University News & Events

Tom Greening to receive 2009 Szasz Award


Throughout his long career – as a private practitioner working with Jim Bugental; as the editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology;  as a faculty member at Saybrook, and at UCLA – Tom Greening has striven to live up to the charge of humanistic psychology:  to enhance people’s ability to experience freedom and meaning in their lives.

That’s a mission he’s even applied to the “mentally ill” – a term he has come to distrust as both a bad metaphor and as a means of tuning out the idea that we should even be concerned about the need mental patients have to experience freedom and meaning. 

This month that work was recognized as Tom Greening was chosen to receive the 2009 Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties – an award named after the pioneering author (and Rollo May Award winner) who championed the idea that “mental illness” is a contradiction in terms.

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Emerging education for emerging world citizens


There were two reasons for psychology faculty member Benina Gould to attend the Dalai Lama’s Mind-Life Conference early this month.  The personal reason is that she’s a practicing Buddhist. 

The professional reason was that the conference’s theme, “Emerging World Citizens,” dovetails almost perfectly with Gould’s own research on how to educate people to become global citizens. 

Gould is one of the few researchers examining how Muslim youth perceive their own choices, and has recently conducted surveys of the internet use of Muslim youth, and how it impacts their attitudes and perceptions, in Indonesia, Pakistan, and the United States. 

Too often, Gould says, we try to shape children to the outcomes we want (whether “ a successful career” or “not to support terrorists”) without consulting them as part of the process – so she says she was thrilled to find a strong community consensus at the Mind-Life Conference to do just that.

“There’s a feeling, even in America, that young people really have not done well with all the competition and the testing, that suicide rates have gone up, that there’s all kinds of problems with prescription drugs and that alcoholism has increased dramatically,” Gould says.  “So I was very pleased to see contemplative education being looked to as an alternative, training teachers about doing mind-body work with young people, and taking a much more holistic approach.”

Those hoping to improve outcomes for kids have their work cut out for them, though, as two themes at the conference made clear.

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Don Moss elected to the board of the world's most recognized biofeedback certification organization


This month Don Moss, Chair of Saybrook University’s Graduate College of Mind-Body Medicine, was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA).

The editor of Biofeedback Magazine and a globally recognized expert in mind-body techniques, Moss operates two Michigan-based clinics providing psychological services and mind-body therapies, and lectures and trains on mind-body healing around the world.  He now joins an elite group of healthcare professionals who are charged to maintain and uphold the standards and values of the oldest and most renowned certifying body for the clinical practice of biofeedback – and the only biofeedback institute recognized worldwide.

“One of the major challenges for integrative health is that consumers face very uneven quality in the alternative therapies available in their communities,” Moss said.  “Biofeedback is no exception. Many individuals give up on seeking help for their headache, anxiety or other problem, because a professional has provided ineffective biofeedback services, sometimes just a relaxation tape and an opportunity to use a biofeedback instrument without any therapeutic education and guidance.  BCIA certification provides a gold standard for consumers, assuring them that their biofeedback therapist has a core of knowledge and skills sufficient for quality care.”

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Awakening to Awe - and keeping it in your life


Most of us have had an experience so surprising, so moving, so profound, that it changed our lives in an instant.

Perhaps falling in love for the first time, or seeing a child born, or looking up at the night sky and really understanding how immense it all is.  This feeling, we’ve told ourselves, is the real essence of life.

Then we’ve gotten on with our lives, and all but forgotten about it.

How is this possible?  How is it that we let these moments go so easily, instead of putting them at the center of our lives?

“That’s the $64 million question,” says Saybrook psychology faculty member Kirk Schneider.  Memory is always fleeting, the present is always distracting, but he thinks there are other factors at work.  “Our society, industrialization in general, puts a premium on control, efficiency, and expedience, and these are helpful in meeting people’s needs.  But at the extreme … and I think we’ve moved into the extreme… it becomes debilitating to a fuller experience of life.  I think our quick fix model of living has alienated us from awe, even made us fearful of it.”

That becomes “a vicious cycle,” he says.  “Experiencing awe requires profound reflection, pausing, searching, and sensing, all the things we’re not given time to do, which means that even when we experience awe, it’s harder to stay with.”

Schneider’s recent book, Awakening to Awe:  Personal Stories of Profound Transformation, is a guide to help recapture the ability to experience, and stay with, awe. 

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Recounting the real history of psychology - all three of them


Eugene Taylor doesn’t hesitate to be provocative.  “(T)hree of the most dreaded plagues in the history of scientific psychology,” he writes in the very first sentence of his new book, “have been conceptions of personality, models of the unconscious, and systems of psychotherapy.”

Throughout psychology’s history, Taylor’s new volume reminds us, there has been a movement to classify psychology as a natural science, and this movement has insisted that psychology is no more and no less than what can be “verified” in the experimental laboratory. 

As a result, this movement has tried to replace “personality,” which can’t be experimentally proven, with measurable “attributes”;  it’s tried to replace the unconscious, which is stubbornly unsystematizable, with conditioning;  and it’s tried to replace psychotherapy, which happens with individual people in unrepeatable conditions, with drugs.  The result is not “psychology” as most people think of it, but it’s the “official” psychology of the history books.

“Since psychology wants to pretend that it’s a science, the history of psychology has turned into the history of experimental psychology,” Taylor says.  “The proponents of experimental psychology were comparing themselves to Newtonian physics in the 19th century.  They’ve stayed with that epistemology through this day, which is why I say the experimentalists have kept us in diapers.”

However, “What was not examined by the experimentalists is often more interesting than what is.” Taylor has published in his new book to set the record straight. 

The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories, shows that there are, in fact, three “histories of psychology”:  the history of the experimental “scientific” psychology, (which has tried to crowd out the others);  the history of psychology as therapy – “applied” psychology, in which therapists advanced the understanding of how to help patients;  and the history of psychodynamic theory:  the history of questions like “what is a person?”   “What is the personality?”  “What does it mean to be psychologically healthy?”

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Existential Humanistic Institute conference looking for volunteers


Those who want to attend this year’s annual conference of the Existential Humanistic Institute, which Saybrook is co-sponsoring, have a perfect opportunity to help out and be helped in turn.

The organizers of the conference, which will be held November 19-21st at the First Universalist Unitarian Church and Center in San Francisco, are looking for volunteers to help the event run smoothly.

The theme of the 2009 EHI conference is “From Crisis to Creativity: Necessary Losses, Unexpected Gains.”  The keynote speaker will BE Dr. Robert Stolorow, a world renowned intersubjective
psychoanalyst, and author/coauthor of numerous books including "Working Intersubjectively," "Contexts of Being," "Faces in a Cloud," and his most recent "Trauma and Existence.”

According to organizer Mary Madrigal, a Saybrook psychology alumna, volunteers will be assigned to specific workshops and rooms, and will be seated at the door with a small table. The volunteers will have to monitor attendance, and will assist the workshop instructor with any needs they have, like switching the lights, moving desks, and so on.

Other than that, volunteers are free to listen in and participate in the workshops – and their tickets to the event will be complimentary, in thanks for their service.

“The EHI Conference is shaping up to be an exciting, fun, and educational event that is bringing humanistic existentialists together to examine the dance between loss and gain, between the comfort of the old and the anxiety of the new,” Madrigal said. “This conference will attempt to further our understanding of this dance and the richness and diversity of its movements.”

For more information, or to volunteer, email Mary Madrigal at



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Saybrook University open house set for Oct. 1


The new Saybrook University will hold its first open house this Thursday, Oct. 1, from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in San Francisco.

It will be held at Saybrook’s San Francisco offices, at 747 Front Street, but anyone can join through a webcast.  Intended primarily for prospective students, the event will provide information about all three Saybrook colleges, Saybrook’s many programs, and the humanistic approach to scholarship. 

For more information, or to RSVP, email or call 415 – 403 – 1206.


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Changing more than just stationery: Saybrook to officially become a "University" soon



Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, which already possesses three distinct stand-alone “colleges,” is poised to become Saybrook University by the end of this month.

What’s in a name change?  Shakespeare reminds us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but in this case the upcoming change in signature, stationary, and design reflects a host of other, more substantive, changes, that have already been happening “on the ground.”

For example:

• Saybrook now has three distinct colleges:  the Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies, housing its traditional “legacy” programs in Psychology, Human Science, and Organizational Systems;  its just established Graduate College of Mind-Body Medicine, and LIOS Graduate College, a 40-year old leading institution of experiential-based graduate learning and leadership training, based in Seattle which affiliated with Saybrook early this year.  Though united as one institution, each of these three colleges will have their own distinct learning models.

• With new colleges and new degree programs, Saybrook has seen a substantial increase in enrollment over 2008, anticipated to be more than 50%.

• Saybrook has revitalized its learning technology, creating a whole new cyber-environment (“My Learning”) for instructing courses, offering course materials, and helping students and faculty create an academic community that spans the world.

• An entirely new website, focused on the activities of the Saybrook community “in the world” is expected to launch in late September.  New technology will make it easy to student, faculty, and alumni to compare notes, share information, and create an “academic commons” that combines scholarship with real-world applications.

For all these changes, however, one thing isn’t changing:  the soul of the school.  Saybrook University will remain the global home of humanistic thought, in all its manifestations, inspired by the work of luminaries such as Rollo May, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, James Bugental, Virginia Satir, and many others.  Their work will be carried into new fields, and new forms of human endeavor, for the 21st century, through Saybrook University. 


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Saybrook trustee now blogging for Psychology Today


There are a lot of things Alison Shapiro never thought she’d be, starting with “stroke survivor.”  

But after she had two strokes in 24 hours, she found she had the tools to recover fully – and that changed her life.  Since then she’s become many other things she’d never expected:  an author, a leader in the movement to help others understand their own power to heal, and now a blogger for Psychology Today.  

The name of her blog, “Healing into Possibility” is also the name of her book, and Alison – who is the chair of Saybrook’s Board of Trustees – was offered the blog after a Psychology Today editor received a copy of the work.  It chronicles the lessons Alison learned about the power of intention to transform a life in crisis.

By being present, by focusing on the current moment, by being engaged in your struggles rather than going on auto-pilot, we are capable of tremendous acts of healing and recovery.  Her book covers just how the process can work – and her blog will expand that idea in new ways.

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Saybrook enrollment soars in '09


The newly combined Saybrook University welcomes its first incoming class this fall, 2009, and a robust new student enrollment of between 170 - 175 is anticipated.  This total - the combined total fall '09 enrollment for all colleges - represents significant growth over enrollment for fall 2008.

The exact total has yet to be determined, since several new students were in the process of making  final enrollment decisions as of the time the figures were developed, and won’t officially be counted until they have completed the process.  Final enrollment figures for LIOS Graduate College, whose programs start at the end of September, are also still being tabulated.

“Ultimately, Saybrook’s new enrollment goals were realized by offering diverse, multi-disciplinary programs, building upon our existing programs that provide both personal and career opportunities, and promoting new programs that complement our humanistic missions and core values," said Annie McGeady, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Admissions.  "Our faculty members have been central in this development, and we’re realizing that positive impact”.

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