Tuesday, May 13th, 6-9pm & Tuesday, November 18th, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
First Unitarian Church of San Francisco
1187 Franklin Street (at Geary)
San Francisco, CA 94109

$15 per lecture - deductible from the workshop fees, if attending.
$150.00 per workshop - 6 CEUs MCEP - BBS

In Deeper into the Soul, Dr. Shanahangi invites us to shift our attitude toward dementia, or Forgetfulness, as he calls it. He will evaluate the prevalent view that our physical and psychological symptoms represent illnesses that we need to cure and remove. Could it be, for example, that the many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, are attempts to speak in a language yet unfamiliar to us? Could it be that more than a dis-ease for the person so afflicted, a person’s symptom represents a message of sorts?

The author reminds us that with each effort to understand others, we expand our view of the world. Rather than simply a disease, forgetfulness and all dementias have purpose and meaning; rather than simply being in need of our care, people with forgetfulness can teach us about life and living; rather than a burden, people with dementia offer us an opportunity to slow down, to be more open and caring, to get in touch with the essence of our human nature. In the process, we deepen ourselves, deepen our souls.

In this lecture, he would ask the basic existential questions:

What are the possible meanings of forgetfulness? What purpose does it serve for both caregiver and the one experiencing forgetfulness?

From a longitudinal study and a clinical and phenomenological research of a population of older adults (60+) experiencing different degrees of dementia (including cerebro-vascular dementia, HIV dementia, and Alzheimer's) Dr. Shabahangi and Pacific Institute questions the prevalent views on dementia and advance alternative paradigms and interventions to deal with this spread phenomena. By using an existential and process-work oriented approach we will advocate for a change in attitudes that design treatment for people with Dementia including Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a construct: a concept we fill with our own ideas, often pre-conceived by others. Those others might be medical people, psychologists, sociologists, or gerontologists. This presentation will take a look at current definitions and views of dementia, what effects these perceptions have on how we treat and care for patients with dementia, and how we can perhaps change our ideas going forward.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Nader Shabahangi, Ph.D.

Nader received his doctorate from Stanford University. He is Chairman of the Board of Agesong, Inc, an assisted living development company. In 1991, Nader founded Pacific Institute, a nonprofit organization that offers counseling services, continuing education, and training to mental health professionals and interns. Nader is licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences as a psychotherapist and is licensed by the California Contractors License Board as a general contractor. In 1994 he began the development of an innovative Gerontological Wellness Program in order to provide emotional support and mental health care services for the elderly. In 1997 he opened a residential care home for elders (RCFE) in San Francisco called Hayes Valley Care. Agesong, Inc. is currently developing another RCFE in San Francisco and continues to develop and refine its concept and practice of elder care.


 May 16 & November 21, 2008 – San Francisco

Validating the Language of Dementia
Doris Bersing, Ph.D and Nader Shabahangi, Ph.D
10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Scholefield Fireside Room
First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
1187 Franklin Street
San Francisco CA 94109
Phone: (415) 776-4580

Download Registration Form in PDF

Join us to explore a different approach to Dementia and Alzheimer. It is the prevalent view that our physical and psychological symptoms represent illnesses. Understood as illnesses, psychological symptoms represent illnesses. Understood as illnesses we ask for professional help in the 'removal' of these symptoms.

Another attitude views symptoms as meaningful, as important expressions of the individual, perhaps even planetary psyche. As such symptoms are forms of communication, which we can try to understand rather than ignore (which often happens through our well-intentioned means of helping and 'curing').
Is there a way of learning to listen to the voice of a symptom? Could it be, for example, that the many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's, are attempts to speak in a language as of yet unfamiliar to us? Could it be that more than a dis-ease for the person so afflicted, a person's symptom represents a message of sorts?

As Naomi Feil says: Using Validation techniques we offer disoriented elderly an opportunity to express what they wish to express whether it is verbal or non-verbal communication. Validation practitioners are caring, non-judgemental and open to the feelings that are expressed.

How would such a change in attitude and perspective influence the way we 'treat' people with dementia and Alzheimer`s?

Approved by MCEP-BBS - meet the mandatory requirements for aging courses.


Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D.
Dr. Shabahangi received his doctorate from Stanford University and is a licensed pychotherapist who has been working with the elderly for the past ten years. As a photographer and philosopher, he brings a passion for caring to our elderly. In 2002, he wrote Faces of Aging as a tribute to celebrating who we are at any age. Dr. Shabahangi is the Founder and Board President of Pacific Institute and Pacific Institute Europe and supervises graduate students from San Francisco and the Bay Area, and central and western Europe.

Doris Bersing, Ph.D.
Dr. Bersing received her doctorate from L'Universite de Toulouse-Mirail in France. She is a clinical psychologist who teaches and serves clients using an existential-humanistic approach. Dr. Bersing has taught and led therapeutic groups and academic cources in Europe, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and now in the United States. As Pacific Institute's Executive Director, Dr. Bersing works weekly with interns and oversees all Pacific Institute programs. She also teaches at several graduate schools in the Bay Area - she teaches on the topics of Gerontology, Feminist Pschology, Cross-cultural Psychology, Psychopathology and Professional Ethics. She is the author of several books and is currently writing a book about women, agin, and self-esteem. With 27 years of counseling and teaching experience, Dr. Bersing continues her work of empowering people by helping them unfold their own potential.