History of the Institute



The Institute represents the confluence of existential-phenomenological and contemporary psychoanalytic approaches to psychotherapy.  The philosophies of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Maurice Merleu-Ponty are the entryways into thinking about existential therapy.  After studying  philosophy with Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago and the phenomenologist Aron Gurwitsch at the New School for Social Research, Bob was fortunate to discover the writing and thinking of Paul L. Russell of the Boston Society and Institute of Psychoanalysis.  Russell?s reappropriation of the psychoanalytic concept of the repetition compulsion became a central piece of Bob's attempt to envision an existential-psychoanalytic approach to therapy. 


    Along with Russell's ideas Bob has been persuaded that the thinking of Ronald Fairbairn and Donald Winnicott are some of the best ways of seeing psychoanalytic work as existential.  Russell, Fairbairn and Winnicott are the three psychoanalytic thinkers most emphasized at the Institute.   


    Over a number of years, the introductory class:  Introduction to Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy has taken shape.  It introduces students to the phenomenology of Husserl and the existential-phenomenology of Martin Heidegger.  It then gives an existential reading of object relations theory and self psychology, before going on to an in depth analysis of the repetition compulsion concept (taken from Freud, Fairbairn, Loewald and Paul Russell, as well as the philosophical writings on return and repetition in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger) and Winnicott's notion of potential space.  The class explores transference and countertransference, intersubjectivity and enactments, and diagnosis and treatment from an existential-object relational point of view. 


    The second 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.  

    In both classes, students focus on self-understanding as well as conceptual learning.  In the first class, each student will explore and discuss the story of their own repetition compulsion, understood in terms of existence rather than psychopathology.  In the second class, each student will respond to the text of Being and Time in philosophical, clinical and/or personal ways.  Psychology, philosophy and personal awareness are inseparable in these classes.