"Humanistic psychology is founded on a dedication to the wholeness of human life, a conviction that life has greater potential than has yet been realized, and an openness to a wide range of observations, methods, and practices. In this perspective we draw humility, challenge, and encouragement from the realization of how much about human beings is yet unknown. Commitment, struggle, successes and failures, and a continually receding frontier await those who would join us." 

 - James F. T. Bugental, 1992

About Jim

James F.T. Bugental (1915-2008)
American Psychologist, Vol 64(2), Feb-Mar 2009, 151

James F. T. Bugental died peacefully at age 92 at his Petaluma, California home on September 18th 2008. Jim was a leading psychotherapist and a founding father, with Abraham Maslow and others, of humanistic psychology or “the third force” (in contrast to psychoanalysis and behaviorism). Jim was also the creator, along with Rollo May, of existential-humanistic psychotherapy.

Jim was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Christmas day 1915. He moved frequently as a child, living for various periods in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and California. Jim’s upbringing proved challenging due to frequent moves, and the personal and financial setbacks of his parents.

Jim earned his doctorate from the Ohio State University in 1948 where he was influenced by Victor Raimy and George Kelly. His dissertation, “An Investigation of the Relationship of the Conceptual Matrix to the Self-concept” (1948), expressed his early interest in authenticity and identity.

After a brief time on the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) faculty in psychology, Jim resigned in 1953 to found the first group practice of psychotherapy, Psychological Service Associates, with Alvin Lasko. The group added Tom Greening in 1958, and subsequently Gerard Haigh, Bill Zielonka, Harris Monosoff, and others. A men's encounter group evolved from this core, which included Jim Clark, Bob Tannenbaum, and Art Shedlin from UCLA, and this group continued meeting for decades until 2006.

The publication of Rollo May's Existence in 1958 was pivotal in Jim's career and influenced him and his colleagues to develop existential psychotherapy further. They brought May to Los Angeles for a training seminar, and Jim's germinal book The Search for Authenticity (1965) grew out of these encounters.

With Abraham Maslow and others, Jim was a cofounder of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (see the tributes to him in the Fall, 1996 issue) and the Association for Humanistic Psychology in 1961, and his landmark American Psychologist article in 1963—“Humanistic Psychology: A New Breakthrough” (18, 563-567)-- presented the fundamental assumptions of humanistic psychology to the discipline. He was a leader of the historic Old Saybrook Conference in 1964 where personality psychologists such as Henry A. Murray and Gordon Allport, met with Maslow, Rogers, May, Bugental, and others to formalize the field of humanistic psychology. Jim was elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1955, and was the first recipient of the APA's Division of Humanistic Psychology Rollo May Award. He also was president of the California State Psychological Association, the Los Angeles Society of Clinical Psychology, and the Association for Humanistic Psychology (serving as its first president in 1962).

Among Jim's many valuable contributions to psychology and psychotherapy are his other books, Challenges of Humanistic Psychology (1967) (and its updated, co-authored version The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, 2001), The Search for Existential Identity (1976), Psychotherapy and Process (1978), The Art of the Psychotherapist (1987), and Psychotherapy Isn’t What You Think (1999).

With the advent of The Search for Authenticity, Jim inspired a new generation to consider and apply the existential approach first translated and popularized in America by Rollo May. While May elaborated existential-humanistic theory and social analysis, Jim stressed their living application to practice. Among Jim’s signal contributions are his articulations of therapeutic presence, the various “presses” or valences that optimize therapeutic presence, and the challenge to translate therapeutic presence into an authentic and responsible life. Presciently, Jim’s ideas about therapeutic effectiveness are echoed in recent literature on this subject which emphasizes personal dimensions of therapy over those of technique (e.g., see Wampold’s review of “Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy” in PsycCritiques, February 6, 2008).

Following Jim’s first marriage to Mary Edith, which ended in divorce, he met his second wife, Elizabeth, when giving a lecture in 1965 at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood. Elizabeth was at the time chairperson of the Theater Arts Department and a member of the Immaculate Heart community. After a brief involvement with a commune-style living arrangement in the 1960’s, Jim and Elizabeth settled into the San Francisco Bay area. In the following years, Jim presented his work at over 250 universities, colleges, hospitals, and clinics. He received the 1991 Pathfinder Award of the Association for Humanistic Psychology and an honorary degree in 1993 from Saybrook Graduate School, where he was a central figure.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Jim facilitated many courses and workshops for his growing student audience. In 1980, he directed a 9-month-long mentorship program at the Humanistic Psychology Institute (now Saybrook Graduate School), in which Rollo May, Irvin Yalom, and Maurice Friedman were featured guests. Soon after, he and his wife Elizabeth founded a low-cost counseling center in Santa Rosa, California called “Interlogue,” and in the mid-1980’s he created a series of intensive trainings called the “Art of Psychotherapy Program.” Numerous trainees emerged from these various tutorials, including Myrtle Heery, Kirk Schneider, Orah Krug, and Nader Shabahangi, who went on to co-found, at Jim’s instigation, the Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI) and the International Institute for Humanistic Studies (IIHS).

In more recent years, Jim’s work has been extended to a new generation with the publication of an edited collection by Kirk Schneider titled Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy (2008) and a forthcoming APA monograph by Kirk Schneider and Orah Krug called Existential-Humanistic Therapy.

Jim was a great and bold spirit—his many writings and teachings are cherished widely, and the field of psychology is much the richer for his efforts.

Jim is survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughters Karen and Jane, son, James Owen, and brother, Robert.

Kirk J. Schneider and Tom Greening
Saybrook Graduate School