Dasein Therapy - The Institute For Extistential-Psychoanalytic Therapy
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Institute Classes

Introduction to Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy

The first quarter of the class consists of lectures on existential-phenomenological philosophy and therapy. First phenomenology, then existentialism, and finally Heidegger’s Being and Time are discussed philosophically. Sections of Rollo May’s Existence and R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self are read to apply these ideas to psychology and psychotherapy. In the beginning of the course, it is mostly lecture format. It is important that participants be comfortable with this. As the year progresses, there is more and more room for discussion.

The second quarter of the class is a discussion of psychoanalytic theory as an existential discipline. Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and Anna Freud are explored, as are some ideas of Margaret Mahler and Heinz Kohut. The primary emphasis, however, is on the thinking of Ronald Fairbairn and D.W. Winnicott. Fairbairn’s use of the repetition compulsion concept and Winnicott’s notion of potential space are cornerstones of Bob’s existential-psychoanalytic understanding. A number of secondary sources are read, including Greenberg and Mitchell’s Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory and Stolorow and Atwood’s Structures of Subjectivity.

The third quarter of the class focuses on the repetition compulsion explicitly. Psychoanalytic ideas of Freud, Fairbairn, Loewald and especially Paul Russell are explored. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Heidegger’s ideas about repetition, return, and “taking over thrownness” are integrated into the psychoanalytic framework. From there, transference, counter-transference, projective identification and enactments are explored from an existential-psychoanalytic perspective. Articles by Freud, Paul Russell, Bob Fox, and Thomas Ogden are read.

The fourth and final quarter of the class is about diagnosis and treatment from an existential-psychoanalytic point of view, using Lawrence Hedges’ remarkable Listening Perspectives in Psychotherapy as a point of departure. Diagnosis and treatment are understood in terms of modes of being and relatedness (with a developmental slant) rather than in terms of psychopathology and the medical model.

During the second half of the year, each class ends with a participant presenting the story of his or her repetition compulsion – seen not as pathology but as a fundamental aspect of the meaning of the person’s life. The personal, philosophical and psychological dimensions are never separated in this class.The class becomes quite intimate by the second half of the year. Each participant, therefore, not only gets to tell a story, but find his or her unique way of teaching the concept to the rest of the class.

Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time: A Reading Class for Therapists

This course is a reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time for therapists and others. Teachers, theologians and artists take this course alongside therapists. This is a systematic study of Heidegger’s main book and the acknowledged key text for existential psychotherapy, focusing equally on philosophical, psychological, and personal implications.

The only focused reading in this course is the text of Being and Time. Even though the class is taught with an eye on therapy, it is a philosophy class first and foremost, and non-therapists often take it together with therapists. A comfort with therapy and the therapeutic project is necessary to enjoy the class, however. The book is taught with three goals: philosophical illumination, a grounding for therapy practice, and as an exploration of our personal concerns about the meaning of Human Being (Dasein) in general and each of our own existences in particular.

The class is structured in a way that discussion and lecture are roughly equal. Two participants offer presentations or lead discussions during the first half of the three hour class. The topics are quite varied. They can be philosophical and theoretical; psychological and clinical, or quite personal. Topics have included existentialism and Buddhism, Heidegger and Cezanne, Heidegger and a reading of Virginia Woolf,
Heidegger’s relationship to Plato; and Heidegger and Lacan. They have also included talks on Heidegger and ecology, Heidegger and the work of Bruce Springsteen, and Heidegger and the poetry of Rilke. Most of the topics are personal – how people understand their worlds, struggles, and situations in terms of the concepts in the book. People are particularly interested in the idea of authenticity in living, and Heidegger’s concepts of “thrownness and possibility” and how to understand them in one’s own life. Some people talk about how their clinical work (or teaching, or writing, or pastoral work, etc) has been lit up by the language and ideas in Being and Time.

The second half of the class consists of a mini-lecture by Bob on a section of the book. There is time for discussion as well as lecture in this second half (though never enough time, which is part of Heidegger’s point).

The class also discusses Heidegger’s infamous involvement in National Socialism in Germany, his silence about that involvement after the war, and the fact that the book Being and Time itself can hold some clues about understanding how Heidegger “fell” into (and “for”) Naziism.

People have come to this class from New York and even as far as Florida once a month. Many people have found this class to be transformative, both professionally and personally. As stated earlier, the Introduction to Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy is often a requirement before taking the Heidegger class.