It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Dr. Alvin R. Mahrer.

I invite you to share your thoughts, memories and the many "Mahrerisms" that Al was known for. Your emails are grately appreciated.  

Please send your emails to (click on address)

Howard Gontovnick, Ph.D.
April 16, 2014


A memorial for Dr. Alvin R. Mahrer  will take place on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at the University of Ottawa. The exact time and location will be published on this web site as soon as this is available.   HG

Dr. Alvin Mahrer obituary in the Ottawa Citizen - click here for "Guest Book" feature.


Your thoughts.......

From Mexico 

   I have been Reading your books on optimal behaviour;  What  is psychotherapy for..  and recently the one on Transformation…
    It is just not possible to read them straight on; but a few pages at a time, then pause, think, question, integrate, write... and then return and read more
    Almost every page I read from your work resonates on my own view and stimulates me to elaborate on the wide range of implications and applications…  The very issue of MSF for instance when applied to interpersonal dialogues, seems so magical, so capable of connecting people and transforming their understanding and their lives... learning about optimal behaviours seems to render psychotherapy obsolete.
   I want to tell you the so many ways I feel grateful towards you.  You are so very present on my professional life, when I teach, do therapy, make up stories distorting the ones I heard from you. Every time I offer a seminar or a conference you are there in many ways.   I keep on writing books - which I enjoy.  And I can recognize the great  influence you have had in my way of  facilitating deep transformations. Meeting you has been a gift of life to me.  I would like to say - thank you.
Sergio Michel.

I feel blessed to have been one of Dr. Mahrer’s students when I was doing my Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. Although I  - and other novice graduate students -  playfully challenged his innovative views on psychotherapy in his group supervision sessions, I knew at another level of my mind that his thoughts were grounded in the deepest understanding of the human mind and psyche. Al enjoyed the challenges and was always in good mood with me. I liked him a lot and held him in high esteem. What I learned from him transcends affected my understanding of personal growth and spiritual development, and continues to unfold and blossom today, every day. Dr. Mahrer: a big thank you for everything you gave us. May your Soul rest in peace.
Aïda Warah, Ph. D. C. Psych.
Ottawa, Ontario


I am not sad.  Every time I think about Al, read his books, remember our times together, our pen-pal  relationship, when I do self-work or work on another, I feel joy.  I am full of Al and I feel that I was  granted a unique and spectacular experience with Al. 

Some of my work involves grief and death.  When a person has not fully grieved, it is because;

1 - they feel deep guilt (about many topics)
2 - they retain connection to the lost person through guilt and pain.
3 - they fear losing the one they have lost if they grieve

When I apply Al's experiencing, they end all symptoms and the part that seems to make the loss beautiful and that the feeling of the other person is still within and still accessible. They become the new person which includes the experiencing of the other (be it due to death, divorce, or dementia...). This is a variance on the idea of optimizing.  One becomes new with the loss, not less.

Tom Aguirre

Al Mahrer had a  great passion for human transformation which  he took very seriously. Throughout his life he continually thought about and transformed himself based on this passion of becoming a whole new person. When I visited him recently in Ottawa, he was still working on this idea and was still quite enthusiastic about what could be done. 
   Our last conversation focused
around living a transformative life. He acknowledged that there was still a lot to do “to become a totally new person” and  also mentioned that this started to happen  in his dreams. We are loosing an outstanding person and friend, and we will really miss him. But  I am also very happy and  grateful that I met him  and could learn from him a lot.


Karl Beer,
Southern Germany


Al Mahrer will be missed by many people. He brought positive energy to the field. We worked tirelessly to advance his views on psychotherapy. He was a creative spirit and a friendly soul. The field of psychotherapy lost a dear friend.
Jim Overholser
Professor of Psychology
Case Western Reserve University
Editor - Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

Al was a good friend. I stayed with him once in Ottawa for several days. We walked, went out to eat, and talked. It was during March Madness and we turned on the basketball game. Al wanted to watch it. We sat for about five minutes. Al turned to me with a big wide smile on his face and said, "I LOVE psychotherapy!" And we began to talk (once more) about the nature of psychotherapy. 'The basketball game faded into the background. He was the one who suggested that I (and Les Greenberg) edit a book on empathy (as long as we let him contribute a chapter!). He also was one of the first to suggest to APA that it develop a film series (he was one of the first contributors). He also agreed to participate in a symposium I had arranged at a conference on experiencing when I was an unknown professor and helped my career by so doing. I was on many symposia over the years with him and always found his thoughts provocative and stimulating. I think his unique approach to therapy is under-appreciated. It was ironic that I was just thinking about him and wondering how he was doing two hours before I read this. I won't feel sad. I'll feel glad that I met him.

Arthur Bohart


   It is some 35 years ago, as an MA student at the University of Ottawa that I attended for the first time a lecture by Al on Experiential Psychotherapy. It was entirely different than any class or workshop on approaches to Psychotherapy I had taken in to that point, and I found it difficult to integrate his thinking on methods and techniques - it seemed almost hocus-pocus. Yet, when the opportunity came to attend his group supervision sessions in that ancient building on King Edward Ave., I jumped at it. Very quickly and completely I was swept up in the possibilities and "Deeper Potentials" of his brand of Experiential Psychotherapy. Over the next 15 years he became my Mentor and thought leader in terms of the development of my Practice and my work with individual Clients.
   It has been some 20 years since I sat in on one of Al's group supervisions, or prattled with him face to face about Experiential Therapy sessions; yet, what I learned has effected almost everything I do - directly or indirectly - with Clients. Even now when I attend a workshop or lecture to keep my continuing education credits for practising Psychotherapy current, I run pretty well everything through the filter of, "What would Al do with that; what would Al have to say about that".
   Of course, today Al's contributions to the field have gone well beyond discussions of what an Experiential Psychotherapy session is, but it is in that realm that he has so profoundly effected myself.


Gordon Hope, Ph.D.
Ottawa, Canada

I was Al's doctoral student. He was, and still is, a constant inspiration. He taught me to love psychotherapy and to ask the right questions. His thinking was creative, unconventional and unique.
He will be greatly missed.

Anastassios Stalikas
Panteion University,
Athens, Greece

  For years hardly a day passes that I don't think about Al and his work. Optimal Behaviours and Becoming an Optimal Person have become enmeshed in my life.  Having personal sessions and sessions with others, with Al's guidance,  is revolutionary and metamorphoses becomes visible.
  Al's passing is a great loss and a call to everyone to take down those books from the shelf and be reminded of his thoughtfulness clarity of thinking and action.   He was wonderfully generous with his time and support for any who wrote for his guidance.
  My sympathy to his family and friends for this great loss.  I will always be grateful to him, and to his great friend, Howard Gontovnick, for publishing his books which lead me to contact Al in the first place.

Carolyn Sweeny
London, England
I knew Al for 50+ years and respected him and his work and contribution to practicing pychologists.  I know all Psychology will miss him.
J G Benedict, PHD

Al was an innovator who followed his own path of discovery.  He was creative, generous, loving, and highly productive.  His many contributions--books, articles, tapes, etc.--will be part of the therapeutic enterprise for a long time.
Don Freedheim

   I was very saddened to hear of Dr. Mahrer's passing. I met him once during a radio interview and I was very much affected by his strong personality, convictions and his vision of psychotherapy. He was a remarkable man and a revolutionary in his field. He will be missed by many. This is a great loss for everyone. However, there is much hope and optimism in that he has trained his students well and that his vision shall carry on.
Condolences to his family, friends and students - and a special word of sympathy is extended to Dr. H. Gontovnick, his devoted student and friend: May you carry Dr. Mahrer's message and teaching forward for the benefit of all. May you find the strength to bear this terrible loss.
Robert Sapienza

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