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Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 11:15 AM – 1:15 PM

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Invited Talks

  1. Louis HoffmanVarieties of Suffering and Meaning
  2. Nedra Lander & Danielle NahonDecisive Moments of Change (Integrity Model Perspective)

Paper Presentations

  1. Mark Blagen: Addiction: A Universal Problem with a Meaning Making Remedy
  2. Hon Chuen LeeSharing and Reflection of an Experiential Learning and Service Learning
  3. Tracie LeeExploring the Experiences of Therapists after Participating in an Intensive Mindfulness Program
  4. Ted NgMindful Awareness Practice to Improve the Cognition of Singaporean Elderly with Mild Cognitive Impairment
  5. Chris Wurm: Self-Transcendence and Quality of Life
  6. Chris Wurm: Existential Vacuum and Borderline Personality Disorder

Invited Talks

Louis HoffmanLouis Hoffman, Ph.D. is a professor at Saybrook University and director of the Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology Specialization. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Humanistic Psychology. An avid writer, Dr. Hoffman has 8 books to his credit, including Existential Psychology East-West and Stay Awhile: Poetic Encounters Along the Path of Grief and Loss. Dr. Hoffman is also a licensed psychologist and maintains a private practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For a number of years, he has also been active in international psychology, particularly in China and southeast Asia. He is a co-founder of the Zhi Mian International Institute of Existential-Humanistic Psychology and the International Conference on Existential Psychology held every other year in China.

Interested in more from Dr. Hoffman? Find out more here.

Varieties of Suffering and Meaning: Clinical Implications

Suffering is not something merely to be coped with; it holds important transformative power. Yet, it is important that suffering is not idealized or viewed as something that is, in itself, good. While suffering is not something to be sought, through embracing the sufferings that cannot be avoided the suffering often can be transformed. Meaning is one of the most important constructs in working with suffering from an existential perspective. As Viktor Frankl (1959/1984) stated, “suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning” (p. 117). Meaning does not necessarily take the suffering away, but it changes the way that individuals experience suffering. Not all forms of suffering are the same, nor are all forms of meaning the same. From a clinical perspective, the therapist works with client to help them to explore the various realms and aspects of their suffering. However, without a good therapeutic relationship and a competent guide, the journey into suffering can cause harm instead of healing. Not all forms of meaning are able to help a client sustain through and transform the experience of suffering. Superficial or imposed meaning by well-intentioned others often are not sustaining meanings. Therapists working with the client’s suffering need to be able to recognize the varieties of types of suffering as well as the varieties of types of meanings in order to help clients transform their experience of suffering.

Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will be able to identify different roles that meaning can play in regards to suffering.
  2. Participants will be able to recognized the complexities of the experience of suffering, including identifying different aspects of the experience.
  3. Participants will be able to identify different types of meaning, including sustaining meaning.

Nedra Lander (Circle)Nedra R. Lander, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a Clinical, Counselling and Health Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Canada. Danielle Nahon, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a Clinical and Counselling Psychologist in community practice and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, uOttawa. Furthering the work of her mentor O.H. Mowrer’s Integrity (Therapy) Group approach, Nedra, in later collaboration with Danielle, has developed the Integrity model of existential psychotherapy and health care education for nearly five decades. Nedra and Danielle have taught learners in medicine, psychology, counselling, education, social work, nursing and pastoral care through Integrity-based educational programs in the areas of physician health, caregiver stress, and CME. Their co-authored book on an Integrity model perspective in working with the “difficult patient”, published by Routledge, addresses issues of professionalism, values of the caregiver, and dealing with difficult issues and impasses in the therapeutic relationship.

Danielle Nahon (Circle)Nedra and Danielle are deeply committed to working with men’s and women’s issues, and fostering a respectful dialogue between the genders. They co-chair the Women Faculty Mentoring Program, Faculty of Medicine, uOttawa, and offer ongoing CPD programs for women physicians/faculty. Nedra and Danielle hosted the first men’s health conference in Canada and the First International Multi-Disciplinary Congress on Men, aimed at establishing an international scholarship and understanding about being human sensitive to the cultural integrity and needs of both men and women. Their empirical and clinical work has provided ongoing validation for a positive view of men and masculinities, and men’s viable, poetic and profound emotional voices. Both Nedra and Danielle have received the Award for Advancement of Equity, Diversity and Gender Issues from the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine. Their Integrity model of values, Integrity and the healthy workplace has been presented in numerous local, national and international scientific forums.

Interested in more from Dr. Lander and Dr. Nahon? Find out more here.

Decisive Moments of Change: An Integrity Model Perspective

The respected psychologist O. H. Mowrer (1907-1982) was one of the first to focus on today’s issues of values, morality, mindfulness and meaningfulness with a different twist from an Integrity perspective. Expanding on Mowrer’s Integrity (Therapy) Group approach, Lander and Nahon have evolved the Integrity model (e.g. Lander, 1980, 1986; Lander & Nahon, 1992, 2005, 2015). A growing empirical and clinical literature based on nearly five decades indicates individuals have been receptive to this positive, wellness- and values-based Integrity model of existential psychotherapy.

This paper presents a philosophical and clinical understanding of the Integrity model as a conceptual vehicle as individuals—across diagnoses, sociodemographic variables and problem areas—traverse those decisive moments of change in therapy that arise as they wrestle with finding meaning in their daily lives. The manner in which these decisive moments unfold within the therapeutic journey, the bi-directionality of the dialogic and the challenge of therapeutic bias will be explored.

Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will gain a deepened understanding of the major underpinnings of the Integrity model of existential psychotherapy.
  2. Attendees will be able to summarize the Integrity model’s theoretical understanding of the factors that lead to decisive moments of change in the therapeutic process.
  3. Attendees will reflect on ways that therapist bias within the therapeutic journey can be mitigated from an Integrity model, values-based perspective.

Paper Presentations

Mark Blagen, Ph.D., Department of Addictions Studies, Governors State University

Addiction: A Universal Problem with a Meaning-Making Remedy

It is estimated that one out of six individuals will suffer from addiction over their lifetime. An emerging viewpoint is that the complexity of everyday living has created more difficulty for individuals to find purpose and make meaning of their life. This lack of purpose and meaning often creates a void that addiction fills.

The debate of addiction etiology has been long and often hurtful in moving toward helpful prevention and treatment methodologies. Too often, political agendas (the war on drugs as an example) have obscured clarity and contributed to the acrimony, leaving individuals, families and society to suffer the carnage. Science too has not been helpful in understanding addiction. The all too popular positivist viewpoint has attempted to reduce addiction to a linear cause and effect condition or purported one factor over a myriad of other factors as the single casual factor. Addiction is best understood from a phenomenological perspective. Each addicted individual comes by their addiction in their own unique manner that can only be understood from their unique perspective.

Hon Chuen Lee, The Hong Kong Institute of Education

Life on Life: Sharing and Reflection of an Experiential Learning and Service Learning Project

As the Hong Kong society places great value on materialism and fame, many young people have lost their ultimate life goal and feel spiritually empty. In order to deal with the serious juvenile delinquent issue of drug abuse, an “Anti-Drugs” Service Learning Project was sponsored by the Action Committee Against Narcotics (ACAN). I was responsible for leading the project to help 12 youths, aged 12 to 18, imprisoned because of drug abuse, find their life goal and possibility for change.

Though these young criminals are often negatively perceived as a burden to society, I believe that “People are not the problem; the problem is the problem.” Through the perspectives of Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP2.0), experiential activities, and service learning, they could be helped to rehabilitate, restore their values and dignity, be positively asserted, rebuild confidence, face their limitations, and fight for a better future.

This paper, with the use of the Narrative approach, is my observation and reflection of their spiritual enhancement and life changing experience through this Service Learning Project, which resonates with the principles of PP2.0 that by using positive power to face one’s dark side we can bring about spiritual change. I will share some teachable moments and reflections of some of the beliefs and methods used in this project.

Tracie Lee, M.A. Ed., Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa

Exploring the Experiences of Therapists after Participating in an Intensive Mindfulness Program

A therapist’s ability to be mindful in session is critical for effectively attending to clients. Yet, the majority of psychotherapy research on mindfulness has focused on the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions for clinical populations as opposed to how mindfulness training can enhance therapist skills. This qualitative study explored how mindfulness training for therapists changed therapists’ experiences within therapeutic practice, and implications of the inclusion of mindfulness training in therapist education.

Ted (Kheng Siang) Ng, National University of Singapore

Mindful Awareness Practice (MAP) to Improve the Cognition of Singaporean Elderly with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)

Previous studies have reported that elderly with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who underwent short periods of mindfulness interventions showed improvement of cognition, albeit the results were not significant due to the small sample sizes. There is a paucity of randomized controlled trial of mindfulness intervention on elderly with MCI. Furthermore, evidences of how mindfulness exerts effect on MCI patients as measured by inflammatory biomarkers were scarce. We hypothesized that our Mindful Awareness Practice (MAP) could improve the cognition of elderly with MCI and modulate stress and inflammatory biomarkers.

Chris Wurm, Senior Consultant, Drug and Alcohol Resource Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, GP Psychotherapist in private practice, Visiting Fellow, Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, Australia

Self-Transcendence and Quality of Life: How Can Healthy Changes be Promoted and Sustained in People with Alcohol and Drug Issues?

“I haven’t had a drink for six months, but nothing else has changed.” Abstinence may sometimes be a necessary change – but is it sufficient? If a person ends their problematic substance use, does everything else automatically fall into place? Viktor Frankl stated, “The essence of intoxication… is the turning away from the objective world of being towards subjective experience.” This contrasts with his concept of “Self-transcendence.” Self-transcendence is an under-valued concept in the field of alcohol and other drug problems. Self-transcendence appears to play a part in some instances where people dependent on alcohol stop drinking without any formal treatment. Some times change is short-lived. Self-transcendence could enhance quality of life in individuals who address their problematic alcohol or drug use. Miller’s original description of Motivational Interviewing reveals the central role of existentialism: “This assignment of freedom of choice to the client (which of course the client has whether or not we assign it) leads to a more existential approach to counselling.” Examples will be drawn from the landmark studies by Vaillant et al. in Boston, USA, Edwards et al. in London, England and the research of Brady in Outback Australia.

Existential Vacuum and Borderline Personality Disorder: Can We Do More?

This presentation will discuss potential applications of Meaning-oriented therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), illustrated with some examples from my practice. Viktor Frankl wrote about feelings of meaninglessness leading to widespread depression, addiction, and aggression, but also a specific condition he called “noögenic neurosis”. Even if he did not have BPD in mind, Frankl was certainly interested in the issues, which trouble people with BPD today. It typically involves powerful feelings of emptiness. This has led me to look forward to seeing people with BPD, in the hope that they will be open to gently exploring the empty feelings. BPD tends also to involve attempts to block out distress by alcohol or other drugs – and self-harm.

Until recently, it was common for Mental Health services to turn away people with BPD because the accompanying substance use was outside their usual repertoire.  Likewise, Alcohol and Drug services would turn away individuals with BPD because of the accompanying emotional turmoil and self-harming behaviour. Sometimes this may have reflected actual dislike of such clients. On the other hand, some decisions not to admit people with BPD have been based on more humane motives: inpatient treatment had often been seen to lead to deterioration, rather than relief of distress.

Borderline personality disorder officially entered the DSM classification system in 1980. The DSM V has removed the previous distinction between Axis I and Axis II conditions, previously used to justify some of this denial of service. More recently, BPD has been seen to have a better prognosis than previously believed. Being redefined in a less pessimistic way has been very significant. Can Meaning-oriented therapists help overcome the historical neglect of this population?

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