JOE FABRY — A VISIONARY
© , August 3, 1999
Joe Fabry was a storyteller at heart. In his
youthful years, he gave up a career in law in order to do creative
writing. To the surprise of his parents, he was able to make a living
by selling his stories. His sharp mind and his ability to write
well remained with him until his last days.
Not too long ago, someone in the logotherapy
group said to me: "Viktor Frankl was a prophet, but Joe Fabry was
only a scribe." But Joe was much more than a scribe. He was a visionary
storyteller with a prophetic voice; he was a dreamer and a builder—which
would qualify him as a "minor" prophet.
My association with Joe over the past few years
has been most enjoyable and memorable. While on my sabbatical leave
at the University of British Columbia in 1994-95, I articulated
for the first time my integrative model of meaning-centered counseling.
Logotherapy is at the centre of this model, but it also incorporates
cognitive-behavioural principles. Therefore, it may be called spiritual-existential-cognitive-behavioral
I presented my paper at a colloquium of the
Counselling Psychology Department of UBC in March 1995. My presentation
was well received by both professors and graduate students. But
I was still not too sure whether I was on the right track with respect
to logotherapy. So I decided to send a copy to Joe Fabry for his
comments. I had read most of his writings, and thought that, next
to Frankl, he was probably most qualified to evaluate my extension
I was delighted by his speedy and extremely
positive response. He said, "You have developed what I had hoped
for a long time—the extension of Dr. Frankl’s ideas into a wider
practical methods of application, combining them with other methods
into a comprehensive model."1 He wanted to publish my long paper
in instalments. A few weeks later, I received a letter from Dr.
Hutzell stating that "Joe Fabry has a copy of your paper and he
speaks extremely highly of it."2 Dr. Hutzell also asked me to submit
the paper to The International Forum for Logotherapy in instalments.
After this initial exchange of correspondence,
each year Joe sent me the Fabry Gazette with a personal letter.
"How are you getting along with the articles for the Forum?" he
would ask. And he would gently remind me of my promise to send him
articles on meaning-centered counseling. His letters always made
me feel guilty for my tardiness. At long last, I sent him the first
instalment.3 In a letter dated February 11, 1997, he wrote:
I was delighted to get your article and I
am sending it on to Dr. Hutzell for processing into the Spring
Forum. I welcome your developing logotherapy into "neologotherapy."
I am not sure how Frankl will feel about it, but I think you have
kept his basic ideas and expanded them.4
The publication of this first instalment resulted
in numerous positive responses from all over the world, including
those who were involved with logotherapy from the very beginning.
Joe was delighted that his confidence in my neologotherapy was validated.
He continued to press me for additional instalments, but I did not
send him another article until a year later.5
I deeply regret that Joe did not live to see
the remaining instalments. I have been busy building up a new graduate
program in counselling and I blame myself for allowing many other
projects to delay my neologotherapy project. However, I will honour
my commitment to Joe to complete this series of articles without
Joe believed that Viktor Frankl’s story
needs to be retold to new generations in a new language without
changing the basic concepts. Joe’s willingness to embrace and promote
my extension of Dr. Frankl’s logotherapy was a breath of fresh air
within the logotherapy circle.
During my last visit with Joe and Judith in
August 1998, we took a long walk and then returned to his house
for more talk on logotherapy. He was delighted with the publication
of The Human Quest for Meaning,5 to which he had contributed a chapter.
He suggested that Dr. Robert Leslie write a book review for the
Throughout our conversation, he only reminisced
briefly about the heady days of launching logotherapy in the US;
his focus was on the future. He was especially excited about my
proposal to organise an international conference on Searching for
Meaning in the New Millennium in Vancouver, July 13-16, 2000.6 He
was most pleased to learn that this conference was inspired by his
earlier idea of organizing a Festival of Meaning. He promised that
he would come to the Vancouver conference if his health allowed.
After my visit, he even took the trouble to write to Dr. Robert
Barnes urging him to co-operate with me:
Congress in Vancouver would attract much attention, and he has
connections beyond our own, in fact, beyond logotherapy, to related
meaning-oriented movements. . . . I share Dr. Wong’s concern about
the "fragmentation" in the logotherapy movement, and don’t want
to contribute to it. But Dr. Wong is a co-fighter, friend, and
supporter, and sees the Vancouver Congress as a boost to the movement.7
He was pleased with the prospect of introducing
Dr. Frankl’s ideas to a new generation at the Vancouver conference.
He also expressed the opinion that the International Congress on
Logotherapy be held in different parts of the world. His ecumenical,
progressive spirit stands in stark contrast to the fundamentalist
"bunker" mentality of many logotherapists I have met.
Those who cling to the past and resist change
will be relegated to the dustbin of history. But those who dare
to pursue a new vision will make history. Indeed Joe has made history
in establishing the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy and The
International Forum for Logotherapy. Even in his advanced age, he
remained a courageous, prophetic visionary and storyteller, exploring
new ways of expanding Dr. Frankl’s ideas.
From all my interactions with him, I have the
distinct impression that he would want to see logotherapy move forward
rather than backward; and that he would want to recruit more visionary
storytellers like himself to advance logotherapy into the new millennium.
I sincerely hope that Joe’s generous, visionary spirit will continue
to live in those entrusted with the responsibility of the Viktor
Frankl Institute of Logotherapy.
- Fabry, Joseph (personal communication, July
- Hutzell, Robert (personal communication,
August 17, 1995)
- Wong, P. T. P. (1997). Meaning-centered counseling:
A cognitive-behavioral approach to logotherapy. The International
Forum for Logotherapy, 20, 85-94.
- Fabry, Joseph (personal communication, February
- Wong, P. T. P., & Fry, P. S. (1998). The
human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research
and clinical applications.
- Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,
- Fabry, Joseph (personal comunication, August