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Kierkegaard for Clinicians: Finitude, Despair, and the Absurdity of Hope is a Course

Kierkegaard for Clinicians: Finitude, Despair, and the Absurdity of Hope

Nov 22, 2022 - May 27, 2023

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Full course description

January 26 - May 18, 2023 | 7-8:30pm (ET) - Fully Online Learning Group

Eligible for 7.5 CEUs for Pschologists, LMHCs, and Social Workers.


In The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker examines the import that the works of the 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard have on modern psychology. Calling Kierkegaard a psychoanalyst, he argues that the philosopher of religion saw deeper into the human psyche than most analysts today.

Participants in this 5-month Psychological Humanities and Ethics workshop will meet from 7 to 8:30 pm EST one Thursday of each month from January to May to examine the insights and ideas of one of history’s most formative psychologists. Reading Kierkegaard not as a philosopher in the classical sense but a proto-psychotherapist, a precursor to Freud, Becker, Girard, and Lacan, participants will trace the early understandings of such fundamental psychological concepts as anxiety, despair, and repetition to the works of Kierkegaard and will explore his own concepts of absurdity, faith, mimesis, ethics, and desire. By the end of this course, participants will have an in-depth knowledge of the major works and ideas of one of modernity’s most prominent and influential thinkers.

Learning Objectives:

At the conclusion of this learning series, the participant will be able to:

January 26 – Despair

  1. Describe Kierkegaard’s notion of the “despair” and its import for his thought.
  2. Explain how despair impacts the individual psyche and the human community more broadly.
  3. Explain Kierkegaard’s understanding of consciousness gives rise to his diagnosis of the universal despair of all human subjects.

February 23 – Anxiety

  1. Identify “anxiety” as a personal and religious phenomenon.
  2. Explain the relation between anxiety and despair.
  3. Explain the psychological and moral implications of the singularity that anxiety forces upon us as individuals.

March 23 – Absurdity

  1. Describe Kierkegaard’s notion of the “absurdity” and its import for his thought.
  2. Compare absurdity with his notion of resignation and relate resignation to despair.
  3. Assess the import of such ideas for a contemporary clinical setting

April 20 – Repetition

  1. Compare Kierkegaard’s notion of “repetition” with the repetition compulsion of psychoanalysis.
  2. Explain why Kierkegaard believes that repetition is not possible.
  3. Explain what Kierkegaard means by “repetition forward” and how this relates to psychological well being.

May 18 – Hope

  1. Compare Kierkegaard’s understanding of singularity in “The Lilies and the Birds” with his explanation of it in the previous texts we have studied.
  2. Identify the movement from absurdity to faith in this and previous texts.
  3. Explain what Kierkegaard sees as the catalyst for joy in the face of suffering.

Timeline and Requirements:

The learning group will take place from January 26 - May 18, 2023. This series is presenter-led and is a fully online experience. Sessions will be conducted synchronously online via Zoom from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm (ET) one Thursday of each month. 

CE Sponsorship: 

University Counseling Services of Boston College is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. As a co-sponsor of this program, University Counseling Services of Boston College maintains responsibility for this program and its content." Participants will be eligible to receive 7.5 CE units from University Counseling Services of Boston College. 

This program has been approved for 7.5 Social Work Continuing Education hours for relicensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. NASW-MA Chapter CE Approval Program Authorization Number D91554.

The Lynch School of Education and Human Development is providing sponsorship for CEUs for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). Participants will be eligible to receive 7.5 CE units. These credits are accepted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Licensed Mental Health Counselors (Category I contact hours in Content Area I).

Participants must attend the workshop in full and complete the post event survey to be eligible to receive CEs.

This workshop does not offer CEs for other clinicians not listed above. 

Fees & Policies:

Payment is due by credit card at registration. Refunds will be granted only up until registration closes at 5pm on January 26th. No refunds will be granted for registration or technical errors on the participant's part (such as incorrect name/email, login failure, etc.).

Additional offerings from the Lynch School Professional & Continuing Education Office can be found on our website