When I attended the International Logotherapy Congress in Dallas in 2009 I met a woman by the name of Olive Bugembe. She had studied logotherapy at UNISA (University of South Africa) and she implemented a program for parents on children in Rwanda based on the principles of logotherapy. I asked her how she sees things now in hindsight. Here is what she wrote:
“When I went to Rwanda in 2007, there seemed to be an epidemic of meaningless life which I believe, was a result of the Rwanda bloody genocide of 1994. To rescue the children from this epidemic, I designed a logotherapeutic parenting course which is still being taught in the communities of the rural areas. This course intends to promote the self-awareness and social effectiveness in the lives of parents/community and in their parenting skills, as well as developing healthy families and communities.
This course managed to engage members of the community in:
– Developing a commitment to work together to find meaning and purpose in the present situation; and move from brokenness to fruitfulness.
– Supporting children not to dwell in the past with the adults, but to move on.
As a result, now children and parents are beginning to experience love, meaning and fulfillment in their lives; There are improved relationships in the communities; and parents and community are better equipped and joyfully supporting the children emotionally, socially and educationally.
The testimony below demonstrates the three values through which meaning is found; experiential values, creative values, and attitudinal values.
This is about a handicapped parent (who lost his two hands and one eye during the genocide). He gave a testimony of how he felt hopeless, useless, and always having sorrow and self-pity. But after attending the logotherapy parenting course he felt emotionally healed and courageous to go out and help his children as much as he could.
He is now active in school meetings, challenging other parents by giving supportive ideas. Because of his handicap the school administration had exonerated him from paying school incentive and other things. Since taking the course he has become aware how much he values the great work of the teachers and considers the responsibilities he has of his family. He has therefore decided to personally pay the incentives like other parents and give support in all his children’s needs.
This is also a way to not negatively affect the mind of his children to always expect free services because of their father’s disability. It was a big challenge to other parents who are “are not physically disabled” and are not supportive to their children.”
Listen carefully to the process that took place here. The parent in question came to his decision because the application of logotherapy helped change his orientation from feeling like a victim to seeing values (the value of what school gives to the children and the value of being a positive role model for his children).
To me the work that Olive has done is at once both encouraging and frustrating because in Israel logotherapy is not offered as a therapy training in any university. Our training program, although it is the same program offered at UNISA, is not yet recognized by the Board of Health or the Board of Education and we have no “home” to speak of other than the homes of the facilitators.
The market is flooded with psychological approaches and logotherapy is not on the average person’s radar at all. Furthermore the psychological establishment is very conservative and change is very slow. Only now is cognitive-behavioral theory becoming more incorporated in addition to the psychoanalytical model. Logotherapy is little understood. At best, therapists think they are “doing this already” when in fact they are not. Other approaches incorporate certain aspects of logotherapy but the orientation of logotherapy is quite unique.
Our tiny course of nine people training in logotherapy is soon coming to a close. We will continue to offer this same course at the grass-roots level. It is the same course that is offered at UNISA and for which students receive Associate and Diplomate certification from the Viktor Frankl Institute. It is my hope and prayer that logotherapy will become widely known and implemented in Israel.
Why do I believe in logotherapy? What is logotherapy about?
Logotherapy is the most positive of all therapies because it addresses the negative and tragic issues of life not as lamentable afflictions we are all doomed to suffer, but as tasks we are challenged to embrace and overcome in a spiritually mature and victorious way.
We are born into this world with the commission to overcome evil with good. We cannot ensure a happy, problem-and pain-free existence for ourselves. Nor are we meant to. We are mortal and very fallible creatures. We all have a part in wrongdoing, failure, suffering and dying, and we have our share of tragedy.
But what we do with these negative and tragic actualities of life, and the way we deal with problems and distresses that come our way determine whether we are victims or victors, whether our lives are full of faith and meaning or filled with negativity and despair. The challenge is to achieve full human stature – that which we were created to be and are meant to become!
We have been given the freedom and ability to overcome evil with good and therefore we have the responsibility to do so! We are to take a victorious stand towards every negative thing in life. Negativity can come from within in the form of inclinations and negative emotions that we act upon to the detriment of self and other, thus presenting a challenge to correct and change it. Negativity can also come from without, in the form of difficult, hurtful or tragic situations that we are challenged to deal with in a mature and morally exemplary way.
The successful performance of these attitudinal tasks clears the air, so to speak. Freed from the negative and draining emotions of worry, anxiety, fearfulness and uncertainty, we are free to fully appreciate and enjoy every wonderful blessing and preserve and foster and fully commit ourselves to what is good and valuable in life.
We grow in human stature. We experience the highest and most optimal state of mental health. We are spiritually vibrant. We have a destiny and are steadily giving it shape. This sense of vibrancy and meaning is sought after by everyone who suffers. Knowing how to attain and experience it, we become powerful instruments of healing and sources of inspiration, encouragement and blessing to others.
Since the inception of Logotherapy as a course at the University of South Africa significant shifts have taken place in fields as diverse as nursing, hospice care, forensic psychology, clinical psychology practice, rabbinical counseling and social work. Workshops have been given for workshop presentations for welfare organizations, for the corporate world and in various public settings. It has been used effectively for drug rehabilitation, rehabilitation of psychiatric patients at a clinic for nervous diseases, art therapy, family therapy, marriage counseling. and programs for teenagers and in schools.
Clinical psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, trauma and lay counselors reported that clients they have worked with, sometimes for years, undergo a dramatic and quick change after a Logotherapy approach was used in therapy and counseling. A will to meaning is the deepest and most fundamental motivation of every person, Viktor Frankl, the father of Logotherapy, contended. This has been proven true!
If anyone wants to join us in promoting logotherapy in Israel, whether by taking our next training course or on the business end or even by responding with good practical suggestions, you will be doing important work in bringing help to people and communities. All you need to do is comment on this blog.