Witnessing, Wonder, and Hope*


  • Kathy Weingarten Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Family Institute of Cambridge.
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  • *

    I would like to acknowledge conversations with Hilary G. Worthen, M.D., whose insights have contributed to the development of the witnessing schema.

Send correspondence to 82 Homer Street, Newton Centre MA 02459; e-mail: kweing@aol.com.


This article is based on a keynote address I gave in South Africa at the Eighth International Conference of The South African Association of Marital and Family Therapy. The phenomenon of witnessing is explored in a number of contexts, and a distinction is made between witnessing with and without awareness, and from an empowered or a disempowered position. I propose that the African philosophy of ubuntu—emphasis of which is on the self in community, in contrast to the Western emphasis on the individual—be a better fit for my view of hope, which, I propose, is not just a feeling but, rather, something people do.