Education and Training for Therapists

Existential Psychotherapy Center 
of Southern California

Raison d’Etre
The purpose of the Existential Psychotherapy Center of Southern California is to provide a structured professional training program where distinguished and diverse existentially-oriented scholar/practitioners share their unique clinical experience, knowledge and wisdom. The center is open to advanced graduate students, interns, psychological assistants, as well as fully licensed and seasoned psychotherapists desiring deeper exposure to the philosophical tenets and formal training in the clinical application of existential psychotherapy. 

With today’s mental health marketplace dominated by increasingly superficial forms of treatment, the profession of psychotherapy itself faces an existential crisis as it struggles for survival.  Fortunately, such existential crises potentiate the opportunity to grow and evolve: to recreate ourselves.  We believe that a fruitful integration of equally valuable yet sometimes seemingly antithetical treatment orientations is required to carry psychotherapy creatively into the future as a thriving, vital, relevant healing art. 

The Existential Psychotherapy Center of Southern California is committed to the theoretical and practical reconciliation of psychoanalytic, Jungian, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and even psychopharmacological therapies with an existential orientation to treatment.  As such, the Existential Psychotherapy Center of Southern California offers a unique, conciliatory rapprochement between contemporary treatment approaches and existential psychotherapy in its intimate seminars, workshops, and post-graduate clinical training.

Clinical Faculty
Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D.
Nassir Ghaemi, M.D.
Tom Greening, Ph.D.
Louis Hoffman, Ph.D.
Alan Karbelnig, Ph.D.
Orah Krug, Ph.D.
E. James Lieberman, M.D.
Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.

More About Existential Psychotherapy
Existential psychotherapy is based upon the principles of both humanistic and existential psychology, the latter being a movement with roots in the existential philosophy and writings of  Heidegger, Husserl, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Camus, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others. During the mid-twentieth century, European clinicians like Otto Rank, Karl Jaspers, Medard Boss, and Ludwig Binswanger were among the first to apply existential principles to the practice of psychotherapy, followed prominently by Viktor Frankl (Vienna), R.D. Laing (London), Rollo May and Irvin Yalom (United States).

Existential psychotherapy is often misperceived as some morbid, arcane, pessimistic, impractical, cerebral orientation to treatment. In fact, it is an exceedingly practical, concrete, positive and flexible approach.  At its best, existential psychotherapy squarely and soberly confronts the "ultimate concerns" (Tillich) and sometimes tragic "existential facts of life": death, finitude, fate, freedom, responsibility, loneliness, loss, suffering, meaninglessness, evil and the daimonic (May and Diamond). Existential psychotherapy is concerned with more deeply comprehending and alleviating as much as possible (without naively denying reality and la condition humaine) pervasive postmodern symptoms such as excessive anxiety, apathy, alienation, nihilism, avoidance, shame, addiction, despair, depression, guilt, anger, rage, resentment, embitterment, purposelessness, madness (psychosis) and violence, as well as promoting the meaningful, life-enhancing experiences of relationship, love, caring, commitment, courage, creativity, power, will, presence, spirituality, individuation, self-actualization, authenticity, acceptance, transcendence, and awe. 

As consumers are increasingly confronted with the very real limitations of what managed mental health care, ever-briefer therapy and ubiquitous psychopharmacology can provide, existential psychotherapy is enjoying some resurgence. As Rollo May (1986) warned, whenever you perceive a person merely as a particular diagnostic disorder, neurological deficit, biochemical imbalance, cognitive schema, set of behavioral patterns, genetic predisposition, collection of complexes, or "as a composite of drives and deterministic forces, you have defined for study everything except the one to whom these experiences happen, everything except the existing person him [or her] self" (p. 25). Existential psychotherapy strives to empower and place the person–and his or her existential choices–back at the center of the therapeutic process. To cite Sartre on this subject: "We are our choices.”

While the techniques of existential psychotherapy can include Freudian, Jungian, Gestalt, cognitive, behavioral or other methods, the fundamental technique shared by all existential therapists is phenomenology. Phenomenology refers to the conscious setting aside of preconceptions and dogma in an effort to discover the client’s or patient’s actual subjective experience or "being" (Dasein). It is through this that the true experience, will and intentionality of the patient at any given moment may be discerned, understood, and appropriately responded to by the therapist. The focus of treatment is on the present, here-and-now, current circumstance, rather than exclusively on early formative influences. While the power of the past and of unconsciousness-- those aspects of ourselves of which we are unable or unwilling to become aware-- to influence the present detrimentally is recognized and addressed as it arises in treatment, the patient’s subjective experience of self (“I am”) and of the therapeutic encounter is of primary importance.

Choice, personal and social responsibility, integrity of the personality, courage, and authentically facing rather than escaping existential anxiety, anger and guilt are central features of existential psychotherapy. The existential therapist is not confined to the passive, neutral, anonymous and interpretive role of the psychoanalyst. The courage and commitment to truly and genuinely encounter each unique patient is required by the existential therapist, who must not avoid his or her own anxiety by hiding behind a rigid professional persona or rote therapeutic technique. In existential therapy, the human relationship between patient and therapist takes precedence over technical tricks, and, as now corroborated by research, is the basic healing factor in any psychotherapy. Coming to terms with reality-- and one’s own inner "demons"-- without denying, avoiding or sugar-coating it is key to existential therapy. As Rollo May, the American “father” of existential psychotherapy pithily put it: "I do not believe in toning down the daimonic. This gives a sense of false comfort. The real comfort can come only in the relationship of the therapist and the client or patient" (Diamond, 1996, p. xxii).  This compassionate, shared, professional yet profoundly personal human relationship provides both the structured, supportive container and potent existential catalyst for therapeutic transformation.

The above excerpt has been derived and adapted from:
Diamond, S.A. (2009). "What is existential therapy?" In D.A. Leeming, K. Madden, & S. Marlan (Eds.) Encyclopedia of psychology and religion (pp. 304-305). New York, NY: Springer Verlag.
With reference to:
Diamond, S.A. (1996/2007). Anger, madness, and the daimonic: The psychological genesis of violence, evil, and creativity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 
May, R. (1983/86). The discovery of being: Writings in existential psychology. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

© Copyright 2010 by Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Existential Psychotherapy Center 
of Southern California


These professional seminars are presented by the Existential Psychotherapy Center of Southern California, a post-graduate training program for mental health professionals. The EPCSC is a fully approved provider of Mandatory Continuing Education by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (# PCE 4795) and 
the MCEP Accrediting Agency (# EXI 002) in California. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  For multi-session seminars (such as Existential Psychotherapy: Theory and Practice), Board of Psychology and MCEP regulations mandate that licensed psychologists must register for the entire course of sessions and attend at least 80% of all seminar sessions to earn any CE credit for attending.  This means that psychologists CANNOT currently receive partial credit for attending any one meeting by itself.  However, BBS regulations permit MFTs and LCSWs to attend individual sessions if they choose not to register for the entire seminar.  No partial credit for late arrivals (more than five minutes) or early departures will be permitted.  In order to receive credit, tuition must be paid in full, and each registrant must sign in, attend the seminar, fill out the course evaluation form, and sign out.  Failure to do so forfeits credits.  No exceptions will be made.

Non-Discrimination Policy: All appropriate registrants are welcome without regard to gender, race, national or ethnic origin, sexual (or psychotherapeutic) orientation, religion or disability. 

Disability Access: If you require ADA accommodations, please contact our office at least thirty (30) days prior to a seminar, and we will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations. However, we cannot ensure that all accommodation requests can be met. 

Late Registration: For registrations received less than two weeks prior to a seminar, add 10% to your registration fee for the entire course. Early registration is strongly encouraged, since seminars are limited to 10 registrants only. We can accept registration for single sessions up to the day prior to that meeting, but only if space permits. No same-day registration is possible. 

Refund/Cancellation Policy: Each seminar must have a minimum of six registrants. Seminars without six registrants 30 days prior to starting may be cancelled, and full tuition refunded. If for any other reason a seminar must be cancelled by EPCSC beyond that point, it will be rescheduled, and registrants will be credited to take the rescheduled seminar or may apply their tuition to any other current or future seminar(s). Registrants canceling in writing prior to two weeks of the seminar start date will receive a full refund minus a $30.00 processing fee. No refunds will be provided for cancellations received within two weeks of the seminar, but emergency cancellations received prior to forty-eight (48) hours can be credited toward a future seminar minus the $50.00 processing fee. 

Existential Psychotherapy Center of Southern California
6535 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 106, Los Angeles, CA 90048 
Phone: (323) 651-1118,  Fax: (323) 651-2758
Halle M Aten, PhD
(310) 339-2546

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