Dr. Mick Cooper

Dr. Mick Cooper is a Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton and a chartered counselling psychologist. He was recipient of the 2014    Carmi Harari Mid-Career Award from Division 32 (Humanistic Psychology), American Psychological Association. Mick is author and editor of a range of texts on person-centred, existential, and relational approaches to therapy, including Existential Therapies (Sage, 2003), Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy (Sage, 2005, with Dave Mearns), and Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy (Sage, 2011, with John McLeod). Mick has also led a range of research studies exploring the process and outcomes of existential and humanistic therapy, and is currently leading on a nationally-funded trial of school counselling with young people. Mick’s latest book is Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling: Contributions to a Pluralistic Practice (Sage, 2015). Mick lives in Brighton with his partner and four children.

Dr. Cooper will be giving the following keynote lecture and pre-conference workshop, as well as participating in the panel on Working with Meaning in Life Issues for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Keynote Title

The Tree of Desires: A Purpose-oriented Framework for Integrating Theories of Human Wellbeing, Distress and Change

Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM


The aim of this lecture is to present a comprehensive theory for conceptualising human wellbeing, distress and change; based around an understanding of people as purpose-oriented beings. The model starts from the teleological assumption that our goals and purposes are a core element of our being; and that an orientation towards such desires, the pursuit of them, and their attainment, are central constituents of psychological wellbeing. As with Power’s control theory, the model proposes that such purposes can be conceptualised as existing in a hierarchy, with higher order desires attained through lower order desires.  Using a range of examples, the paper will go on to suggest that psychological difficulties can be conceptualised as emerging when our means of attaining our desires are in conflict with each other, or when they are ineffective.  Based on this model, the paper will go on to suggest that an essential element of psychological wellbeing is synergy — developing  a win-win relationship between our different desires – and that a wide range of psychological change processes can be understood in this way.  In addition, however, the lecture will suggest that the extent to which people can progress towards, and attain, their desires may be very dependent on the resources available in their particular life-context; such that improvements in psychological wellbeing may require political, as well as personal, change.  Hence, the lecture will show how we can understand human wellbeing and distress through a purpose-oriented model of human being, how this model can be used to integrate an understanding of a wide range of psychological and social change processes and interventions, and how we can come to develop new and innovative means of supporting psychological and social change.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand what a comprehensive framework for conceptualising psychological wellbeing, distress and change might look like if based around purposes, goals and desires
  2. Recognise the nature of a hierarchical framework for conceptualising purposes
  3. Understand the meaning of ‘synergy’, and its potential relevance to psychological wellbeing
  4. Recognise how social and psychological change processes can be integrated into a single model of wellbeing

Pre-Conference Workshop Title

Pluralistic Therapy: An Existential, Goal-Focused Approach to Integrative Practice

Scheduled for Thursday, July 28, 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM


The pluralistic approach to therapy is an integrative framework that has been developed over the past decade by Professors John McLeod and Mick Cooper, primarily in the UK. Key texts include ‘Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy’ (Cooper and McLeod, 2011, Sage) and ‘The Handbook of Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy’ (ed. Cooper and Dryden, 2016, Sage). The approach has evolved from key existential principles, and is oriented around using clients’ goals for therapy as the focal point of the therapeutic work, and the role of shared decision making and collaboration across the therapeutic dyad. The pluralistic approach also starts from an existential emphasis on the uniqueness of each client: holding that different clients may need very different understandings and methods at different points in time, and that there is no one ‘right’ way of working with clients.

This workshop will introduce participants to the pluralistic approach, and present its main principles and practices. The workshop will combine theory input, practical exercises, group discussion and self-reflection. The first part of the workshop will present the key features of the pluralistic approach, supporting evidence, and its relationship to other forms of integrative, eclectic and existential/meaning-centred practice. It will then look, in more depth, at the process of ‘metatherapeutic communication’: how therapists and clients can make effective shared decisions about different elements of the therapeutic work. This will then be explored and illustrated using the key measures and tools developed within the pluralistic approach, such as the Cooper-Norcross Inventory of Preferences (C-NIP), which can be used to help identify client preferences for the therapeutic work. The final part of the workshop will look more closely at the process of working with client goals: introducing psychological research and evidence, as well as methods, that can help clients and therapists to identify effective goals for the therapeutic process.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the key features of the pluralistic approach
  2. Understand the evidence for tailoring therapeutic interventions to individual clients
  3. Differentiate a pluralistic approach from other forms of integrative and eclectic practice, as well as from other meaning-centred and existential therapies
  4. Identify a range of methods for shared decision making with clients about the goals and methods of therapy (‘metatherapeutic communication’)
  5. Identify a range of opportunities for shared decision making with clients about the goals and methods of therapy
  6. Recognise, and use, a number of measures that are consistent with a pluralistic approach to therapy to facilitate metatherapeutic communication
  7. Identify effective goals for therapy
  8. Recognise methods that can be used to help clients construct effective goals for therapy

Interested in learning more about pre-conference workshops? Find out more here.

Panel Title

Working with Meaning in Life Issues

Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 4:15 PM – 6:15 PM