“One of my passions at Saybrook is to keep the humanistic and existential traditions alive for future generations.”
There is a quote from a great humanistic legend that Dr. Louis Hoffman likes to share with his students who are still trying to find their way.
“Rollo May once said, ‘If you want to see the new innovations in understanding what it means to be human, don’t go to the psychology department; go to the literature department’,” explains Dr. Hoffman, director of the Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal (EHTP) specialization within Saybrook’s College of Social Sciences. “Poetry, for example, is one legitimate way of understanding what it means to be human that has been helping people heal for thousands of years.”
Dr. Hoffman says students sometimes come to Saybrook with a preferred way of seeing the world. Their opinions are set, and their “way of knowing” is restricted. But with Saybrook’s interdisciplinary approach to psychology education, those predispositions are disassembled, examined, and then put back together again with a fresh, integrative perspective.
“What we do at Saybrook is create a place where it is safe to explore different viewpoints—to break outside of mainstream psychology to see how religion, spirituality, creativity, and other ways of knowing are connected in a humanistic perspective,” he says.
One of Saybrook’s faculty luminaries in the field of existential psychology, Dr. Hoffman is the author/editor of eight books, and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Janus Head, PsycCRITIQUES: APA Review of Books, and The Humanistic Psychologist. He is also past president of the Society for Humanistic Psychology and a co-founder of the Zhi Mian International Institute of Existential-Humanistic Psychology. Additionally, Dr. Hoffman has been recognized as a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for Humanistic Psychology, and APA Division 52 (International Psychology) for his contributions to the field.
As co-director of certificate programs at Saybrook—one in International Psychology and the other in Socially Engaged Spirituality—Dr. Hoffman takes pride in giving psychology education at Saybrook a much-needed interdisciplinary lens.
“I enjoy fostering interest in different areas of thought and helping students figure out how they can connect them,” explains Dr. Hoffman, who also teaches in both Saybrook’s Creativity Studies specialization and Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health specialization. “Saybrook has a long history and many would say that we are the leading school in the world in the existential-humanistic psychology tradition. But there are other views, and we want to make sure students are exposed to those as well.”
This approach sets Saybrook’s culture apart from other psychology schools.
“Some individuals enter psychology enthusiastically but leave feeling disheartened because there was no soul in the program,” he says. “Our students find their heart here. They find what they are passionate about. That’s what defines us as an institution and makes us different.”