Video | 1:01:00

Rollo May on Existential Psychotherapy

by Rollo May
See this legendary Existential Psychotherapy master in a dialogue on what matters most in the practice of psychotherapy.


Rollo May on Existential Psychotherapy
"Existential therapy is something radically different. The aims are to open the person up--to help this person become more sensitive to life, to beauty. Now that sounds a bit sentimental, I know, but it's a very serious thing we need."— Rollo May

Drawing from the influence of his forefathers--Freud, Jung, and Fromm--as well as classical mythology, philosophy and literature, May gives a passionate explanation of Existential Psychotherapy and why it is so important for the practice of psychotherapy in a world full of "gimmicks." In this personal and provocative dialogue with Kirk Schneider and colleagues, May explores his own unique therapy style, reflects on his work with clients, and gets specific on what we can take and leave from other influential psychotherapists.
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The interview with Rollo is wonderful--perhaps the most moving introduction to and overview of existential psychotherapy."
-- Ed Mendelowitz, PhD, Psychologist, Boston, MA; Author of Ethics & Lao-Tzu
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Rollo May really put existential psychotherapy on the map, at least in the U.S., with his classic text, Existence.  See why he has been so enormously influential to other notables in the field such as Irv Yalom, James Bugental, Kirk Schneider and others. In this age of briefer and briefer therapy, manualized and empirically validated treatment, his passionate plea for understanding the meaning behind the symptoms is even more pertinent today.

From watching this video, you will:

• Learn to move your practice beyond symptom reduction to expand your client's capacity to live, think and feel more fully.
• Gain insight into Rollo May's therapy style and why his perspective is crucial to keeping psychotherapy vital and relevant in this age of quick fixes.
• Develop an understanding of the key concepts of existential psychotherapy and its significance in the evolution of psychotherapy.

As you can see from the video clip, this is historic footage, and not professionally filmed as our other videos.  But the content is excellent, and we felt it was of such historical significance that we felt it was important to make this available. And we were able to improve the audio so it is quite clear.

The interview was conducted by Kirk Schneider, Ilene Serlin, and John Galvin. Kirk Schneider is the author of The Polarized Mind: Why it's killing us and what we can do about it, and The Handbook of humanistic psychology.  See him in discussion here.

Length of video: 1:01:00
Number of Discs: 1
English subtitles available on: Stream
This DVD plays in All Regions
Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-066-X  
Individual ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-066-8
Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-067-8
Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-067-5
Rollo May

Rollo May (1909-1994) is the father of Existential Psychotherapy in the United States and indeed has inspired Yalom, Bugental and countless others through his teachings and books. He edited the first book in the field in 1958, Existence, and authored the seminal books Love and Will and The Meaning of Anxiety. He is a legendary teacher, scholar and psychotherapist.

Rollo May was born April 21, 1909, in Ada, Ohio. His childhood was a difficult one: His parents didn't get along and eventually divorced, and his sister had a psychotic breakdown. After a brief stint at Michigan State (he was asked to leave because of his involvement with a radical student magazine), he attended Oberlin College in Ohio, where he received his bachelors degree.

After graduation, he went to Greece, where he taught English at Anatolia College for three years. During this period, he also spent time as an itinerant artist and even studied briefly with Alfred Adler. When he returned to the US, he entered Union Theological Seminary and became friends with one of his teachers, Paul Tillich, the existentialist theologian, who would have a profound effect on his thinking. May received his BD in 1938.

May suffered from tuberculosis, and had to spend three years in a sanatorium. This was probably the turning point of his life. While he faced the possibility of death, he also filled his empty hours with reading. Among the literature he read were the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish religious writer who inspired much of the existential movement, and provided the inspiration for May's theory.

He went on to study psychoanalysis at White Institute, where he met people such as Harry Stack Sullivan and Erich Fromm. And finally, he went to Columbia University in New York, where in 1949 he received the first PhD in clinical psychology that institution ever awarded. May's dissertation was published as The Meaning of Anxiety. After receiving his PhD, he went on to teach at a variety of top schools. In 1958, he edited, with Ernest Angel and Henri Ellenberger, Existence, which introduced existential psychology to the US.

In 1983 May published a work that attempted to explain how "classic" existential thought related to psychoanalysis. The Discovery of Being: Writings in Existential Psychology was a collection of essays exploring the views of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud, among others. May was determined to illustrate that psychology and existentialism were concerned with the same issues and could cooperate towards a better understanding of the human condition.

May was a founder and faculty member of Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center in San Francisco. He spent the last years of his life in Tiburon, California, until he died in October of 1994.

Excellent! Inspiring call to return to the great vision!
John R. Staude, Ph.D.
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CE credits: 2.5
Learning objectives:

  • Describe the key concepts of existential psychotherapy and its significance in the evolution of psychotherapy.
  • Gain insight into Rollo May's therapy style and why his perspective is crucial to keeping psychotherapy vital and relevant in this age of quick fixes.
  • Identify ways to expand clients' capacity to live, think and feel more fully.