Ann Gila, M.A., M.F.T.
I have been a licensed psychotherapist in California since 1976 and have taught psychosynthesis for more than 40 years, both in the United States and in Europe. In the late 1980s, I also trained as a Gestalt therapist with Erv and Miriam Polster at their institute in La Jolla, California.
For my M.A. degree, I chose a program in humanistic psychology at Sonoma State University, one of only two schools in the country that at that time offered such a degree. The acceptance into the program was extremely selective, and I was fortunate to be included. For five years, including my year at Sonoma State, I experienced a crisis of transformation following a divorce. It was a time of intense inner exploration during which I asked the most basic question: “Who am I?”
During this time I also began my career in mental health, first as a volunteer, then as a research associate working on a National Institute of Mental Health research study at Agnews State Hospital in California. I will forever be grateful for this experience. Our ward was populated with young men diagnosed with schizophrenia who were experiencing their first psychotic break. Part of the research protocol called for the study of the effectiveness of medication on those with this condition, therefore some of the young men received medication, and some did not. The ward staff was a unique group of people, and our work was influenced by the Jungian consultant John Perry, by the work of R. D. Laing, and by the personal growth approaches presented at the Esalen Institute.
I learned of psychosynthesis from a fellow staff member at a personal growth center in the Santa Cruz Mountains here in California where I was working at the time. I first began as a client in psychosynthesis, but soon afterwards I became involved administratively with the Psychosynthesis Institute in Palo Alto, running its office while becoming a trainee in its training program. The Institute and I co-occupied a house in a residential neighborhood near downtown Palo Alto. I truly lived and breathed psychosynthesis. After I completed training, I presented psychosynthesis workshops locally and across the country, and wrote for the journal Synthesis.
Since these early days, I have had a private psychotherapy practice and was a supervisor in the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology’s counseling center. With my late husband John Firman, I was a trainer at the Institute of Psychosynthesis in London; presented workshops in Florence, Italy; was a faculty member at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology; and presented a psychosynthesis training program here in Palo Alto. I continue to teach psychosynthesis at Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology).
I am the co-author with John Firman of three books published by SUNY Press: The Primal Wound: A Transpersonal View of Trauma, Addiction, and Growth (1997); Psychosynthesis: A Psychology of the Spirit (2002); and A Psychotherapy of Love: Psychosynthesis in Practice (2010). I am also the author of Stay Present and Love Him: A Memoir (2017), and I wrote the foreword for John Firman’s book “I” and Self: Re-visioning Psychosynthesis (2020).