College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in Psychology

Existential-Phenomenological Psychology

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    This approach to psychology is inspired by the philosophical tradition developed by thinkers such as Buber, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Sartre, Marcel, Merleau-Ponty, and Emmanuel Levinas. Existential-phenomenology seeks to develop an in-depth understanding of human existence. It challenges traditions that study the person in a reductionistic manner or promote dualistic modes of thinking (e.g., mind vs. body or freedom vs. determinism). Our program distinguishes itself both by using this philosophical tradition as a foundation for psychology and psychotherapy, and as a source of insight about specific human experiences.

    Existential-Phenomenological Psychology is humanistic in that it challenges the modern tendency to interpret the human condition through narrow technological lenses. It also appreciates the wisdom accumulated by the long tradition of the humanities. The existential dimension deepens our understanding of persons living in their everyday circumstances through in-depth reflection on the psychological meanings expressed in both experience and action. The phenomenological dimension encourages openness toward psychological reality by identifying and putting aside theoretical and ideological prejudgments. As a whole this approach is therapeutic in that it focuses on the psychosocial conditions that help people deal with the difficulties of life. Finally, the existential-phenomenological approach is ethical in recognizing that the fundamental characteristic of being human is to be responsible to others. The contemporary emphasis on competitive and isolating individualism has undermined this call to be ethically bonded to our neighbor. Therapists are not detached technicians; they are responsibly committed to their clients. The essential qualities of the therapist include humility and compassion.

    To learn more about existential phenomenology, check out our Suggested Reading List.

  • Listen to Learn More:

    Phenomenology Of Forgiveness by Professor Steen Halling.