Alumni Spotlight: Kirk Schneider
Some Thoughts on an Integrative Humanistic Psychology
Kirk J. Schneider, Ph.D.
From AHP Perspective June/July 2005, p. 8
Humanistic psychology needs to move toward serious cultural and professional integration. By this I mean that in order for humanistic psychology to survive, let alone thrive, it needs to be much more proactive. It needs to reach across many more chasms of cultural and professional divides, if it is to live up to its founding impulse to re-vision and reenergize mainstream American psychology.
As I emphasized in The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, “we stand at an incredible threshold in our discipline….The question is, will we coalesce…to forge a generous science of humanity, or will we devolve into a competing anarchy of factions, or worse yet, a monolithic elite?” (p. 672).
This is not a time to either factionalize or close ranks—the outcome in both instances will mean our demise. This is a time for recognizing our great legacies of existential, transpersonal, and constructivist theorizing, but also, concomitantly, our common ground, not only among these great legacies, but among related and even divergent legacies. For example, existential and transpersonal oriented psychologists often squabble about the nature and meaning of transcendence, but they both share a curiosity and indeed zeal about investigating that nature and meaning. Advocates of holistic therapies largely differ with those who advance manualized or medicalized therapies, but they collectively recognize that from a consumerist standpoint, they each have a valued position. Finally, supporters of phenomenological methodologies frequently clash with adherents of quantitative-experimental paradigms, but as a growing number of researchers have shown, the respective approaches can complement and indeed counterbalance each other. To concretize this proposal, consider the collaboration between a social phenomenologist and a neuroscientist. The neuroscientist could map out the brain activity of a stress reaction, which could in turn lead to medication, which, in its turn, could help people to cope. The social phenomenologist, on the other hand, could investigate the experience of the stress reaction, unpack its personal and cultural dimensions, and facilitate an even hardier remedy.
The upshot of this elaboration is that cutting-edge humanistic psychology is an integrative psychology. It is a psychology that can reach out and bridge with a diversity of viewpoints, but which does not lose the fulcrum, the incarnate person, through whom all the viewpoints must pass. Put another way, humanistic psychology focuses on what it means to be fully, experientially human, and how that understanding illuminates the vital or fulfilled life; it “embraces all dimensions of human awareness and subawareness but particularly as those have “meaning, impact, and significance for each given person” (p. 673). Like our humanistic forebears, contemporary humanists prize the heart or personal dimension of human experience, but unlike them, we now have the benefit of an expanded insight into our personalism, such as a recognition of its interdependence with the socio-economic system, its linkage to being or spirit, and its tie to tragic limitation, along side of and beyond the autonomous self.
The key here is depth and subtlety of inquiry; not preemptory definitiveness.
In short, the new humanistic psychology reflects an expanded psychology of humanity. It has the tools and resources necessary for a sweeping cultural and professional reformation. Now it needs to demonstrate those tools, showing just how a “heart-based” approach can augment “established” subfields—from the psychology of development to the psychology of religion, and from psychotherapy to biopsychology. The next task is to invite dialogue—meetings, papers, collaborations—with all who are within hearing distance, but it is up to us to amplify our voice.
KIRK J. SCHNEIDER, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and leading spokesperson for contemporary humanistic psychology. He is current editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vice-president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute, and adjunct faculty at Saybrook Graduate School and the California Institute of Integral Studies. He is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Schneider has published over 100 articles and chapters and has authored or edited eight books, The Paradoxical Self: Toward an Understanding of Our Contradictory Nature, Horror and the Holy: Wisdom-teachings of the Monster Tale, The Psychology of Existence: An Integrative, Clinical Perspective (with Rollo May; currently being translated into Chinese), The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Research and Practice (with J. Bugental and F. Pierson), Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, mystery, and the fluid center of life, and Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy: Guideposts to the Core of Practice (currently being translated into Russian). Dr. Schneider is the 2004 recipient of the Rollo May award for "outstanding and independent pursuit of new frontiers in humanistic psychology" from the Humanistic Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association and is the 2009 recipient of the Living Institute "Cultural Innovator Award." Most recently, Dr. Schneider conducted Existential Therapy and Existential-Humanistic Therapy Over Time for an APA video series on psychotherapy (www.apa.org/videos) and with Dr. Ed Mendelowitz, completed the chapter on Existential Psychotherapy for Corsini and Wedding's Current Psychotherapies (8th ed.). Dr. Schneider's most recent books are: Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound Transformation (Jason Aronson, 2009), and Existential-Humanistic Therapy (co-authored with Dr. Orah Krug), which is due to be published in September, 2009 by the American Psychological Association as part of their monograph series on the major orientations in the field. Dr. Schneider has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the first Existential Psychology East West Conference in Nanjing, China 2010.
Major recent interviews on "Rediscovery of Awe" can be heard on San Francisco Bay Area's KQED Radio program "Forum" with Michael Krasny (see archives at www.kqed.org) and San Francisco Pacifica Radio's "Spirit in Action" program with Reverend Matthew Fox (see archives if still available www.kpfa.org). His talk on "Psychotherapy and the Mystery of Being," which was filmed by Canadian public television station TVO can be seen on You Tube.