An 8 min. video summary of the 1st World Congress of Existential Therapy by Julia Morozova – click here
From the Fall Newsletter 2015 of EA-Canada:
EA Canada Members Present at the World Congress of Existential Therapy in London in May 2015
Derrick Klaassen, PhD, RPsych
It was an auspicious event, this first World Congress of Existential Therapy. Organized by Emmy van Deurzen and Digby Tantam, professors at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC) in London, UK, the world community of existential therapy and psychology met in London, England, from May 14 to 17, 2015. The forum for the meeting was fitting to the occasion, as we were meeting only a stone’s throw away from Westminster Abbey in the Church House Conference Centre. Approximately 800 delegates from many different countries (e.g., Argentina, Mexico, Canada, US, Germany, Austria, Russia, Australia, etc.) came together to learn from each other.
One of the main purposes of this conference was to bring together existential therapists of all stripes for dialogue and collaboration. I’m not quite sure why, but it seems that existential therapists have traditionally had a difficult time collaborating with each other. One of the major aims of this conference was to start to change this. A variety of existential therapy approaches (e.g., existential-humanistic therapy, Logotherapy, London-based existential analysis) were represented, including a very strong showing from our (Viennese style) of Existential Analysis. By my reckoning, we had EAers present from Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, the US, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, and the UK.
In reflecting on this conference, there are many highlights that continue to move me. It was very encouraging to see such a strong contribution from EAers from Russia and other Eastern European countries. Knowing the cost of the conference in one of the most expensive cities in the world as well as the low wages in these countries, the fact that 40 or 50 of them came to London is most impressive. Their dedication to EA and hunger for it is deeply moving. I was also very encouraged by the opportunity for us to meet together as a whole EA family. Alfried and Silvia Längle, alongside their two daughters Regina and Angelika, arranged for an opportunity for about 70 of us to meet together and to get to know each other. This provided the opportunity to meet EAers from around the world and the formal conversations were then supplemented by ongoing meetings on lunch breaks and in pubs in the following days.
As far as presentation highlights were concerned, I must admit that I was partial to the presentations from within our own school. Alfried Längle gave a wonderful keynote on finding meaning. He followed this up with a moving therapy demonstration with an audience volunteer who was grieving the loss of her husband. I was also very impressed with several presentations on embodiment and trauma by Karin Matuszak-Luss (Austria) and Natalia Ignatyeva (Russia). They have clearly grappled deeply with the meaning of these themes from an EA perspective and have made substantial contributions to our clinical understanding of trauma and embodiment. Many other presentations could also be noted, such as contributions about the process of EA training, grief and loss from an EA perspective, or papers on self-loss and addiction.
With respect to the contributions from EA Canada, it might interest you to know that the following individuals presented at the congress (and I might add, these were very strong contributions indeed!): Janelle Kwee, Mihaela Launeanu (who presented 4 times!), Bruce Muir, Sara Kier, Daniel Parker, Mike Mathers, and Derrick Klaassen. Additionally, numerous other members of EA Canada came along for support and to attend the conference. For those of you who are interested in the program, I would direct you here (http://www.existentialpsychotherapy.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Changed-short-programme-15.05.pdf) to see a brief overview and to Alfried Laengle’s website for various video/audio presentations (http://www.laengle.info/index.php?&page=aktuelles).
If this brief overview of the congress has awoken your interest you might rightly ask what is next? Well, it may interest you to know that one of the concrete outcomes of this congress was the formation of the World Confederation of Existential Therapy (WCET) (http://www.existentialpsychotherapy.net). This confederation – with participation from two of our own members (Rochelle Chapman and myself) is trying to provide an ongoing vehicle for collaboration and communication amongst existential therapists. One of the first and chief tasks of this group is to establish an online forum for communication. Stay tuned for further information on this. Last but not least, the steering committee of the WCET will also be supporting Susan Signorelli (Argentina) and Yaqui Martinez (Mexico) and the Latin American Association for Existential Therapy (ALPE, http://www.alpepsicoterapiaexistencial.com) with the preparation for the next World Congress which is scheduled to take place in Argentina in 2019.
In reflecting back on the congress, I leave it with a sense of hope and conviction. I am more than ever affirmed in our own school of therapy – existential analysis. The combination of a positive, life-affirming and holistic psychotherapy stood out to me amongst the other schools of existential therapy, not to mention among psychotherapies more generally. I was also encouraged by our people, their capacities and dedication to making a difference in the world. I hope that you will join us in continuing to spread the word about Existential Analysis and in seeking to collaborate with existential therapists from around the world in dialogue, scholarship, and in the ongoing development of existential analysis as a way to respond to human suffering.
The 1st World Congress for Existential Therapy in the aftermath
We are posting here some comments and discussions we got after the 1st World Congress of Existential Therapy in London, May 14 – 17, 2015. If anybody wants to add a comment please send it to Silvia@laengle.info
Rochelle Chapman email@example.com from Vancouver (Oct. 27, 2015) :
Really, the greatest gift of participating in the world congress for me was to have such a strong feeling of confirmation for myself that EA (viennese school) is the right place for me to be, that we have something very special to contribute, that I am so grateful to have found it amidst all the many strands of therapy in the world. It is not that I ever doubted it was a good fit, but it was very powerful to see it in comparison to other renowned existential therapists and schools of thought. It was also my impression that phenomenology is not very well understood (how ironic!). It feels like a wonderful, dark secret - one worth sharing. But not so easy to accomplish. Many people were mentioning how we should be "phenomenological" but I didn't see it embodied as much in how clients and topics were spoken about - this requires such a different pace and setting aside our politics and expertise. It is so much more challenging than saying the word. As I think about it, I realize I don't sound too open to other viewpoints. But hopefully I can still be open and at the same time believe I have a bit of access to a great secret.
Alfried Längle firstname.lastname@example.org (6. 6.)
We have been about 80-90 persons from GLE at the congress in London. And we had that beautiful (much too short) family meeting. Gives good souvenirs!
More than this my daughter Regina and Irina Rjasanova made some pictures (see dropbox from where you can download them): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/e7qo5lz5bcaq5jt/AACs-xlLmZan5itk98OXYkRra?dl=0
Looking back at the congress, I can say that I am happy that it took place, just to get into a bit closer touch with the other groups of existential therapy and to see how they work (at the end it was not really new for me – but now many more from us know about it). And it offered us an opportunity to show presence in the English speaking world (where we are not well enough represented). The great event for me was the international meeting of our “family” – and the personal meeting with many from other societies whom I partly knew already but rarely encountered or never have met in person.
But there are also shadows on this congress. I must admit I have never seen a congress, and certainly not a pretended “World congress” which was so poorly organized. The organization was close to a disaster for me and extremely effort taking – at the end the result of the program was not so bad but it took power. The program was so late online – we certainly lost interested people because it was not earlier available. – There was no selection of presentations (but pretended and sending out a very late feedback that the submission was “accepted”). - It is just a sign of poverty not having handed out a program with abstracts – concluding with the announcement (at the last day!) that it can be bought at the reception! So ridiculous and disqualifying after having paid quite a sum for the congress! This is deceiving and it meant that many presentations have not been chosen having at hand only the poor announcement of the “timetable”. I think some of us had to suffer from this lack of organization in point of view of small attendance.
Emmy and Digby worked enormously – but … this has to be remarked.
I don’t want to make the congress bad, and I admit openly I would not be willing to organize one. I have doubt for what they are good. Just for philosophizing it is not worthy for me to go there. In my eyes this congress was more a fair. - For myself I have no interest to attend the next one.
But to show presence it has some need to go.
And over all: we can use that structure for our international community and make our presentations for ourselves – maybe with the attendance of some interested people from other groups. This is what I have in mind and what I look forward – and for this reason I would attend the next congress!
Thanks to those who have been in London and presented their work. This was really interesting and fine and we were so many that I couldn’t attend all of them what I regret. But it was great meeting you and the others and strolling through London!
Have a good time! Enjoy the summer!
P.S. the therapy demonstration is not yet available on video, and the client will first check and see the video before she is going to decide to open it up to the public. But she gave allowance yesterday to put the audio record online – so if you are interested you can hear it on laengle.info/index.php;
Alfried Längle email@example.com (5. 6.)
Briefly answering to Irina and others:
1. Name: The term phenomenology is really central for us. But Emmy uses already the term phenomenology in her form of EA… Nevertheless we are an existential-phenomenological psychotherapy.
2. EA – we chose it a) because Frankl had it and used it – so we wanted to show that affiliation
b) 30 years ago almost nobody knew what EA means (Binswanger also used that term for about 4 years to name Daseinsanalysis that way, but then stepped back and chose the name Daseinsanalysis – I don’t know why, but one reason could have been that Frankl used that term before him already). So it was a good term because it sounded somehow like psychoanalysis, so one had a connection to the most known form of psychotherapy, but still it wasn’t psychoanalysis but something different…
Irina Ryazanova Ирина Рязанова firstname.lastname@example.org (3. 6.)
… it would be better to understand the reason for searching a new name. The name EA is well known and has a good history. But I can understand the colleagues' reasons that it is associated with psychoanalysis and creates a strange unwanted influence for outer observer. It is not so obviously and transparently for naive patients what it is - analysis of "existentia"? They need some explaining. Is it therapy or something else? (WE know that it IS :))
So I have to ask to you a question, Alfried: what for do you want to do it? Whom for? For differentiation of EA with other approaches? For better accordance of its essence and its name? For something else? Forgive me for some direct questions but I need to understand it better to answer.
I think that the name is a very-very important thing. It is the first step to self-authenticity on the new epoch of development. What about me I feel that the most important word that we are missing now is phenomenology. Our approach is a phenomenological personal therapy, no doubt.
Thank you for all of you for your kind words and notices. I had wrote a letter at the end of May but made a mistake in address. I sent it to Derrick only.
Now I correct this and citate it below:
What a lovely addressing:) Thank you, Marion:)))
I wanted to continue this letter to my EA-brother and EA-sisters because it is amazing for me: to have so many brothers and sisters all over the world. I have no own and now I feel that my dreams come true. After my return to Moscow all that happened at the Congress for the first moment seemed to me like a magic dream, a fairy tale. The ancient and legendary London, very representative Congress, a lot of worldwide famous persons... fantastic. But after your common mail to everybody I realized that it is the most "real reality" that can be.
Now I think a lot about things that took place on the Congress and I agree with your common opinion that we have one of the best approach inside Existential Therapy or the best one :) Russians say :" if you have something good you soon will not notice it". For long years of studying and practicing in EA it has become like a sort of habit, something obvious, but it is not still ordinary by the way. It is a gift from Alfried. We have this logical, structural, clear and practically oriented system of knowledge and methodical base that is universal for any case. We use phenomenology that enrich our understanding of the patient. Forgive me that I tell obvious things but I wanted to remember it to myself. We have it but nobody in the world who doesn't belong to EA society can't understand its deepness and universality because we are a closed system. I say it after a talk with one of my Russian colleagues about EA in Vienna style and the Rimas Cochunas' branch of existential psychotherapy. She has told me that his system is more deep and philosophically based then Laengle's branch. When I asked her why does she think so she answered that they have many hours of therapy and it is a serious preparation, while we have only some self-analyzing. She has got this superficial impression without serious information from somebody, but I think it is very typical. We have to go out of seclusion. It is a moment for the Forth FM. IMHO we have to come to the world and speak widely about our way of work and patient's understanding, about all details that still are in the shadow for most of specialists not speaking to the ordinary people. This is what I want to do next years before the second Congress in Buenos Aires. Here are my thoughts.
What about feelings I feel regret that I didn't meet with Derrick and Eva-Maria... Somehow it happened. May be it was my fault me be it was correct for this moment. I'm sorry that I couldn't come and find you in the halls of Church House. May be next time?
I am very glad to meet Daniel and Mike. It was fantastic to find a lot of similar things! I have made some fotos in the Pub and I will send them to you.
Derrick, It was very interesting to read your ideas about the titles of EA for patients. It is really the same for me. The word "analysis" goes to Freud :))) but we need something different.
All my best wishes to you my dears! Hope to hear from you again.
Derrick Klaassen (Canada) email@example.com (May 23):
I agree with you, Daniel, that it would be nice to be able to distinguish ourselves. At this point, however, in the circles in which I travel in North America, very few people have even heard of one version of existential analysis, never mind being confused and needing to ask to which version I am referring :). The word that is more confusing to people over here is “analysis”, which tends to turn people’s minds towards psychoanalysis. And therefore, when introducing EA, I typically speak about existential therapy or existential psychotherapy. At least they seem to have a category for this and kind of know what we mean. However, there are still many confusions about what existential psychotherapy is (given the congress we just witnessed - can you blame anyone for that?) and what it is not. I actually see a good journal article in this or potentially an article or two for our website. What is EA - addressing confusions and misunderstandings about Viennese existential psychotherapy ;)
Daniel Wesley Parker (USA) firstname.lastname@example.org (May 23):
Dear EA family,
I agree with the comments and observations made here about the congress and feel that our presentations truly gave samples of clinically important and theoretically sound methods/approaches. I did not see much of this with the other presenters. However, I did enjoy enjoy Emmy's keynote and talk on freedom. Of course I could see a common thread that unites all of us with an existential perspective, but I could also clearly see some significant differences. I think you pointed this out clearly, Alfried by saying that they are largely on the counseling level. I feel we are working much deeper on the psychotherapuetic/personal level. Because the difference are so clear, I wonder if we should reconsider the issue Alfried brought up a few years back about needing to differentiate ourselves with the name of Existential Analysis. It is a bit confusing when everyone is referring to their approach as existential analysis yet there are some real distinctions between us. I know that we jokingly are referring to 'Vienna style" but perhaps we should consider "Personal Existential Analysis" as a means of differentiating. What are your thoughts?
Marion Linska (Austria) email@example.com (May 22):
I like to continue this mailing-process. I thought 5 days would be a long time, maybe too long. But it wasn’t. It was impressed by the varieties of Existential Therapy. I understood it more theoretical than practically and I would have appreciated to see more live-presentations as Alfried did. And Alfried did a real great job ... thank you so much!
It makes me proud to be trained in Existential Analysis – “Vienna style” ;-) ... and I wonder how the so called phenomenological and more philosophical based Existential Analysis therapists work with mental ill patients, for example schizophrenia, or personality disorders. I think there is much more to do than to be “existential” ... I haven’t found an answer to that at the congress. But to get in contact with Existential orientated therapists was quite interesting, especially because I am a Cultural and Social Anthropologist. Cultural, theoretical, practical and biographical differences were present and the way of getting a community was quite interesting for me – sometimes a little bit amusing. The Lithuanians are a good example for that. The congress was a bit over- and under-organised for me. I was wondering why the board-members of the congress had so much interest in creating a world federation and an European one as well. I think, that was a little bit too much structuring for the beginning – too much force on doing so. Hopefully they/we won’t getting out of breath.
I am glad having been at this congress. Otherwise, I would have missed a lot of warm-hearted encounters with members of the congress, Alfried’s family and I would have missed a better understanding of the community. But I feel more placed in the EA-community “Vienna Style” and we really should have a more intensive focus on working together on an international level (not only national) – in terms of conducting research as well as improving the theoretical and practical issues of EA “Vienna style”.
All the best from Linz/Austria and hopefully seeing you again!
Bruce Muir (Canada) firstname.lastname@example.org (May 22):
Thank you Derrick because you have just written - eloquently I might add - my overall experience of the conference. I was extremely impressed by the presentations offered by EA Vienna style, and I was extremely disappointed by almost everything else. I had hoped that I would witness a concatenation of theory and clinical practice presented thoughtfully, professionally, phenomenologically, and substantively; I did not experience this. Hell, the presentation that I did with Sara and Mihaela found us abandoned by the two presenters that were supposed to precede us, so we were left to improvise and carry the entire thing. Congratulations to Alfried and EA Vienna style, and shame on the rest of what I saw (with the exception of Emmy's afternoon session). Peace out. Oh and someone should have had the temerity to toss that bag of wind and his translator out on their respective asses.
Derrick Klaassen (Canada) email@example.com (May 22):
To be honest, I came to the congress with relatively little energy after a very busy term of classes and clients and after having just moved our family less than 2 weeks ago. I was not sure how it would be for me and whether I would be able to be present with all of the activities and with all of you. However, as I got settled and recovered a bit from the jet lag, I found that being present was not difficult at all. I very much enjoyed the possibility of reconnecting with some of the people that I knew very well (such as those from my cohort and my colleagues) as well as meeting EAers (Viennese style) from around the world. I echo your sentiment Alfried of feeling proud - I felt very affirmed in throwing in my proverbial hat in with EA. I made this decision back in 2001 in your home in Vienna and have never regretted it.
While I was very encouraged by the fact that there was a world congress at all and by many of the EA presentations, I must say that I was at times disappointed by some of the presentations that I saw from other existential schools. My hope was that - as this was a congress on existential therapy - that we would have therapeutic conversations and presentations, or at least ones that were phenomenological both in content and process. Sadly, this did not seem to happen often (perhaps it was different for some of you - I hope so). I encountered much theory, philosophy, opinions and sometimes a bit of experience, but the therapeutic efforts and the capacity to integrate theory, phenomenology and practice really did not seem to emerge.
If there is anything that we may contribute - as EA Viennese style - it may be precisely this; a focusing of our efforts on the phenomenological and the therapeutic. Speaking from a North American perspective, if we want to have an impact on our field and on our clients, then this must be our primary focus. The other is good and helpful and even interesting, but without an applied focus (and research investigations to explore and evaluate this focus), we will not have much of a lasting effect. I do hope that, as we move forward in our national and international collaborations, we may be able to advocate for such a focus. You have provided a strong foundation for such good clinical and research work to take place, Alfried. I look forward to seeing how we can continue to implement and evaluate it.
Ирина Рязанова (Russia) firstname.lastname@example.org (May 21):
… There are no words that could be enough to express all my feelings and impressions after the Congress. It was splendid, tremendous and simple in the same time process. It was very similar with current life with all its details as good as bad. The main thing that I have understood that the most important is our belongs to EA society. It feels like Home :)
Andrea Stockl (MED) (UK) A.Stockl@uea.ac.uk (May 19):
…. I have also had a lot of thoughts about similarities and differences. I attended quite a few sessions and there was a lively debate in my session on the DSM and ICD and other guidelines for diagnosis and the challenges of fitting our existential approach within these guidelines. I might also be able to forge some links to medics and therapists who are interested in using EA in palliative care and in intensive care medicine - a subject also dear to my heart!
I would very much love to share these experiences on the homepage of the GLE. Is there also maybe a chance for those of us who have given presentations to publish them or write short reports?
Alfried & Silvia Längle email@example.com wrote (May 18):
We personally are fulfilled by the wonderful meetings and encounters with our friends of GLE-International and with many other people. We are very impressed by those presentations of our group where we attended – they had all a very good level and content! Excellent! Thank you so much! We are really proud of you! We found and heard that many presentations in the congress were not quite on that level which one could expect to be, but we personally must admit that we haven’t been in many.
To have met as a EA family was the highlight for us! Thank you for coming!