Intensive Journal Program for Self-Development
Progoff Series of Workshops

About the method | Progoff Methodology

Progoff Methodology

Progoff TM Methodology

The Intensive Journal method is based upon Dr. Progoff's pioneering work in depth psychology, as a therapist working with clients, as a research professor at Drew University studying the lives of creative persons, and as an author who wrote several books on his philosophy of human development.  

In using the method, you may find that it is has a great power and effectiveness to help you develop your life. It is a reflection of the great effort that Dr. Progoff went to in making abstract principles of psychology and philosophy practical for your benefit in using this system. 

We outline several aspects of Dr. Progoff's overall methodology and how he implemented it through the Intensive Journal method. 

Atmosphere for Growth

Dr. Progoff believed that fundamental way that a person lives and works is inward.  Common examples include how a person thinks of himself/herself; how people perceive and experience their fundamental nature; how they draw upon their own resources; and how they view their creative potential and possibilities in life. 

Methods for psychological growth should focus on the inner process.  Dr. Progoff says the “crucial question is neither what nor how but where the work is taking place. Where means at what level of the psyche the personality is focused.1         

Intensive Journal workshops provide a progressively deepening atmosphere away from your daily routine with exercises that help you connect at your depth level.


Dr. Progoff believed that a method should not bias the inner process taking place within a person. 2   You will see this principle implemented in a number of ways in the workshop: 3

    - Terminology - We use simple terminology to describe our process. This allows people with minimal education to participate in and benefit from our process. 
    - Privacy - We want you to feel safe to write what comes to you without feeling you have to censor it to obtain the approval from someone else.  

    - Behavior of our certified leaders - They are low key, non-judgmental, and function to help guide you through the process without influencing your process. 

    - Entrance Meditation Readings - Our meditations are neutral with regard to content.  They are designed to help you become quiet and centered to access your inner process.  

Non-Analytical Framework

Dr. Progoff did not believe in analyzing situations in life that would only tie people in knots with circular ways of thinking.  Instead, the goal is to break free of this circular way of thinking by connecting with one’s inner process in an non-analytical approach. 4

In an Intensive Journal workshop, we approach our lives in an non-analytical, nonjudgmental framework.  This allows us to approach areas of our life in a non-threatening way, connecting with the inner process taking place within us to create the possibility of new awareness and insights.       

Direct Experience is Required

Dr. Progoff stated that each person must discover meaning in life for themselves.  He said 

“ There is no use in one person attempting to tell another person what the meaning of life is.  It involves too intimate an awareness...The meaning of life cannot be told; it has to happen to a person.” 5

The Intensive Journal method provides a direct experience in one’s life with exercises to help one discover experiences of meaning.

Psyche Evoking Approach

Dr. Progoff believed that the best approach to human development is to focus on growth, the potentiality of a person. The goal of psychology is to focus on the process of inward growth and draw it on, supporting the integrative unfolding process taking place within persons.  We approach “negative behavior” to ask what it is trying to say within the unfolding process and learn from it, not be shamed by it.   
Dr. Progoff stressed the importance of growth as a way to help a person develop:  

“The frustration of potentiality is the root of neurosis. Individuals are...bundles of possibilities, and the key to therapy lies in reactivating the process of growth.” 6

One critical goal of the Intensive Journal process is to help people connect with their talents, interests and capacities.  The Intensive Journal process can help persons connect with the continuity and direction of their lives.  There are exercises to help them tap into talents and interests that are unfulfilled, to see their lives with a new perspective.  

Whole Life Approach

In developing a perspective on one’s life, Dr. Progoff believed that it is important to take a broad perspective of one’s life as a whole. We should view specific issues within the larger context of our whole life. 7

This whole life approach has important benefits of safety, by working through an issue within the context of an entire life.  It allows for more processes to work within a person’s life when more areas are involved.  People are better able to realize connections between different areas of life, facilitating a more integrating holistic process of growth.

Inner Dialogue to Deepen Relationships with Areas of Our Lives

Dr. Progoff employed Martin Buber’s theory of dialogue, the I-Thou relationship.  Whatever has a conception, birth and a life-history of its own is treated as a Thou, a person.  8 & 9

Dialogue is a mutual meeting of persons, each accepting, speaking out, and most importantly, listening to one another. We learn to walk in the shoes of the other person, listening and speaking, to engage in a genuine dialogue.  Through this process, we can gain a deeper understanding of the other person, and of ourselves. 

Therefore, Dr. Progoff believed that one can enter into dialogue relationships with all meaningful aspects of our lives.  In the Intensive Journal method, we have dialogue exercises with persons, works, body, society, and events, situations and circumstances.  

Cycles of Life and Analogy to Nature

We can view our life as moving in several phases or periods, each of which is a cycle of subjective experience. It is helpful to use this model as we are going through a transition, whether a job, marriage, or moving to a new place to live.  10

A period can begin with a new hopes, energies, projects, and relationships.  Then, it can build to a plateau, as plans, projects, and social involvements solidify.  Then, the period begins to wane as interest, energies and stimulation in particular areas decrease. There may be periods of anxiety, confusion, nothingness, the “dark night of the soul” as a person feels lost and is in transition.   

It is important to not break the cycle of growth taking place - an individual cannot be judged or diagnosed during this period of feeling lost.  Instead, our energies move inward as we connect to the many facets of our life, so that a new period or phase of our life can begin.

Dr. Progoff compares this process to the cycles of nature.  In the winter, the trees are barren and without signs of life.  As spring approaches, the trees bloom and flowers blossom followed by a period of rich life in the summer time. However, in fall, the leaves turn colors and fall off, as winter approaches. 11

It would be counterproductive to think that winter presents a period of hopelessness. Rather, it is time to reconnect with one’s life, all the possibilities that are contained within, in anticipation of the next phase of growth in one’s life. 

Implementing Holistic Integration Through the Intensive Journal Method

Dr. Progoff termed his approach to human development as “holistic depth psychology.”  He states:  

“Holistic suggests the qualitative evolution of people that takes place when all of their experiences come together.  As the integration occurs, there is an improvement in the quality of people’s lives in that the process of becoming who they truly are deepens. Integration results in greater creativity and spiritual growth.” 12

The structure of the Intensive Journal workbook, the various formats of the exercises, and the integrating aspects of the Journal Feedback process provide a practical model for holistic integration. Participants deepen their work in a particular exercise and then move to related areas of their lives and the corresponding exercises.  As they continue this iterative process of deepening their work in a particular exercise and then moving to related areas, this back and forth creates a dynamic process and momentum to create new integrations of awareness and growth. 


In this section we have provided you with some of the many theories and approaches that Dr. Progoff employed in developing his theories of human development that were then implemented in his Intensive Journal process. As the user, you just need to know how to use the Intensive Journal method, but rest assured, you can know that there is a great deal of thought and substance behind Dr. Progoff’s approach.  

For this reason, Dr. Progoff does not believe his method is journal writing, but instead he states: 

“The Intensive Journal method is not journal keeping, not introspective diary keeping, and it isn’t writing is the full scale active method of personal life integration for continuous and cumulative work.” 13

1  The Symbolic and the Real, by Ira Progoff, PhD, (Julian Press, New York 1963), p.  207.
2 The Dynamics of Hope, by Ira Progoff, PhD, (Dialogue House Library 1985), p. 157.
At a Journal Workshop, by Ira Progoff, PhD (Tarcher 1992), Chapter 3 "The Atmosphere of a Journal Workshop."
4 “The Psychology of Personal Growth,” by Ira Progoff, PhD, Atlantic Monthly, July 1961, (Vol 108, No 1), pp. 102-04.
The Symbolic and the Real, pp. 13-14.  
6  “The Psychology of Personal Growth,” p 102.  
The Dynamics of Hope, Appendix I, “From Psyche-Evoking to Whole Life Study, ” pp. 247-254.  
8   The Symbolic and the Real,  p. 180-01.
9   At a Journal Workshop, p. 125.
10  The Dynamics of Hope, p 58.  
11  “Notes on the Intensive Journal Method and the Transitions of  Life: a Program for Pastoral Use,”  by Ira Progoff, PhD, International Center for Integrative Studies, Forum for Correspondence and Contact, July 1978 (Volume 9, Number 4) pp. III 39-46.
12 “The Intensive Journal® Process: A Path to Self-Discovery, An Interview with Ira Progoff, PhD,” by Kathy Juline, Science of Mind Magazine, July 1992.  
13   “Notes on the Intensive Journal Method and the Transitions of  Life: a Program for Pastoral Use,” p.  44.