About Dr. Robbins

Background & Philosophy

My interest in psychology began more than 30 years ago, when as a teenager I discovered the works of Erik Erikson and Carl Rogers. Erikson’s work caught my attention because he described life as a series of developmental challenges, not just in childhood, but extending through the span of adult life. Rogers emphasized the view that each individual has essential self-knowledge within him or herself, and that this inner knowledge must be carefully attended to if one is to discover one’s authentic self. This exposure planted important seeds in my own mind, and prompted me to study psychology as an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, which I combined with study in neuroscience, an area I was fascinated with as another way to understand the nature of the mind. 

My reading of moral and existentialist philosophy and exposure to the many disturbing events of the 20th century, as well as the ongoing threat (at that time) of the cold war and nuclear arms race, led me to contemplate the great harm people can inflict on each other, as well as people’s remarkable capacity for resilience in the face of great suffering. I decided that the best way for me to learn more about the human condition, and to have a meaningful career that involved making some contribution to the betterment of people’s lives, was to become a physician. While in medical school at the University of Minnesota, I tried to understand influences on health and illness in the broadest possible context, including social, environmental, and political factors. What I learned led me to also pursue graduate studies in Public Health, where I did research into how our health system fails to meet the mental health needs of people in many different settings.

When it came time to choose a medical specialty, psychiatry was an obvious choice for me, and toward the end of my specialty training in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, I was able to extend my interest in helping people contend with illness and suffering by setting up a new program to integrate mental health and primary care services. Throughout my specialty training I was in Jungian analysis myself, and was mentored in my clinical work by psychoanalysts from several different theoretical orientations. As I learned more about the intricacies of the analytic approach, I was able to work at greater depth with my own patients, and in 1996 I left my faculty position in the Department of Psychiatry at the U.C.S.F. Medical School to devote myself full time to an analytically oriented private practice. In 1999, while continuing my practice, I entered formal training toward certification as a Jungian Analyst at the Jung Institute of San Francisco, a credential I received in 2006. 

My studies and clinical work have deepened my respect for the great challenge we each face in becoming more conscious people. I have witnessed many times the capacity that people have to accept, heal and express themselves, and to engage in the world in ways that are more meaningful than they had believed possible. I am also frequently reminded of how difficult it is for individuals and the small and large groups they are part of to understand each other and relate to each other with compassion. As a result, I have become increasingly interested in how individual psychological and spiritual development, the psychology of groups, and the quality of leadership each contribute to the development of our shared (collective) consciousness. I consider it a great privilege to be able to work in each of these areas with people and groups as we try to improve our understanding and appreciation of ourselves, each other, and the world we live in.