Existential Group for Therapists

Existential Reading and Process Group for Therapists - Led by Jason Winkler, RP

Starting January 2016

This is a group for psychotherapists to explore key concepts in existential philosophy and psychology, as applied to the therapist’s internal process and approach to client issues. It is intended as an ‘Existential Psychotherapy 101’ in which the material will include a small amount of primary source existential philosophy, but with the focus more on the writings of prominent figures in Existential Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.

Group members will be encouraged to share the personal application of what they’ve read and reflected on between sessions and their thoughts and feelings generated in discussing the assigned readings.

Why offer a group with an existential lens? In my (Jason’s) experience as a therapist, I notice in some clients an ennui, or malaise that has no one origin, rather, what I see to be the totality of struggling to be in the world, or a feeling of “not being built for this world”. As our society speeds ahead to an increasingly complex and unknowable future, many people seem to be ill at ease, restless and anxious, tired and overdrawn, even with all of (and possibly because of) the modern conveniences and distractions available to them. Many people have problems with living and have questions about how to live a good life, but need help to be guided to more awareness of what they are actually grappling with, particularly if the source of the trouble is either elusive or very expansive.

An existential lens considers clients’ being-in-the-world– not just the self, but the self (in its different modes of selfhood) always in relation to the world and its systems, its vast numbers of people, its chaos, its options, its wonders and its uncontrollability. The ontological is the examination of being, and the existential is the examination of that being “thrown in to” a world not of one’s design, constantly having to find its way through life with choices and responsibilities, freedoms and limitations, meaning-making opportunities and meaninglessness, connection and loneliness and the omnipresent, inescapable living-towards-death. (For a deeper exploration on the topic of ‘existential crisis’ that I participated in, see here: http://ow.ly/T3qQd).

As therapists, we are always absorbing the worlds of clients through an intimate being-with and connection to them in the moment-to-moment of the therapy session. Paying attention to our own existence helps us, as therapists, to feel deeply into the existence of the other. The existential is the examination of what is common to all humans–the givens of existence–and the potentials of suffering and joy that we all face as we acknowledge our existential position in the world.

This group is an opportunity to engage in an active self-reflective process of exploring existential themes through reading articles and book chapters together, discussing how we understand the themes through our own selves and our own roles as psychotherapists, and how we might begin to effect meaningful change in our lives and the lives of our clients by delving more deeply into existence, itself.

Themes/topics of the group:

  • *What constitutes ‘the self’
  • *The existential ‘void’– what it is, how to live with it
  • *Time and mortality – learning to live in the shadow of death
  • *Creating meaning in a meaningless world
  • *Isolation and loneliness – being a separate self in a crowded world of others
  • *Freedom and responsibility – the burden of our freedom, the “tyranny of choice”, engaging one’s own will
  • *Ontological guilt (not fulfilling the potential of one’s being), living in good or bad faith to one’s self, and the notion of the‘authentic self’
  • *Fear and dread – the annihilation of the self as expressed through anxiety and depression
  • *Modern comforts and the response to existential despair
  • *Relationships and their transformative potential in existential crisis
  • *Creativity, courage, and bringing one’s self to life
  • *Ethics and virtues in living a good life
  • *The four-dimensional model of existence: physical, social, psychological, spiritual

What facilitation/teaching methods will be used in the group? This is intended as a discussion and process group in which group members will explore their own personal and professional realms, as applied to the topics of that session’s assigned readings. I will facilitate the group with a relational approach, which includes looking at the dynamic of the group (as a being-in-itself) unfolding in the here-and-now as the existential material is discussed. As this is a group for psychotherapists, members’ professional egos will also be engaged in the spirit of curiosity of how existential themes guide and shape us as practitioners, how we live them inside and outside of our consulting rooms and how we might work with them in our client work.

Members will be provided with electronic copies of articles, housed in a cloud storage file (Google Drive or Dropbox), which one will access via a web link. There will be a scheduled list of readings, and accompanying reflection questions/scenarios that members will work on between meetings. For each group meeting, a member could expect approximately 100-120 pages of reading material.

Supplemental audio or video material will be sent out to explore, on some occasions.

What material will be part of the reading program? The group will explore the existential ideas of philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Tillich, Husserl and Camus, among others. We will be reading the writings of those who have been foundational in applying existential philosophy to the practice of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, in both Europe and America, including Binswanger, Boss, Rank, May, Frankl, Laing, Yalom, Spinelli and Van-Deurzen.

Group size: The group will be comprised of between 7 and 10 participants.

When: Sundays – 11:00 am-1:00 pm January to December 2016 Every 3 to 4 weeks, 12 sessions, none in July/August

Dates: January 24, February 21, March 13, April 10, May 8, May 29, June 19, September 11, October 2, October 23, November 13, December 4 2016.

Location: Bloorcourt Therapy: 823-A Bloor Street W, Toronto (at Bloor & Shaw Sts.)

Fee for the full 12 months: Early-bird: $600 if the fee is paid in full by December 15 2015.

Regular: $675 (can be paid in two 50% installments starting in January). Fees are inclusive of HST.

Contact Jason for more information, or to register for the group: Jason@jasonwinkler.com (416) 378-8344