Ira Progoff was a 20th century psychologist who developed the Intensive Journal method to promote regular journaling as a therapeutic technique.

Professional Life

Ira Progoff was born August 2, 1921. He completed his undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College, and then he studied at the New School for Social Research in New York City, where he received his PhD in 1951. Carl Jung was so impressed with Progoff’s thesis on Jungian psychology that he invited him to study with him as a Bollingen fellow in Switzerland. While in Switzerland, Progoff spent time in Zurich, lecturing at the Jung Institute. From 1959–1971, Progoff became the director of the Institute for Research in Depth Psychology at Drew University in New Jersey.

While conducting research in depth psychology, Progoff developed his Intensive Journal method. He shared this form of journal therapy with clinicians and clients throughout North America, outlining the method in the book At a Journal Workshop: The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process, published in 1975. He followed that book up with The Practice of Process Meditation: The Intensive Journal Way to Spiritual Experience in 1980. As his method began to gain popularity, Progoff recognized that many more people could benefit from his method of journaling if the resources were available to them, and he founded the Progoff (National) Intensive Journal Program, and he established the Dialogue House to provide workshops in his journaling method around the United States and the world.    

Contribution to Psychology

As a student and practitioner of depth psychology, Progoff believed that unconscious processes were of prime importance. Dreams, unstated desires and drives, and repressed memories can affect a person's behavior and emotional health, according to Progoff and other depth psychologists.

As part of his interest in exploring the unconscious mind, Progoff developed the Intensive Journal method. The therapeutic method uses writing as a tool for accessing subconscious levels of memory and experiences. With only a simple binder and loose leaf paper, a client’s whole life experiences are laid out in sections. Intensive Journal practitioners argue that this process allows an individual to gain new, deeper insight into life circumstances.

Progoff’s original Intensive Journaling method consisted of 16 specific sections, but the updated version allows places for writings on process meditation and other techniques. The goal is to guide clients through the past, allowing them to read the story of their lives clearly for the very first time. Through writing, clients can address specific traumatic events and record emotional responses, delving deeper into their physical and psychological selves.

Progoff’s Intensive Journal method has become a springboard for multiple other therapies that rely on writing; it is used throughout the world as a method of helping people with troubling issues, releasing creative blocks, aiding in physical healing, and as a complement to other forms of therapy.


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