Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit

Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated


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About Dr. Friedman's Practice

Dr. Friedman's Practice | Dr. Friedman's Approach | Therapeutic Purposes | Core Therapeutic Orientation

Witnessing—#1 of 2—Psychologist Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Psychologist Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. explores the realm of presence, and especially witnessing the mind from outside the mind to see what it is up to now. The natural and learnable abilities to inhabit the present moment (presence) and therein see the mind from outside it (witnessing) are seen as the most impactful ones anyone could develop to experience a happy, satisfying, fulfilling and contributive life. The metaphor of a fish cannot see itself in water, just as the mind cannot see itself, is offered. To see the water the fish must get out of the water, just as getting out of the mind is essential to see the mind. Possibilities galore ensue.
Witnessing—#2 of 2—Psychologist Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
Part 2 of Dr. Friedman's video on Witnessing.

My practice is about inhabiting this present moment, witnessing and "buying out" of the ego-mind's unworkable patterns, desensitizing root emotional charges, and gaining effective tools to thrive in the world. My vision for our work is for clients to unlearn their learned limitations and have an emotionally satisfying and completing experience with their challenges. Free the ego, and you are free.

  • Presence-centered therapy is a conscious attuning to the richness of this present moment (sometimes called mindfulness or wakefulness) along with witnessing, that is, observing what the mind is up to now by looking from outside of it.
  • Presence is all embracing, generously welcoming everything and everyone. Heartfelt gratitude and natural generosity beaming unconditional Love may well be the clearest indicators of aware Presence.
  • When you bring a purity of pro-life intention coupled with a whole-bodied attention, this naturally expresses itself in a rich, resonant and welcoming Presence, like a timeless infinite embrace of the entire world moment by moment.

"Lose your mind and come to your senses."
Fritz Perls

As a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1977, my aim is to understand your challenges and collaborate in setting an achievable vision in the present. Licensed as a psychologist in California since 1987, my major focus is Presence-centered therapy. I perceive people as multi-faceted bio-psycho-social-spiritual Beings ever adapting and evolving in the only time that exists---this invaluable present moment. The mind, body and world are all undivided expressions of all-encompassing, seamless, non-separate Consciousness.

Recognizing, healing and freeing the ego as a mistaken identity is central within Presence and cultivating the ability of inner witnessing. The emphasis is on enhancing strengths, building resilient inner resources and providing immediately workable tools, skills, strategies, distinctions and experiences. Our shared, on-going collaboration can help create enhanced internal congruence, external productivity and inhabiting the True Self.

Together with my clients, we create a deepening awareness of here-and-now experience, develop an appreciation of their challenges and collaborate in a healing process. A safe, supportive and validating environment is offered as an invitation for a vibrant, energized experience of authentically being alive, awake, aware, present and free to be your Real Self.

George Demont Otis     Flowering Dunes

In essence our work rests on three core orientations, like a three-legged stool.

  • The first leg is more and more simply "being present" in this moment (presence) coupled with witnessing one's mind or ego. These two tools/abilities are pivotally important in freeing oneself from incessant thoughts, beliefs, self-defeating behavior patterns, stories and roles.
  • The second leg of our work is learning and honing a targeted set of tools, skills, abilities, distinctions and strategies to effectively address uncomfortable symptoms, live more functionally, peacefully and joyously through daily activities and truly thrive in the world.
  • The third leg is the use of mind-body approaches to help move all the way though and release the emotional "charge" on unworkable patterns, mistaken beliefs and defeating survival decisions. To desensitize and deconstruct beliefs is especially helpful for clients in making their own choices and the ability to be their own authority in life. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a remarkably powerful mind-body approach that uses bilateral stimulation (that is, safe and simple stimulation of both sides of one's body) to help resolve incomplete traumas, clear the charge on old unworkable patterns and install workable inner resources that value one's true capabilities.

When combined, these three core approaches can be amazingly synergistic, supportive, powerful and effective in enhancing the therapeutic enterprise and healing process of wholeness. The hallmark of this vision is facilitating the entrance of clients into the organic space of empowerment in the now. Further, I warmly encourage and invite clients to assume authority and accountability for making true choices in their life, living in the present, and inhabiting truly fulfilling and contributing lives.

Our work is nested within a context of true life transformation, one that embraces the full human experience. For most people this includes their spiritual/religious life. As is appropriate, a Judaic-Christian-Universal and non-dual spirituality is invited into our work.

I look forward to being of service in helping you help yourself.


Dr. Friedman's Practice | Dr. Friedman's Approach | Therapeutic Purposes | Core Therapeutic Orientation

This practice of Presence-Centered Therapy is dedicated to and owes an incalculable debt to three pioneers of effective therapy who are dearly missed to this day.

First and foremost is psychologist Carl Rogers, Ph.D. (1902-1987), generally considered the "father of modern therapy," who over the three decades from the 1940's through the 1960's was the seminal trail-blazer for effective therapy with his Client-Centered Therapy approach. He proposed three basic elements he considered essential in the experiential treatment process of profoundly listening and being wholly present in therapy with clients: (1) Accurate empathy (i.e., "feeling with" clients to understand the client's responses fully and correctly); (2) Unconditional positive regard (i.e., deep acceptance, valuing and validating all aspects of the client); and (3) Congruence (i.e., bringing authenticity, speaking and behaving as you feel, and being who you are in this moment).

Although it was considered less than professional then, and is still looked askance upon to this day in professional circles, to call unconditional positive regard as showing love of one's client, this is precisely what it is. I was remarkably fortunate to meet Carl Rogers while I was attending the University of California at Irvine for my Bachelor's in the early 1970's and he was just as much a consummate gentleman, remarkably present and naturally respectful in person as he unwaveringly demonstrated in his writings and life. Undoubtedly Carl Rogers provided modern therapy its true foundation and heart in living profound presence, deep listening and heart-felt empathy.

George Demont Otis     Spring in Marin

Second is psychiatrist/psychologist Frederick (Fritz) S. Perls, M.D., Ph.D. (1893-1970), the originator of Gestalt Therapy and associated with the Esalen Institute near Big Sur, California since 1964. Gestalt Therapy promoted awareness, specifically awareness of the unity of all present feelings and behaviors as well as the contact of the self and the environment. He asserted, "...awareness per se—by and of itself—can be curative.” (Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, 1969, page 16). It took decades for me to truly understand that the follow through in action is included in the Awareness itself. In his workshops Fritz would repeatedly say, "Lose your mind and come to your senses." He famously wrote the Gestalt Prayer. The key idea of the statement is the focus on living in response to one's own needs, without projecting onto or taking introjects from others. It also expresses the idea that it is by fulfilling their own needs that people can help others do the same and create space for genuine contact; that is, when they "find each other, it's beautiful" according to Wikipedia.org.:

I do my thing and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful

If not, it can't be helped. [Perls, F. (1969) Gestalt Therapy Verbatim]

Ever a realist, psychotherapist Fritz Perls allegedly said that almost nobody comes to a therapist to truly transform their life, but only to gain a greater comfort with their neurosis (that is, better manage self-defeating behaviors). He is reputed to have said: "...nobody can stand truth if it is told to him. Truth can be tolerated only if you discover it yourself because then, the pride of discovery makes the truth palatable.", "Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge", "Don’t help your patients. Frustrate them. Push them back to their impasse where they have nowhere to turn. Make them push right through their impasse", and "I have one aim only: to impart a fraction of the meaning of the word now." Not prone to either exaggeration or hyperbole, Fritz Perls' wise last words were, "Everything is projection." Fritz Perls brought an articulate, innovative and sometimes irreverent voice to the therapeutic enterprise. Fritz was a relentless advocate of awareness and its sanity being the keys to healing and life transformation.

Third is clinical psychologist Helen H. Watkins, M.A. (1921-2002), who saw a distress signal from one of her clients as having the highest priority, spent her life helping others. She and her husband psychologist John G. Watkins, Ph.D. were seminal figures in developing ego-state therapy, which uses analysis of and collaboration among underlying sub-personalities or ego-states to find the causes of psychological challenges and help orchestrate healthy resolutions. Together they made major contributions in the areas of hypnosis, dissociation and multiple personality (now termed Dissociative Identity Disorder).

Helen was a master therapist, practiced inhabiting "the therapeutic self" and offered emotional resonance with clients in which she co-feels (co-suffers and co-enjoys) and co-understands in a common moment of "withness." Resonance is a temporary type of identification in which the therapist actually experiences inwardly the same feelings as the client, even if in mini-form. Resonance is necessarily balanced with objectivity. As Jack Watkins writes in his book The Therapeutic Self (1978, page 262): " All the therapist's skills and knowledges are then mobilized to help the patient move from the position of pathology, of immaturity, of sickness, to the position of health, of reality, of strength." Most importantly, she would help clients resolve the early unworkable imprints of the pre-natal and birth experiences in a hypnotic trance state given that the feelings the child takes on from the mother do not belong to the child and the child has no way of knowing this or protecting itself from them.

Helen didn't see the world as a struggle between good and evil; she saw only the good and dismissed evil. Rather, she saw the essential struggle as between respect and disrespect. As Jack wrote in his loving homage biography of Helen called Emotional Resonance (2005, page 85): "In thinking of cases, she would constantly asked herself, "What are his/her inner strengths? How can they be mobilized?" Helen perhaps most revealed her approach in once saying, "I quit reading psychology books and listened to patients instead."

Having attended numerous seminars with Jack and Helen as well as experiencing Helen's therapy first-hand in the early 1980's, I can say without qualification that it had and continues to have positive healing impact to this day, to my timeless gratitude. Helen was loved by everyone who knew her. What a gift. What a healing presence!

© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

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