Allan Schnarr, MDiv, PhD, is a psychotherapist and workshop facilitator. He has been the director of Claret Center’s psychotherapy practicum since 1985.
Allan has always, from his earliest days, felt a call to serve the greater good. Discerning what that meant was his challenge.
Did it mean doing your best to be the smartest, most insightful kid in class? His elementary school classmates taught him that virtuosity wasn’t the whole story. Friendship and camaraderie, relationships of all sorts, were part of the picture, too.
Did it mean becoming a dedicated, admirable scholar and philosopher? He mastered those roles and found that academic expertise, while useful, did not create the community he craved.
Did it mean he should devote himself to seminary and priesthood? Allan worked and succeeded at both. In seminary he fell in love with the wisdom and compassion of Jesus, finding there a depth of heart that was absent from secular scholarship. He immersed himself in Ignatian spirituality, finding in that discipline the space to explore and experience the loving presence of the Divine.
And yet, he was not satisfied that he had found his path. In fact, his experience awoke in him a hunger for person-to-person emotional intimacy—a human mirroring of Divine acceptance and love. After meeting and falling in love with Leila, the woman who would become his wife, Allan left the priesthood and religious life and focused on completing his training as a clinical psychologist. Still dedicated to both scholarship and spirituality, he generated a theory of human development and wove into his person-centered practice a focus on authentic relationships.
Allan’s devotion to the sacredness of the body comes out of his own journey. He has been a faithful student of Yoga and/or Tai Chi for over forty years. He also spent fifteen years invested in a personal healing journey through Reichian bodywork. Out of this comes his commitment to the body centered awareness in the present moment, and to the emotional truth in relationships.
With his virtuosity enriched by humility and openness, Allan taught for 30 years at Loyola University’s Institute for Pastoral Studies, where he was part of a team that created a master’s degree program in pastoral counseling. He also developed his private practice, which still includes individual and couples therapy. Today he works through the Center for Grief Recovery and also serves as the director of training for the psychotherapy practicum at the Claret Center. In addition, he shares his journey online, in social networking, and in workshops at Claret, to encourage others who find themselves on challenging journeys.
That search for the greater good? “I took that from Jesus, ” says Allan. “Somewhere along the line it became clear to me that we all need to become ‘The Word Made Flesh’. ”