The Development of Existential-Humanistic NorthWest

The original idea for the EHNW professional organization was envisioned by local Portland psychotherapist, Bob Edelstein, as a result of his passion for the existential-humanistic perspective. His vision was influenced by being a board member of the Existential Humanistic Institute in San Francisco. He wanted to develop a similar organization that would support psychotherapists, counselors, and healing professionals who practice from the E-H perspective, which would in turn help them to better serve their clients, the public, and the world. EHNW had its first meeting in November of 2010, and continues to move forward through the work of the 12 member board.
EHNW was initially created with these four goals and values in mind:
Education: Providing educational training for clinical practitioners in the areas of E-H theory and therapy practice.
Advocacy:  Advocating for E-H psychotherapy with the aim of having better representation within both professional communities and to the public.
Membership, Peer Support, Outreach: Offering dynamic support through intentionally-committed membership and professional/community outreach.
Interdisciplinary: Dialogue with a diverse range of academic and professional disciplinary perspectives to enhance the creative applications of E-H concepts and values.

"Without awareness, 
we are not truly alive."
     - James Bugental

The 12 members of the EHNW Organization Development Committee:

Anusuya StarBear  MA, Dipl.PW. I believe whole-heartedly in human beings. I think we are each wise, sensitive and powerful individuals, and each of us is endowed with unique gifts to offer this world. Even our quirky traits and most misunderstood parts are gifts waiting to be unwrapped, although I’ll be the first to admit that the unwrapping process can get a bit messy. I say - go ahead - make a mess, then clean it up, and ask for help if you need it. I believe we are bigger than our perceived problems, and I suspect that most of our problems result directly from us identifying with being too small. Unveiling our potential and celebrating our authentic, beautiful, idiosyncratic selves is my passion.

Bob Edelstein, LMFT, MFT
I am passionate about the existential-humanistic perspective in both my personal and professional life. To me, the perspective embraces all of what it means to exist and values each unique, individual journey. I value that we always have a choice to change our attitude and behavior, even in the most limited of conditions or circumstances.  I take on the powerful responsibility that our choice matters in that we impact the world by our feelings, thoughts and actions.  This perspective also embraces that as human beings we are always moving towards health and wholeness, both individually and collectively.
Deborah High, LMFT
Poet Wendell Berry describes the essence of existential - humanistic therapy for me….“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have to come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have to come to our real journey.  The mind that is not baffled is not employed.  The impeded stream is the one that sings” I do feel that being lost is what healing can sometimes feel like.  Self-discovery, transformation and the yielding of a new form can be painful, confusing and filled with indecision.  Change cannot be achieved and wrapped up in a neat little package….it is instead a messy process often with multiple appendages.  The Existential-Humanistic perspective allows me to be real and human with my clients. It is this ability to form an authentic relationship with my clients that brings such joy to work I do!
Jacky Johnson
“What about Bob” that I said “yes”to EHNW begins with who Bob is as a person and therapist and the passion he has for all causes and people in his life. To be part of a group that would share his vision and passion, to meet new people, to create shared goals and struggles and in the midst of it all have fun with creating and with each other was my hope. A shared philosophical theory, Existential-Humanistic, was the foundation to build on and yet the group is as unique and individualistic as each person involved and the shared views, challenging questions, the exploration of “what if” keeps movement alive even with the more mundane tasks. EH is not a theory as it is more a way of being fully engaged in the mystery, the known and the unexplored realms of one’s life, finding the magic of “being.”
Jen Gomoll, LPC
Living and working with the existential-humanistic perspective as the foundation under my feet and all around me is about embracing what’s there in any given moment. And remembering there’s choice, always choice. It’s about being authentic; about being real. When I was little the Velveteen Rabbit was my favorite book.  It’s about book about becoming real even though it may hurt and cause one to look a bit shabby. I feel very honored to sit with others as they learn to experience themselves more fully, learn to create more choice in their lives, learn to accept their sharper edges, and become more comfortable in their own skin. I love helping people feel more fully alive.
John Benassu, LPC
Existential-Humanistic therapy incorporates some of my favorite things in life: authentic engagement with another; deep inquiry into the puzzling, difficult, sometimes distressing aspects of life; the excitement and possibilities of new and meaningful insights. I love being engaged in this process. Irv Yalom says that therapy is a gift, and Carl Rogers said that just as the client is changed in the encounter, so is the therapist. I feel privileged to work in this endeavor and I feel honored by my clients' trust in me that they share with me the struggles and triumphs of their lives.

Justin Rock, LPC Within each human being there is the potential for growth. It is my goal to create a safe, holistic, and respectful environment, developing a collaborative relationship between client/therapist that promotes personal growth through support, validation and challenge. I see therapy as a means of gaining insight and a process that creates the potential for individuals and families to live more congruently with who they are. In existential family therapy, the therapist assist the client step back and clarify the meaning of his or her experiences with meaning being created both by the individual and by the group.

Paul Rakoczy, LCSW, CADC III
I offer psychotherapy for individual adults from an existential/humanistic perspective. The process tends to be very much "in the moment" relational, with me walking along side my client as two humans, empathetically, as she discovers who she is in essence and moves towards operationalzing her real self. The therapeutic aspects are unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding and genuineness.
Risa Hobson, LPC
Life does not always unfold in the way we would expect, hope, or fully understand, but there is always beauty in the unfolding because it helps to shape and define who we are as human beings. I live and work within the framework of the Existential-Humanistic perspective, because I believe it helps us to both ask and answer questions about how we see ourselves, make choices, interact with others, and find our place in the world. It encourages growth in both insight and skills, which enrich our daily experience, and help us to more successfully navigate developmental or relational stages, or the unexpected events life may bring our way.

Scott Kiser, PhD
The existential-humanistic perspective is at the center of my personal value system and professional work. I am deeply committed to issues related to meaning/purpose, freedom and responsibility, will and choice, self-actualization and spirituality. However, my greatest passion is the existential reality of paradox, the paradoxical dynamics within human nature and existence, specifically the paradox of healing through suffering. I am obsessed with the conviction that suffering must be meaningfully experienced as a source of constructive transformation and that this is the most important thing in human life. Suffering is an unavoidable reality in our existence as human beings and ultimately it either destroys or heals us, depending on whether or not we choose to experience it as a meaningful and valuable opportunity for further growth.

Stephen Shostek, Core Energetics Therapist
I work from the Existential-Humanist perspective because it addresses the things I value about life. As a humanistic perspective, it places our lived experience in the center of focus, making it a therapy of the lived moment. The humanistic perspective supports me in working for growth along our various continuums of growth and development. As an existential therapy, it addresses life’s givens – the things we all reckon with as we live our lives. The Existential-Humanist perspective encourages a focus on Being and by focusing on being we get to experience our finer qualities, the qualities that we all need in order to live meaningful, rich, and fulfilling lives.

Stephanie Spak, LPC, LMHC, CADC I I love working as an Existential-Humanistic psychotherapist because there is a deep respect for the client’s innate ability to heal and grow. Clients are not viewed from a disease perspective, but as fellow humans experiencing the same kinds of challenges we all face: the search for the authentic self, congruence in belief and actions, and making meaning out of this life. It is a privilege to accompany my clients on this quest, to help them remove barriers so that they can be truly free to be who they really are.