Keynote Speakers 2014

April 16, 2014

Stanley Krippner

Stanley KrippnerBio: Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Integrative Inquiry at Saybrook University. He is past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams and received that group’s career achievement award. He is co-author of Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work with Them, and co-editor of Perchance to Dream. He has also received lifetime achievement awards from the Society for Humanistic Psychology and the Parapsychological Association, as well as the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Advancement of International Psychology.

Title: Finding Meaning in Dreams

Keynote Abstract: Humans have always attributed various meanings to dreams, but Sigmund Freud ushered in the formal use of dream reports in psychotherapy. There are five major ways in which ancient shamans and contemporary psychotherapists have worked with dreams, namely, cultural, psychodynamic, gestalt, associational, and projection. Each of these methods will be discussed and reviewed in the light of recent research on how dreaming became adaptive over the course of human evolution. Dream interpretation may not have served adaptive functions but dreaming, especially during rapid eye movement sleep, seems to have been adaptive. In other words, dreaming is helping dreamers whether they remember their dreams or not.

Workshop Description:

Participants will be taught specific ways of finding meaning in their dreams. These methods include those that can be done by themselves, those that can be done with a partner, and those that can be done with a group.

Workshop Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will learn the difference between dreams and dreaming, and why a dream report is never a completely accurate rendition of the actual dream.
  2. Participants will learn the difference between image and symbol, and between activity and metaphor, and will be able to use this insight to derive meaning from their dream reports.
  3. Participants will learn basic safeguards involved in the proper way to engage in finding meaning in dreams, whether they are working alone, with a partner, or with a group.

Crystal L. Park

Crystal ParkBio: Crystal L. Park, Ph.D., is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on religious beliefs and religious coping, the phenomenon of stress-related growth, and the making of meaning in the context of traumatic events and life-threatening illnesses, particularly cancer and congestive heart failure.  She is currently conducting studies of yoga for stress-management and developing a research tool to assess the essential properties of yoga. She is Co-Author of the forthcoming Spirituality, Meaning and Trauma and Co-Editor of The Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality and Medical Illness and Positive Life Change: Can Crisis Lead to Personal Transformation?

Keynote Title: Trauma and Recovery: A Meaning-Making Perspective

Michael F. Steger

Michael StegerBio: Michael F. Steger, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology and Applied Social Psychology, and Director of Clinical Training and the Laboratory for the Study of Meaning and Quality of Life, at Colorado State University. He has spent more than a decade researching the factors that promote human flourishing and ameliorate psychological suffering. He developed the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, which has been translated into over 30 languages. His current research examines the role of meaning in people’s health, including their engagement in health-risking and health-promoting behaviors. He is author of Designing Positive Psychology and Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace.

Keynote Title: Emerging Meaning Research and Its Relevance to Health

Jay S. Efran

Jay S. EfranBio: Jay S. Efran, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Temple University. He is the recipient of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association’s 2009 award for “Distinguished Contributions to the Science and Profession of Psychology.” He was also awarded the Constructivist Psychology Network Lifetime Achievement Award. He holds two teaching awards—one from the students at Temple University and one from the students at the University of Rochester. He has been president of the Academic Division of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association and of the Philadelphia Area Group Psychotherapy Society (the local affiliate of the American Group Psychotherapy Society). Dr. Efran is a past director of Temple’s Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Program and also of their Psychological Services Center. He serves as an advisory editor for the Psychotherapy Networker and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Constructivist Psychology. A therapist for more than 50 years, he has published more than 100 articles and chapters on topics such as emotion, social phobia, temperament, addiction, constructivism, contextualism, and psychotherapy. His two co-authored books are Language, structure, and change: Frameworks of meaning in psychotherapy (W. W. Norton, 1990) and The tao of sobriety: Helping you recover from alcohol and drug addiction (St. Martin’s Press, 2002).

Keynote Title: Psychotherapy: Irrefutable Truths and Hazardous Misunderstandings

Keynote Abstract:

Despite the current hoopla about empirically supported methods, attachment theory, mindfulness, emotional dysregulation, and brain science, therapists are not achieving any better outcomes today than they did 25 years ago. In his keynote address, Dr. Efran will discuss why psychotherapy continues to be such a hit-or-miss proposition. Drawing upon the work of Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana, he will describe basic cybernetic principles that can greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the therapeutic conversation.

Paul T. P. Wong

President of the International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM)

Paul T.P. WongBio: Paul T. P. Wong is an internationally renowned author, counselling educator, and researcher in meaning therapy and positive psychology. He has more than 200 publications, and given keynote addresses and workshops around the world. He is the president of the International Network on Personal Meaning (, and the Meaning-Centered Counselling Institute Inc. (MCCI), and editor of the International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy (IJEPP). An engaging and dynamic speaker, Dr. Wong inspires not only through his wisdom and intellect, but through his keen sense of humour and joy for life.

Workshop Title: Meaning-Centered Assessments and Positive Meaning Interventions

Spencer McWilliams

President of the Constructivist Psychology Network (CPN)

Spencer McWilliamsBio: Spencer A. McWilliams, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at California State University San Marcos, where he has twice received the psychology students’ Distinguished Professor of the Year Award.  He is the current President of the Constructivist Psychology Network (2012-2014), and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Constructivist Psychology.  Dr. McWilliams received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rochester and is a past director of the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training Program at the University of Arizona.  He has been an actively participant in the Personal Construct Psychology international community since 1979.  He is the author of more than 60 journal articles and chapters and has applied constructivist psychology to such topics as mindfulness and Buddhist psychology, pragmatism, human agency, semantics, comprehensive knowledge, liberal education, creative photography, and the use of political and religious metaphors such as idolatry and anarchy to appreciate our active role in creating knowledge.

Title: Shaking the Very Foundation: The Seduction of Certainty vs. the Menace of Meaning-Making


Meaning-making approaches assume that humans create knowledge in ever-changing contexts.  Their critics, however, adhere to a meaning-given perspective that nature comes with its own innate truths to which real knowledge must correspond.  Despite demonstrated incoherence of this position, it remains dominant in Western society, psychology, and the Newtonian model of science rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  The notion that humans make meaning may threaten the core beliefs and deepest intuitions of those who maintain this foundationalist view.  Advancing meaning-making perspectives might benefit from appealing to those who seek alternative views through contemporary pragmatist outlooks on human agency and a process metaphysics that views phenomena as interrelated events rather than fixed entities.

Longer version of the Abstract: 

Given the compelling strength of theory, research, and practice supporting our enthusiasm for meaning-making as the basis of our view of psychology, why do we remain at the fringes of our field rather than epitomizing the mainstream?  Most meaning-making approaches to psychology (e.g., existentialism, constructivism, hermeneutics, narrative) rest on an assumption that humans create knowledge in ever-changing contexts, rather than the more widely-held view that nature reveals to us its own innate, foundational “way that it is” which confers meaning to us.  Despite many effective arguments that favor the meaning-making position and demonstrate the incoherence of the notion that knowledge could correspond to independent, eternal truths, the foundationalist perspective remains dominant in Western psychology, much of science, and society in general, with deep roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition and classical science such as Newtonian physics.  Mental health professionals might view these concerns as abstract philosophical issues irrelevant to their work with clients, but how people understand the universe and their knowledge has significant implications for psychological well-being.  We might usefully understand individuals’ choices between these two views as based on intuition or temperament, and reflecting deeply held core beliefs that determine whether one accepts dominant discourses or seeks alternatives.  Acknowledging the human desire for certainty and realizing how threatening many people experience the post-modern alternative might inform our response to our critics. Advancing and fostering a meaning-based agenda might then benefit from furthering techniques to appeal to those seeking alternatives.  Two approaches might assist us in that appeal. First, we might reaffirm the value of American pragmatist philosophy, often seen as the foundation of constructivist psychology, demonstrating its current relevance, by considering second and third generation contemporary pragmatists who emphasize the active role of human agency in knowledge creation.  Second, we might actively embrace a process view of ontology that understands phenomena in terms of interrelated, changing, relationships rather than a container of fixed entities with innate permanent characteristics.  These perspectives might enable us to evade or reduce conflict and threat by offering an alternative posture toward the human situation based on asking “what should we do here and now” rather than “what is the eternal truth.”