Have you ever stumbled upon the hidden meaning of the universe? Me neither, but I’ll keep searching as I’m certain you will too. In the meantime, what occurred to me was this: At the age of ten, while traveling along the daily path of a young boy’s life, I happened upon a thought that quickly crystallized in my mind, “What if I blink and all of this goes away?” It was a pretty deep moment for a working-class kid from a town that was, at least at that time, known more for yielding a steady crop of industry than philosophical fodder.
Yet, that thought remained and undeniably influenced my life moving forward. The word “meaning” had taken root on that cold, November day, and it has since flourished. The study of psychoanalysis, myth, and psychotherapy provided an opportunity to reflect on the deeper dimensions of my experience and recognize my own unique calling in life. My purpose, while met with many detours, has become a life in the support and service of existential meaning.
As a licensed counselor and psychotherapist, I have had many years of experience assisting adults, teens, and couples who are struggling with a wide range of life issues. Helping others engage life in a richer, more meaningful way by redefining balance and promoting a greater understanding about living as fully, authentically, and compassionately as possible is my hope for every individual and couple that I encounter. As well as providing psychotherapy and counseling services, I am the co-owner and creator of Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates, a therapy and counseling practice founded in 2012 and located just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My most recent project eTalkTherapy.com is a comprehensive website that incorporates online counseling and mental health resources for those seeking a healthy alternative to the traditional office visit. eTalkTherapy.com will also introduce a podcast this spring on meaning and purpose titled “Existential GPS” and an online magazine debuting in January called The Accidental Existentialist. Additionally, I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in professional counseling and psychology at Carlow University.
Promoting good mental health through meaning led me to INPM’s 2017 Summer Institute, hosted by Dr. Paul T. P. Wong, and membership in the INPM. It was truly a pleasure meeting someone who has had such a profound influence over my work as a therapist. The presentations, by both Dr. Wong and his wife, Dr. Lilian C. J. Wong, were highly informative and allowed me the opportunity to experience firsthand their wisdom, warmth, and kindness. I was particularly impressed with Paul’s exploration of his “PURE model” of living a meaningful life, as well as the awakening of self-awareness of “who one truly is and what one wants.” Practicing self-transcendence to connect with something greater was a theme throughout the conference, supported by Dr. Wong’s outstanding research and conveyed in a way that was both scholarly and relatable. With the beginning of a New Year, I very much look forward to the 10th biennial International Meaning Conference in Vancouver, Canada this summer.
Don Laird is a member of the INPM. He is also a a licensed counselor and psychotherapist, and co-owner and creator of Pittsburgh Psychotherapy Associates.
See his most recent project eTalkTherapy.com, which incorporates online counseling and mental health resources for those seeking a healthy alternative to the traditional office visit.