The Humanities, the World, and the Practice of Psychotherapy¹
A guest post by Michael P. Sipiora, Ph.D.
“What does it take to be a therapist? Being a good person and knowing at least the last 200 years of cultural history.” Tony Barton (personal communication, 1987)
“By historically situating psychotherapy, and thus by acknowledging the ways that psychotherapy has unknowingly substituted for missing community tradition, has provided a covert moral framework about the way of being human, and has obscured the sociopolitical causes of psychological suffering, psychotherapy would model the ability to confront one’s own unconscious contributions to the political and philosophical problems of our time and to be freer to more explicitly present thoughtful, nuanced, moral conceptions of human being” Phillip Cushman (1995, p. 299).
“If you are for the American republic, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, if you are for these things you are against the American empire. The task of the consulting room is in part to keep the pores open to what goes on in the empire. The job of psychotherapy is to keep one suffering the decline of the republic” James Hillman (1992, p. 235).
In the response to the mounting pressure on psychology to conform to the instrumental dictates of STEM disciplines, a Human Science orientation preserves psychology’s essential relationship to the humanities (Sipiora, 2012). Human Science psychologies give credence to the evidence about psychological life, particularly the socio-historical character of human existence, which is provided by the humanities. Such evidence forces our recognition that the distress which clients bring to psychotherapy arises as much from the disorder of the world—the deterioration of the world as hospitable to a meaningful human life—as it does from the individual’s so called “behavioral deficiencies or mental deficits.” The very existence of such individual deficiencies and deficits are, as J.H. van den Berg (1974, 1975) and others contend, conditional upon the disintegration of communal life that began in the early modern period.
Contemporary psychotherapy operates within the space opened by the decay of what David Schwartz (1997, 2014), following the work of Ivan Illich, calls the vernacular: the ways of relating and sense-making that a socio-historical community develops based on perceived natural competencies embedded in tradition and customary practice. Inherent in vernacular life is a manner of reflecting on and engaging with a transcendent ordering in which humans are recognized, situated, and related to everything else—a cosmological sensibility. Because of this, the vernacular contains an indigenous psychology; that is, an implicit sense of the dimension of life that James Hillman (1976) identifies with the soul: the deepening of events into experiences, the connection to death that lies in love and religion, and a sense of the metaphorical, symbolic character of reality. When vernacular practices are intact, there is no need for an explicit psychology much less the practice of psychotherapy. This is not to say that oppression, and the suffering it causes, are non-existent in the vernacular. However, that is a political matter to be addressed within the context of the vernacular, when intact, rather than through psychotherapy.
Contemporary psychotherapy operates in a world increasingly inhospitable to human dwelling. This is the common conclusion researched by several human science psychologies (Schwartz, 1997; Cushman, 1990; van den Berg, 1974; Hillman, 1992). Schwartz’s (1997) community psychology relates the obliteration of vernacular life to the hegemony of institutionalized, instrumental structures. Everyday life is subjugated to impersonal formal processes that emerge from social institutions and market economies. Based on an all-pervasive instrumental rationality in which systems (causally driven, input-output model) are seen to be the only way to get things done, these processes come to exercise a “radical monopoly” on how we relate to others, to nature, and even ourselves. Such processes overwhelm the subsistence orientation of vernacular practices, that is, their enabling people to do things for themselves locally and in relation to their historical learning. Paradoxical counterproductivity, as Illich calls it (v. Schwartz, 1997), sets in as these formal systems reach a certain threshold of size and influence. Think of smart phones. Just as Illich argues that our medicine makes us sick and our schools make us stupid, our instant, constant technologically mediated communication leaves us more alone than ever, unconnected to either ourselves or to one another, and now distant from the immediate engagements of embodied encounter that once offered potential communion.
What is lost, as informal vernacular practices are supplanted by instrumental systems, is the where with all to “deal with fragility of life” that Illich identifies with culture and the shared understandings that connect people to one another and in terms of which they support each other in facing “pain, sickness, and death” (quoted in Schwartz, 1997, p. 84). Bereft of intact cultural understandings and accompanying vernacular practices, people are alone, isolated and vulnerable, longing for the sense of belonging and place that comes from community.
Working within a hermeneutic perspective, Cushman (1990) cites the emptiness that arises from “a significant absence of community, tradition, and shared meaning” (p. 79) as the underlying condition that leads to the illnesses that people bring into psychotherapy. Experiencing this emptiness as something wrong with them, people are plagued with “a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger” that they seek, unsuccessfully, to satisfy through consumption and then suffer in the form of a variety of psychological distress from low self-esteem to eating disorders and substance abuse. Believing that human existence is always historically embedded and culturally configured, Cushman identifies Western modernity with the “bounded, masterful, isolated individual” (p.18) and then argues that in post WWII America a specific version of this kind of individual, the “empty self” (p. 73) has been cultivated by a consumer economy aided by psychology and advertising. Advertising offers, and then psychology supports, what he calls “the lifestyle solution” (p. 80) to the self-contained emptiness in which product consumption is purported to compensate for the relational isolation and lack of meaningful engagement prevalent in a contemporary life. And this is not to mention the racial discrimination and economic oppression that Cushman shows to be prominent issues in the configuration of the self in America.
Phenomenology, in van den Berg’s (1975) historical version, asserts that anomie, a term borrowed from Durkheim to refer to social “derangement,” ultimately gives rise to the loneliness and fear that reside at the heart of psychopathology. The particular derangement undergone by Western society since the eighteenth century is one in which all modes of relatedness have been leveled down to the calculative, the quantifiable, the functional. Any other kinds of sense making are precluded from the realm of social discourse and thereby, in their being repressed, become unconscious. Referring to this leveling as the “secularization” of modern life van den Berg (1970/71) notes that “what remained was…everyday life with little reflection, few ideals, without constant awareness of life and death” (p. 354). When the social order undergoes such profound fragmentation and loses its cohesion, life is cut loose from any moorings that transcend mundane functioning and the individual experiences multiple selves absent a synthesizing context that might mediate the estrangement of such a divided existence. The inevitable outcome is the loneliness that plagues contemporary life and then close upon that, notes van den Berg, is fear.
Hillman’s (1992) archetypal psychology hears the distress of the world in clients’ symptoms. He argues that the deadening of the world, through reductive literalisms, leads to the individual’s suffering of the culture’s breakdowns. Foremost among such literalisms Hillman counts “positivistic science (geneticism and computerism), economics (bottom-line capitalism) and single-minded faith (fundamentalism)” (1999, p. xxiv) holding them complicit in a producing a “dead and ugly world” and its ever increasing “brutal uniformity and degradation of quality” (1992, p. 92). Citing his own clinical practice, he asserts that “the distortion of communication, the sense of harassment and alienation, the depravation of intimacy with the immediate environment, the feelings of false values and inner worthlessness experienced relentlessly in our communal habitation are realistic appraisals and not merely apperceptions of our intra-subjective selves” (1982, p. 93). They are, for Hillman, realistic appraisals of the world without soul and the soul not having a place in the world (1992, p. 95).
Each of these perspectives offers a diagnosis of the world as antagonistic to the life of community, to human relatedness, to soulful dwelling. In light of this diagnosis, how do we engage in the practice of psychotherapy? This is the question with which I have struggled for over 25 years as a therapist and as a professor in graduate programs in clinical psychology. I believe it is both one of the most pressing and the most difficult questions we face as clinical psychologists. How do we avoid either unintentionally colluding with oppressive social forces or unconsciously foisting social issues on to individuals? How do we support individuals in bearing the suffering that comes from the world into which they are thrown? How do we empower a response that liberates clients to a more humane way of living?
First and foremost, I believe that we have to let go of the professional vision of psychotherapy as a kind of programmatic problem-solving, based on STEM disciplines, that can be empirically shown to enhance client’s coping skills and develop hardiness (operationally defined in terms of control, commitment, and challenge). We have to abstain from the project of fixing people—even though that is often precisely what they say they want—while nonetheless being of service to them in responding to their lives. We have to avoid, as diligently as we are able, the calculative/instrumental thinking operative in the professional view of psychotherapy and its valorization of the self-contained individualism that reflects and reproduces the very world that is the condition for its distress (Cushman, 1990). In place of the current professional vision, we need to envision alternative approaches to thinking about and practicing a genuinely liberating therapy.
In addition to their common diagnosis of the world’s disorder, all of the psychologists I just discussed also believe that what is healing in psychotherapy is the relationship with the therapist and the healing that the relationship makes possible is a narrative reconfiguration of clients’ engagement with their lives. In what follows, I wish to add to this understanding the notion of psychotherapy as a virtuous practice, in the sense advocated by Schwartz, of a moral discourse, a la Cushman, that works within what van den Berg calls the spiritual domain, and follows Hillman in cultivating an aesthetic response attuned to calling and character. Let me repeat: the notion of psychotherapy as a virtuous practice of a moral discourse that works within the spiritual domain and cultivates an aesthetic response attuned to calling and character.
A Notion of Psychotherapy
I’ll begin with Cushman’s (2005a) recognition of the “moral character” (p. 415) of therapeutic discourse in so far as what is at issue is the implicit understanding of what it means to be a person. Accompanying this is an awareness of the prevalence of the discourse of self-contained individualism that, in its reduction of psychological distress to trauma and addiction, ignores the oppressive political and economic configuration of the cultural “clearing”—the socio-historical context. Cushman (2005b) utilizes Heidegger’s image of “the clearing” as way to grasp that the client’s experience as generated by “the embodied moral understandings and political arrangements that frame” the world (p. 439) particularly the part inhabited by the client. This then affords the client the dignity of being able to deliberately sift-through such understandings. These understandings become the third, “the ever present, interpenetrating social realm” (p. 350), in Cushman’s third person psychology, his relational psychoanalysis—a psychoanalysis that makes the hermeneutic turn of understanding the individual within a social horizon. From this perspective, Cushman envisions therapy as a place where liberatory engagement takes the form of dialogue.
But here’s the rub, the terms necessary for such a dialogue, the terms required to sort through the moral and political understandings of the clearing—value, meaning, existential relevance and purpose, i.e., the terms in which being human makes sense—reside in what van den Berg (1971) identifies as the repressed unconscious of our socio-historical clearing, the spiritual domain. The spiritual domain comprises the realm of ideals and reflection, the place of what makes us go beyond the “individual and the selfish” (p. 353), the house of mortality and the sanctuary of the sacred. Simply put, the spiritual, in van den Berg’s particular formulation, is the qualitative dimension of experiences that exceeds the merely practical and functional. This is the domain historically explored by the humanities whose modes of value-laden sense making are now discounted as essentially arbitrary and thus merely subjective—the result of the process of secularization noted earlier.
The spiritual domain configures social existence in affording reasons—answers to the “why” and “should” questions—that are super ordinate to the practical capacities and functional powers granted by our secularized technology. Without a transcendent dimension, a sense making beyond the functional explanation provide by instrumental rationality, social life devolves into anomie, normlessness.
In the midst of a disordered world, the client, according to van den Berg (1971), is looking for her or his place—place in the sense of the relatedness necessary to dwell, to engage in a distinctively human life of meaningful interactions in which differences matter. The therapist, who too experiences the confusion and alienation of a chaotic social existence, does not know the client’s place. But the therapist does know that state of the world and bears witness to it in relating to the client. On that basis, the therapist stands with the client in qualitatively differentiating the character of the client’s experience. In this relationship the client is no longer so alone—recall that van den Berg (1972) identifies loneliness as that the heart of psychopathology—but stands with the therapist within the repressed spiritual domain. In this domain, the differences that mark the client’s life are offered a context. Differences in talent and temperament, differences of emotional sensitivity and physical ability, differences in capacities of discernment and styles of sense-making all find a place to matter in the therapeutic relationship even while their weight is problematic in the world. To help recognize the difference that these differences make, to see through them as marking the client’s character, I turn to Hillman.
In his view, we have had a century of psychotherapy and world has gotten worse (Hillman and Ventura, 1993). Psychology’s literal interpretations of shallow ideas, instrumentally applied in the therapy profession, have “dulled” the way we imagine our lives (Hillman, 1996). Both the ideas and their enactment have led, and here Hillman and Cushman are in full agreement, to our disempowerment as citizens as we have been preoccupied with the traumas and addictions of our inner children (Hillman, 1996, 1993). On the other side of van den Berg’s disallowed spiritual unconscious, Hillman (1995) sights an economic unconscious in the unquestioned, taken for granted ordering of the practical and the functional that pervades our socio-historical clearing. He indicts, as noted earlier, bottom line capitalism for its reductive, destructive, tyrannical hold on our ways of making sense of ourselves and the world around us (1999, p. xxiv). And he is quick to remind us that while “Therapy pushes the relationship issues… what intensifies these issues is that we don’t have (a) satisfactory work or (b), even more important perhaps, we don’t have a satisfactory political community” (Hillman, 1993, p. 13). Hillman doesn’t pull any punches when he charges that “If therapy imagines its task to be that of helping people cope (and not to protest), to adapt (and not rebel) to normalize their oddity, and to accept themselves ‘and work within your situation; make it work for you’ (rather than refuse the unacceptable), then therapy is collaborating with what the state wants: docile plebes” (1992, p. 156).
But let me get back to the differences that mark the client’s experience. Central to archetypal psychology is the encounter with the world as a metaphorical, psychological reality that gives weight and value, depth and meaning to our experience. It is this reality—inclusive of its social historical configuration, critically understood—that lays claim on us, and our experience gets its characteristics in response to these claims. Hillman’s (1992) prescription of an aesthetic response involves the differentiation of an inherent intelligibility within the qualitative pattern of events. In attending to this intelligibility we are engaged with the “what-kinded-ness” of that which we encounter; we recognize things in their qualitative dimension, their presence as something to be embraced, avoided or resisted, cultivated or destroyed, contemplated or acted upon, admired or detested. What we encounter matters and its claim figures us, makes of us characters enacting a meaningful relationship that unfolds as a story within our lives. Claim becomes a calling in how we receive and respond to it. Our character, according to Hillman (1999), is the “plural complexity” (p. 32) of all the characters we have played in the course of our lives. Taken in this way, the idea of character, which van den Berg would contend belongs in the spiritual domain, provides a frame of reference for imagining the differences that mark the client’s experience.
To envision therapy other than through instrumental reason, to find its worth in the spiritual domain and not relegate it to economic concerns, requires that we attend to its inherent value—what Illich calls the “virtuous practice” (quoted in Schwartz, 1997, p. 129) of a healing art. Rather than evaluate it as a mere means to an end, appraising psychotherapy’s virtuous character, its particular excellence, requires assessing it as neither a means nor as an end in itself, but rather according to how it shows itself within its “clearing” as a socio-historically configured practice. As such a practice, the question is: what is it for the sake of?
Illich, as recounted by Schwartz (1997), outlines such a practice as follows: First, “Be integral to the culture of a particular place and not be displaced by professionalism or economics” (p. 129). This directive involves, among other things, resisting the commoditization of psychotherapy. It is an injunction to conduct the business of psychotherapy within, as much as possible, the community that the therapist shares with the client. Yet, this is not an easy thing to do in an era of managed care in which the business of therapy, inclusive of the psychologist’s activities and livelihood, is vulnerable to the demands of third parties from government regulators to insurance companies. However, rejection of professional-ism is within our power. Professional-ism, as instruction on how to conduct the business of psychotherapy, is tied to competencies, demanded by accreditation and licensure requirements, that are in turn infused with dictates and directives predicated upon and in the service of perpetuating the symbiotic relationship between self-contained individualism and contemporary political arrangements of power and wealth. Professional-ism’s version of psychotherapy, as a kind of programmatic problem-solving, based on STEM disciplines, translates into competency in evidence-based practices that while acquiescent to consumer and insurance requests for rapid symptom reduction, likely assures us of return business (after Freud we cannot claim ignorance of the return of the repressed or the migration of symptoms) and also assures that the hegemony of economic functionality (the regiment of content consumption and efficient work) continues to repress the spiritual dimension essential to the culture of a particular place.
To be integral to that culture requires both a critical awareness of the economic unconscious noted by Hillman and cultivation of a local sensibility that appreciates the interconnections between economy, environment, and community. For example, recognizing that in our cultural clearing, contrary to the dictates of advertising and the “life style solution” to individual emptiness, we have gone beyond the point, as environmental activist McKibben has argued, at which more is necessarily better. The pursuit of continued economic growth of the type in which we are currently engaged increases political inequities, outstrips the environment’s capacity to sustain, erodes the local fiber of community, and has not proven to be a viable path to happiness (McKibben, p. 11). To do psychotherapy in a manner that is integral to the cultural of a particular place requires a reflective awareness of what constitutes the local—such as the principles of neighborhood and subsistence propounded by writer and farmer Wendell Berry—and a concrete familiarity with a specific locality. Like knowing the character of neighborhood life in parts of Pittsburgh or the stratification of social interaction in a place like Santa Barbara, or the historical development of ethnic communities in LA.
Second, advises Illich, “Pursue intervention with the hand of a ‘reluctant surgeon’” (1997, p. 129). All good therapists know the importance of listening closely and carefully before interpreting. It is imperative to bear witness to the reality of the client’s experience within its context, within the client’s particular location within the socio-historical clearing, and to make sure that the configuration of the clearing is taken account of in the interpretation.
With that in mind, it seems both just and therapeutic to appropriately normalize, rather than pathologize, clients’ experiences in accord with their circumstances, and to do so without minimizing their suffering or discounting their distress. Indeed, their suffering often bears witness to their humanity and serves to mark their character as in the case of veteran’s PTSD, mothers’ anxiety, or the grief of the bereaved as Cushman has so movingly argued. Affirming their emotional pain or painful perception as reasonable, that is, as making sense under the circumstances, can help relieve clients of the crippling belief that there is something wrong with them—that they should be stronger, smarter, more “together,” more in control, hardier— and can appropriately direct their attention beyond just themselves to the clearing and the state of affairs that gives rise to the distress. The therapeutic question can then shift from repairing a deficit to a deeper appreciation of the meaning and import of their experience as being both about them and the world in which they live.
Consideration of the kinds of relating available in the clearing leads to Illich’s third point. “Constantly ask if it is stimulating native healing capacities or replacing them” (Schwartz 1997, p. 129). A conscientious professional practice of therapy supports vernacular life and its activities rather than introduces functionally oriented problem solving strategies. It works with clients to identify and connect with the vestiges of the vernacular may reside within their everyday engagements. These might include the wisdom of faith teachings, the lessons in family stories, encounters with the abiding power of nature, the orienting power of rituals from the ceremonial character of Sunday’s dinner to the gathering at the high school football game, or any number of informal activities that embraced the interconnectedness of a people and a place, and the interdependence of generations, and the continuing relationship to ancestors. Therapy can provide support and encouragement for clients to explore these practices as sites in which their own capacities for meaningful discourse and action might come to light.
However, “stimulating native healing capacities” rather than “replacing them” (Schwartz 1997, p. 129) is not the same as unquestioningly affirming the vernacular. Often it is such activities themselves—for example, the oppressive gender roles, demeaning hierarchies, or straight out malice on display at the Sunday dinner—which have played significant roles in generating the client’s suffering. What is called for is critical engagement that recognizes the play of both repression and oppression in the remnants of the vernacular. This includes questions about who gains and at whose expense, questions of individual and communal interest, and questions about just how “healing” or “native” is the vernacular practice.
In addition to remnants of the vernacular, native healing capacities can also appear within cultural currents that move in directions other than the status quo. Therapy needs therefore to be open to and appreciative of emerging sensibilities and alternative relationships and activities that value differences of class, gender, race, and sexuality in ways that challenge the “moral understandings and political arrangements that frame the clearing” (Cushman, p. 439). While they also need to be subjected to the questions of power and interest addressed to the vernacular, in such sensibilities may be found the imaginative, complex, plural, and erotic relatedness, as Romanyshyn’s hopes for a new cultural psychology (1989, p. 226), that generates realizable possibilities that go beyond the historical givens of self-contained individualism. In his recent essay, “Donald Trump and the Ghost of Totalitarianism,” Henry Giroux laments the
retreat into private silos [of consumerism] has resulted in the inability of individuals to connect their personal suffering with larger public issues. Thus detached from any concept of the common good or viable vestige of the public realm, they are left to face alone a world of increasing precarity and uncertainty in which it becomes difficult to imagine anything other than how to survive. Under such circumstances, there is little room for thinking critically and acting collectively in ways that are imaginative and courageous. (2015)
Therapy can promote clients finding solidarity with, connection to others who suffer from the same conditions. Not the personal connection of an anger management or 12 step groups where people share their same individual problems but rather the political associations that arise from groups making common cause in responding to suffering arising from the same source in “larger public issues” and a shared dedication to change something in the world.
And that takes us to Illich’s last directive, to “Actually help” (Schwartz 1997, p. 129). What Cushman, van den Berg, and Hillman all demand is that we recognize that what actually does not help is colluding with de-formative social forces or foisting social problems on to individuals. They recognize that the therapist’s obligation to respond to the client’s suffering is always informed by the interpretation of the client’s symptoms. Mindfulness of the socio-historical dimensions of these symptoms gives rise to considerations of dignity and justice, rather than mere expediency in symptom reduction. Such considerations include but also reach beyond the individual into the world.
Part of what actually helps is that, on the strength of their relationship with the therapist, clients are able to critically engage their suffering. One way in which this happens is by way of the critique of experience provided in the therapist’s interpretation. Going all the way back to Freud, therapists’ interpretations serve to unmask distortions and deceptions, concealed agendas, and unconscious dynamics that are present in the client’s lived experience. Of course this is no easy task. One doesn’t offer an interpretation until the moment when the client can see things for her or his self, yet awareness of the socio-political configuration of the clearing is not readily within the client’s grasp. Indeed such awareness is denied in the hegemony of economic functionality, a part of the repressed spiritual unconscious of our clearing. The praxis question is how does the therapist’s bearing witness to the client’s contextual experience serve to bring this awareness to consciousness? I believe such witnessing involves a critique that follows the clients’ symptoms, their suffering, to point out the contradictions between the effective reality of their experience and its moral and political configuration within their place in the clearing.
Think of a client who is a rising executive in a highly competitive tech industry who experiences anxiety and panic symptoms. She comes to therapy to for help—she doesn’t want to be anxious anymore. Consider the contradictions that run rampant between the widespread goal of business success and the effective reality of being successful in her industry—the stress, the inevitable imbalance between life and work, the physical toll exacted by compromised nutrition and physical inactivity, the desensitization and depersonalization accruing from the institutionalized incivility of competitive business culture. And then there is the sexism that plagues the work place. Yes, it’d be a good thing for her to relieve stress through physical exercise and stress reduction techniques, to consume a balanced diet, and to reprioritize and better manage her life. However, does this actually help? Yes, there can be a decrease in immediate distress especially when there is an accompanying exploration of personal issues that impact upon success. Yes these things can help her live her life, but at the same time, from the perspective of the clearing, this is helping the successful remain successful while compensating for the cost of that success. I am contending that what is also required is a response to the world that the symptom discloses. This response calls into question, challenges rather than compensates for, the nature of success. What would actually help the person and their world is a moral response to the issue of how to be in relation to what the symptom discloses about success in the world today. Not just the price of success, as one might common sensibly assume, but the nature of success as it is constellated within the economic, political, and moral agendas of the clearing. In this case, as Hillman asserts, “the job of therapy, in part, becomes one of keeping you acutely conscious of the dysfunctional society” (1992, p. 235).
In place of the ultimately conformist mantra of “working within your situation; and making it work for you,” there can emerge a consideration of a “good life” within the world as it is today —in the sense of a genuinely human life as the client comes to define it. However, difficulty defining the “good life” is part of what is so problematic about life today. Which returns us to the concern with which we began for it is precisely in the humanities that we have a dialogue, but of course not the only one, about the good life, discussion of what makes us human and life worth living, reflection on the joys and sorrow, and historical realities that distinguish such a life. Psychologies informed by the humanities, and not only the STEM disciplines, are better prepared to assist clients in making a place for such question in their lives. While is it certainly not for the therapist to answer these questions for the client, it is essential, if we pay attention to the client’s suffering, for the therapy to raise it.
Psychotherapy is a moral discourse, because the good life involves the clients’ reflection on who they are as a person. Psychotherapy occurs within the repressed spiritual domain because it is only within that domain that such reflection has context and substance. Psychotherapy cultivates an aesthetic response because such a response empowers clients to qualitatively differentiate their experience in terms of what claims them and who they might be called to be. And with all of this necessarily belongs a sober critical awareness of the derangement that pervades the clearing in which both the therapist and client struggle to dwell. When psychotherapy is practiced for the sake of concerns other than these, it not only lacks virtue, I would question whether it is genuinely psychological or truly therapeutic.
 Earlier versions of this talk were presented in the symposium “The Humanities, Psychotherapy, and the Postmodern World” at the American Psychological Association Convention, Honolulu, HI 2013, and as the keynote address for the conference “Philosophical Psychology—Implications for the Academy, the Clinic, and the Commons,” Duquesne University, PA 2014.
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Dr. Michael P. Sipiora is the Director of Research for the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology Program. He joined the Pacifica faculty after spending over twenty years as a tenured professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh where he was an award winning teacher in both their APA approved clinical program in Human Science Psychology, and School for Leadership and Professional Advancement. Before that, he taught psychology, philosophy, and literature at community colleges in Dallas.
The author of numerous peer reviewed articles, book chapters, and an edited book, areas of Dr. Sipiora’s teaching and publication include existential-phenomenological psychology and philosophy, archetypal psychology, hermeneutics, classical rhetoric, and narrative theory. He earned a Bachelors and Masters in Philosophy at San Jose State University where his studies focused on phenomenology with an emphasis on the work of Martin Heidegger. His Masters and Doctorial studies in psychology with a concentration in literature were carried out at the University of Dallas.
Dr. Sipiora is a licensed clinical psychologist in both Pennsylvania and California, and he has a wide range of clinical experience in both private and community mental health settings. Currently he has a therapy practice in Santa Barbara. While in Pittsburgh, he was co-founder of an organizational development and individual coaching company that worked with small business, non-profits, and educational institutions.