Scrabble Tiles on White Surface, Medard Boss

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Medard Boss

Medard Boss (1903-1990) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who developed a form of psychotherapy known as Daseinsanalysis, which united the psychoanalytic practice of Freud with the existential phenomenological philosophy of Heidegger. Boss was influenced by both of these thinkers, and by Sartre, Buddha and Jung, in his quest to understand the meaning of human existence and the nature of mental health and illness.

Boss’s main contribution was to introduce the concept of Dasein, or being-in-the-world, as the basis for understanding the human condition and its disturbances. He argued that psychological problems arise from a lack of authentic relation to oneself, others and the world, and that therapy should aim to facilitate such relation through dialogue and interpretation. Boss also challenged some of the traditional assumptions of psychoanalysis, such as the notions of the unconscious, repression, libido and ego, and proposed a more holistic and existential view of the human psyche. As he wrote: “Daseinsanalysis does not see man as an isolated entity consisting of separate parts or functions but rather as an indivisible whole who is always already inextricably interwoven with his human, non-human and trans-human world” (Boss, 1963, p. 11). Boss’s work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, philosophy and spirituality, and has inspired many other scholars and practitioners to explore the existential dimensions of human life.

Boss was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, on October 4, 1903, and earned his medical degree from the University of Zurich in 1928. During his studies, he travelled to Paris and Vienna, where he studied under Sigmund Freud and was analysed by him. He later became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and the International Psychoanalytic Association. He also worked as a psychiatrist at the Burghölzli Hospital in Zurich and as a professor of psychiatry at the University of Zurich.

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Boss was influenced by Heidegger’s philosophy of being-in-the-world (Dasein) and his critique of the Cartesian dualism of mind and body. He applied Heidegger’s concepts to psychotherapy and argued that human existence is fundamentally relational, temporal, and situational. He also emphasized the role of mood, anxiety, and dreams in revealing the authentic or inauthentic modes of being of the patient. Boss criticized the Freudian concepts of libido, drive, and unconscious as metaphysical abstractions that obscure the concrete reality of human existence. He advocated for a phenomenological approach to psychotherapy that focuses on the patient’s lived experience and existential meaning.

Boss had a close friendship with Heidegger and visited him regularly at his hut in Todtnauberg. He also invited Heidegger to give lectures at his Daseinsanalytic seminars in Zurich, which were attended by many prominent psychotherapists and philosophers. Boss recorded his conversations with Heidegger and published them as Zollikon Seminars: Protocols – Conversations – Letters (2001). In these seminars, Heidegger discussed various topics related to psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and ontology. He also clarified his views on Daseinsanalysis and expressed his appreciation for Boss’s work.

Boss died in Zollikon, Switzerland, on December 21, 1990. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of existential psychotherapy and phenomenological psychopathology. His main works include The Analysis of Dreams (1958), Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis (1963), Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology (1979), and I Dreamt Last Night…: A New Approach to the Revelations of Dreaming-and Its Uses in Psychotherapy (1985).

The legacy of Medard Boss

Boss’s legacy lies in his contribution to the understanding of human existence and its relation to the world, especially in the context of mental health and illness. He challenged the traditional medical model of psychiatry and proposed a more holistic and humanistic approach that focused on the meaning and purpose of life. He also explored the role of dreams, anxiety, guilt, death, and spirituality in human existence. Boss wrote several books and articles on Daseinsanalysis, such as Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis (1963), The Analysis of Dreams (1958), and Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology (1979). He also collaborated with Heidegger on several seminars and dialogues, such as Zollikon Seminars (1987). Boss’s ideas have influenced many contemporary psychotherapists, philosophers, and scholars who are interested in the existential dimension of human experience. Some examples are Rollo May, Irvin Yalom, Emmy van Deurzen, Ernesto Spinelli, and Hans Cohn.


Boss, M. (1963). Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis. New York: Basic Books.

Boss, M. (2001). Zollikon Seminars: Protocols – Conversations – Letters. Edited by M. Biemel. Translated by F. Mayr and R. Askay. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

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Boss, M. (1979). Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology. Translated by S. Conway and A. Cleaves. New York: Jason Aronson.

Medard Boss | The Oxford Handbook of phenomenological Psychopathology.

Medard Boss’ Phenomenologically Based Psychopathology.

Khong, B.S.L. (2020). Medard Boss’s Dialogue with Heidegger, Freud, Sartre, Buddha and Jung: On Being authentic. London: Routledge.

Stanghellini, G., & Fuchs, T. (2019). Biography of Medard Boss (1903–1990). In G. Stanghellini et al. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of phenomenological Psychopathology (pp. 29-32). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wikipedia. (2021). Medard Boss. Retrieved from

Zaner, R.M. (2019). Medard Boss. In G. Stanghellini et al. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of phenomenological Psychopathology (pp. 105-116). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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