Existential Therapy

with Bob Fox

Phone: 617-718-7176

The Institute for Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy has been in existence for twenty-five years under the direction of Bob Fox, MSW. It has been housed in the Watertown Center for the Healing Arts for the last six years. David Knoerr, the owner and director of the Watertown Center, is one of the graduates of the Institutes’ two trainings.

Existential therapy is an orientation, not a school. Any number of therapy practices can be enriched by a study of the existential dimension. While the Institute is particularly interested in certain aspects of contemporary psychoanalytic thinking – especially the British school of object relations theory and Paul Russell’s writings about the repetition compulsion – it is open to and relevant for any therapeutic approach.

What is existential therapy?

Using the powerful language of Martin Heidegger, we can say that existential therapy encourages people to “show-up” and “be-there”. It is about being attentive to existence in terms of fundamental relatedness: to self, other people, and world. It emphasizes astonishment and respects the dread and anxiety which is part of astonishment. It recognizes the absurdity and necessity of taking responsibility for one’s self even though we have not necessarily chosen the conditions of our existence. It can be understood only in terms of core existential paradoxes like: We are absolutely alone and totally relational; we are totally innocent and completely responsible.

Existential therapy links up with four other important philosophical positions:

  • Dialectical thinking (fundamental paradoxes)
  • Hermeneutical thinking (human beings as circular processes rather than linear achievements)
  • Ontological thinking (What does it mean to be?)
  • Phenomenology (Careful attentiveness to experience rather than reducing understanding to causal explanations)
The Institutes’ two trainings are ways of learning about this:

Introduction to Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy

This introductory class introduces members to existential thinking and therapy; then introduces them to contemporary psychoanalytic models like object relations theory and self psychology and demonstrates the existential core of those theories; then introduces the central notion of the repetition compulsion (taken not only from Freud and Fairbairn but also from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger); and finally develops a developmental/structural/relational model for “diagnosing and treating” from an existential perspective. The centerpiece of this class is each member working on a presentation about his/her own repetition compulsion.

Date & Time: Thursday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 from mid-September through early May for thirty weeks.

Cost: $1500 and is granted 30 continuing education units for LMHC and LICSW.

Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time: A Reading Group for Therapists

The second training is a careful reading of Martin Heidegger’s central text Being and Time. This remarkable book is the most systematic and radical contemporary existential statement, and has been the starting point for most contemporary existential therapies. The Heidegger training is not just for therapists, but any caring student of what it means to be human.

Date & Time: One Saturday morning a month from 9 AM to noon for a total of twenty months: September through May, the summer off, and then September through May again.

Cost: $1500 and is granted 30 continuing educations units for LMHC and LICSW.

About the Instructor
Bob Fox MSW has been practicing psychotherapy for thirty five years, and has been supervising, teaching and training students of therapy for over thirty years. He has been on the adjunct faculty of Lesley University since 1981, teaching theory classes to graduate students in the Counseling Psychology and Expressive Therapy departments. He developed the Institute for Existential-Psychoanalytic Therapy in 1985. In 1995 he was instrumental in forming the New England Center for Existential Therapy, which you can find out about by going to www.necet.net.

Bob studied psychology and philosophy with Eugene Gendlin in college in the late 1960s, and then went on to study philosophy with the phenomenologist Aron Gurwitsch and the existential philosophers Hannah Arendt and Hans Jonas at the New School for Social Research in New York City. In 1975 he enrolled at Smith College School for Social Work, where he was fortunate to meet Paul Russell, the Boston psychoanalyst who recovered and explored the repetition compulsion concept and made it the centerpiece of his understanding of human being and psychotherapy. Bob has been working on integrating existential, phenomenological, systemic, object relations and Paul Russell’s repetition compulsion concepts consistently over the years.

Besides his teaching, Bob has a private practice of psychotherapy and consultation in Somerville, Massachusetts.