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About the Department

Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost is a Catholic University, founded by members of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, the Spiritans, and sustained through a partnership of laity and religious. Duquesne University serves God by serving students -- through commitment to excellence in liberal and professional education, through profound concern for moral and spiritual values, through the maintenance of an ecumenical atmosphere open to diversity, and through service to the Church, the community, the nation, and the world.

A phrase that repeatedly appears in the University's promotional literature is "Education for the heart, mind, and soul." In the early 1960s, under the leadership of Father Adrian van Kaam, the Department of Psychology instituted an existential-phenomenological approach to psychology. In keeping with the spirit of the University's Mission, the Department sought to found a psychology that, in Kierkegaard's terms, would "Above all, hold onto what it means to be human." The faculty worked to develop an approach to psychology in which the methods and language of psychology would be true to the full range of human experience, including human spirituality.

The goal was to develop a psychology that overcame the reductionism and distorted philosophical assumptions found in classical psychoanalysis and behaviorism, and to provide a coherent philosophical anthropology -- image of human being -- within which the insights of various schools of psychology could be critically integrated (see van Kaam, A. (1966): Existential foundations of psychology, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press).

This guiding philosophy has matured with the field of psychology, but its central goal has remained: to educate and train clinical psychologists whose core value is to respect the dignity of human being.