Saybrook faculty member Dr. Louis Hoffman is a widely recognized luminary in the field of existential psychology. The author/editor of five books (including Existential Psychology East-West, Brilliant Sanity: Buddhist Approaches to Psychotherapy, and Spirituality and Psychological Health), he also contributed chapters to many volumes, including Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy: Guideposts to the Core of Practice, Whole Person Healthcare, and Explaining Evil. He serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Humanistic Psychology and PsycCRITIQUES. Additionally, he is the recent past-president of the Society of Humanistic Psychology (Division 32) of the American Psychological Association.
For those who are interested in taking a humanistic approach to psychology, studying people as people rather than as neurochemicals, reflexes, and synapses, Hoffman says there’s probably no better place than Saybrook.
“Humanistic psychology has helped provide a corrective to mainstream psychology through its leadership in establishing an international coalition critiquing problems with the DSM-5, particularly its focus on pathologizing individuals and the role this plays in excessive reliance on medication for the treatment of psychological challenges,” he says. “And Saybrook, it could be argued, is the most influential school in the history of humanistic psychology. We were founded by many of the founders of humanistic psychology. Furthermore, we have always maintained many of the most influential leaders in the humanistic psychology movement at Saybrook as part of our faculty.”
In addition to his research and publishing interests, Dr. Hoffman is frequently consulted by students ready to take the next step in their careers, such as practicums and internships.
“Practicums and internships can be challenging, particularly in regard to one’s approach to therapy”, Hoffman’ says. “Because practicum and internship sites tend to be more conservative in terms of training models and approaches, you may experience more prejudice against humanistic psychology in practicum and internship than what is typical in the field today.”
Hoffman suggests gaining fluency in as many approaches to psychology as possible – and learning how other approaches can be “grounded” in humanistic-integrative psychology. “When on your practicum and internship, if you find challenges with your approach, be thoughtful in picking your battles and learn from the different approaches”, he says. “Just because they do not fit with you does not mean that they are not value and good to learn.”
Flexibility to training sites may open wider opportunities. “After you have graduated you will have more freedom to pursue your own approaches and values”, Hoffman states. “It is good to have a support team in place in case you face these challenges. Know you are not alone and that your peers and professors can help provide support.”
The most important thing, though, is to be true to yourself. “I think one of the most important is that it is good to recognize, appreciate, and value the different approaches to psychology and how each can be helpful”, Hoffman says. “However, in the end, you will be most successful as a therapist if you follow your passion and values. Believing in what you do is a big part of successful outcomes. Don’t buy into anyone with a sales pitch of, ‘You have to do this or that to be successful in this field’.”
For more information, visit www.saybrook.edu/academic-affairs/areas/cp