no matter what we do or think about, that can form the background to our experience of living.

And put another way, I don't think we often think in terms of space and time or the cosmic as being a partner. We think of human beings as partners, right? Or as parts of life that we can become very intimate with. But, really, what I'm talking about here, and I think what is so provocative about this thesis, is that the sense of awe brings up space and time or the cosmic dimension as our ultimate partners. We're all ultimately going to need to come to terms with being, with all that surrounds us, and how much attention do we pay to that, especially in our hectic lives and our quick fix, very instant gratification oriented lives?

David: Right.

Kirk Schneider: How much time do we devote to really cultivating that relationship? Now I want to say also that I am not splitting here. I'm not saying that one needs to be in touch with the mystery of being to the neglect of people. I'm saying that our relationships to others can be deeply enriched if we cultivate much more of a connection to that mystery of being as a background to all our relationships.

David: You talked about cultivating awe, and I've been particularly interested in the positive psychology movement, and it focused a lot on cultivating positive thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. And I've just recently… actually, since scheduling this appointment, I think, I ran across something that you might be interested in if you're not already aware of the work of Dacher Keltner, who's a…

Kirk Schneider: Oh, yes. I've heard about him.

David: Yes, UC Berkeley professor. He's got a book called Born to be Good, and you might be interested to know that the final chapter of that book is all about awe and his quote scientific study of awe. So if you haven't seen that, I would recommend it to you.

Kirk Schneider: No, I thank you for bringing that to my attention. Actually, I'm aware of both his and Jonathan Haidt's work on awe, and they've done previous research on it. Yes, I think it is very close to the conception that I have of it, except that I think it's a little bit on the intellectualized side, if you will. I'm not sure that it emphasizes the dimension of anxiety as much as I would emphasize in my own view of awe. And I feel it's about causative psychology as well.

David: I was just struck by the fact that I know that you come from a very different camp than the positive psychology people are, and I was just struck by the almost synchronicity of these two different camps focusing in on a concept like awe, which is not a concept that springs to everybody's mind on a daily basis, which, in fact, I think you're actually recommending that maybe it should spring to mind more often.

Kirk Schneider: Well, I think it's hard to spring to mind because it is more complex than what positive psychology often puts out as being supportive of the good life and of well being. It tends to bring out dimensions, I believe, that are more in tune with our efficiency model for living, quick-fix oriented, where we can reprogram thoughts, think more optimistically, or design our environment to experience more well-being, or adopt a certain religious world view that will enhance our being.

This is much more about encountering the paradoxes of life, including the fact that things about life that are very different and painful, and there's a whole tragic dimension to living - great loss, fear, fragility - that is a part of living a fuller life, in my view, as well as some of these more happiness oriented techniques.

And I think to live a fuller life or, say, a more vital life, one needs to be able to be present, to have the capacity to be present to these painful sides as well as the joyous. In fact, they intensify each other. I think great joy comes partly out of a background of realizing how fragile and passing all life is.

David: That kind of brings us back to what we were saying earlier about death. Your book is a collection of essays and stories. I'm wondering if there's an illustrative story from the book that you could briefly share with us about awe.

Kirk Schneider: Well, there are a number of very rich stories. One is about Jim Hernandez, who's an ex-gang leader, who's now a gang mediator and youth advocate in the East Bay, and the distance that he's travelled, in great part through adopting a sense of awe toward life. There's also the story of Michael Cooper, who's a former drug addict, who's now a yoga instructor and caseworker. As far as a particular story, well…

David: There's one from - and I didn't get a chance to read it, but I notice that there was one - I think it's your brother who was a comedian?

Kirk Schneider: It's my cousin, actually.

David: Oh, a cousin. And I was wondering about the relationship between comedy, humor, awe. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of that one?

Kirk Schneider: Well, he really does bring the cosmic joke up front and center with his chapter in the book. I think when we talk about awe, it is helpful to see it in a humorous light as well as its heaviness because we're all sort of groping with this crazy situation that we're in. And he writes very eloquently, I think, and provocatively about it.

He's basically an exile from conventional shopping oriented, consumer oriented, culture. And so he's got some quite striking scenes he describes in the chapter, like one scene he says, "If you are looking for me, you can find me at a Cinnabon in the mall, slinging a sock full of horse manure around." I'm not putting it nearly as well as he does.

But then he goes into, basically, all we can take out of this life is great moments, and he has this list. He calls it the list of something like 50 great moments of his life - everything from Reggie Jackson's tape measure job at the 1971 World Series, to Patti LaBelle singing "In My House" in front of Frank Sinatra on his 80th birthday - I believe that's the title of the song - and the way she connected with that and created an awesome experience for the audience and for Frank. And he makes a great appeal in that work for engaging the everyday possibilities for a greater sense of the wonder and the tragedy of life, the fullness of life.

David: Okay, I'm going to refer listeners to that book to find out more on their own. We probably should wind down now. I'm wondering if there are any last words that you'd like to say as we do so?

Kirk Schneider: Well, I can say that people can find out more information about this, all this material, at my website, if I can mention that.

David: Yes, and I'll also be putting a link to it, but go ahead.

Kirk Schneider: Okay. It's and I would hope that people would take time to look at what the bigger picture of living means to them, what really matters to them. And this is what can come out of the existential humanistic therapy we were talking about before, too, and that cultivation of inner freedom.

And the ability to, in some way, encounter death or the radical mystery of life is that ability to be more fully present to our fears, to our discomforts, and to open up to the discovery that can happen as we are more present to those, the richness, the richness of realizing that we're all passing in this life, and every moment, really, we're dying and decaying as we're alive, and the premium that puts on really being here as that's happening. The poignancy of the unknown, of possibilities, just to try to stay open to what is evolving in every moment as much as we can.

David: That's a great challenge and a good place for us to close. Dr. Kirk Schneider, thanks so much for being my guest today on Wise Counsel.

Kirk Schneider: Thank you very much for the opportunity, David. Appreciate it.

David: I hope you found this conversation with my friend, Dr. Kirk Schneider, interesting and informative. I'm glad to learn that the existential humanistic approach has not perished and, in fact, is integrating with other more mainstream approaches. Personally, I'm drawn to a more depthful approach such as this, and I particularly resonate with the idea of mindfulness and the call to be as fully present in the session as possible. If you're interested in learning more about this approach, I recommend Dr. Schneider's website, which again is, as well as any of his books or many articles.

You've been listening to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC.

If you like Wise Counsel, you might also like ShrinkRapRadio, my other interview podcast series, which is available online at Until next time, this is Dr. David Van Nuys, and you've been listening to Wise Counsel.


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About Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.

Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.KIRK J. SCHNEIDER, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and leading spokesperson for contemporary humanistic psychology. Dr. Schneider is current editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vice-president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI), and adjunct faculty at Saybrook Graduate School, the California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. He is also a Fellow of three Divisions of the American Psychological Association (Humanistic, Clinical, and Independent Practice).

Dr. Schneider has published over 100 articles and chapters and has authored or edited eight books: The Paradoxical Self: Toward an Understanding of Our Contradictory Nature (Humanity Books, 1999; translated into Portuguese and Slovakian) Horror and the Holy: Wisdom-teachings of the Monster Tale (Open Court, 1993) The Psychology of Existence: An Integrative, Clinical Perspective, coauthored with Rollo May (McGraw-Hill; currently being translated into Chinese Short-Form) The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Research and Practice coauthored with J. Bugental and F. Pierson (Sage Pub., 2001,2002) Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, mystery, and the fluid center of life (Paragon House, 2004) Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy: Guideposts to the Core of Practice (Routledge, 2008; currently being partly translated into Russian).

Dr. Schneider is the 2004 recipient of the Rollo May award for “outstanding and independent pursuit of new frontiers in humanistic psychology” from the Humanistic Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. Most recently, Dr. Schneider conducted Existential Therapy for an APA video series on psychotherapy called “psychotherapy over time” (see and with Dr. Ed Mendelowitz, completed the chapter on Existential Psychotherapy for Corsini and Wedding’s Current Psychotherapies (8th ed.).

Dr. Schneider’s most recent books are: