Charles Merrill, Ed.D

Professor, Psychology
Psychology Department

Sonoma State University


Office: 3092A Stevenson Hall
Department of Psychology
1801 East Cotati Ave.
Rohnert Park, California 94928
Office phone: (707) 664-2683
Office FAX: (707) 664-3113


Professional Background:

I studied counseling and psychology at East Texas State University (now part of the Texas A & M system) and The University of Florida. I was awarded the doctorate in education in 1968 from U. of F. and the M.S. in counseling from ETSU in 1962.

While at the University of Florida I had the opportunity to study with Sidney Jourard, Theodore Landsman and James Lister, who were theorists and practitioners in humanistic/existential psychology and person-centered counseling. The 1960's were a time of ferment and excitement as the Third Force in psychology was becoming very well known in research and practice in psychotherapy.

I was much influenced by the writings of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, R.D. Laing, Sidney Jourard, Theadore Landsman and Arthur Combs in psychology and Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Buber and Paul Tillach in existential philosophy and theology.

My doctoral dissertation was entitled The Experience of Being Confirmed: The Relationship to Self-exploration and Self-concept, 1968 My research was theoretically based on the work of Buber, Laing, Jourard and Landsman. Landsman did seminal work on positive human experience research and I was very interested to find out whether confirming experiences could be predicted and when they happened what was the effect.

The results showed a slight positive correlation between a confirming experience and improved self-concept.

I began my professional work at Sonoma State University in 1969 as Associate Dean for Counseling and Testing and moved into the psychology department in 1974. Since that time I have been teaching undergraduate and graduate students in psychology and I served as department chair from 1984-87. I was also one of the co-founders of the Organization Development masters program in psychology and worked as core faculty teaching the group process courses from 1985 to 1996. I was Chair of the Academic Senate during the 1994-95 academic year and have worked in many faculty leadership positions at Sonoma.

I also maintained a part-time private practice in psychology from until 1986, specializing with adults and families who were either in crises or at a blocked place in their lives.


Current Professional Activities:

After serving as the Psychology Department Graduate Coordinator for nine years, I have returned to teaching, but I shall be available to the graduate faculty for consultation as needed.

I regularly teach courses on counseling theory and practices, family psychology from a systems perspective, myth, dream and symbol based on the psychology of Carl Jung. I also periodically teach group processes. I have enjoyed my teaching experiences over the years and am interested in exploring more about how we learn and change. The writings of James Hillman about how we come to be who we are has meaning for me. His "acorn" theory as outlined in his recent book The Soul's Code, 1996, speaks to the issue of how our current life situation may be already evident in our earlier development experiences. I am also very interested in the concept of dialogue based on the writings of Martin Buber.

You might be interested in a paper I jointly authored with a friend from Denmark which is about Rogerian principles applied to Expressive Therapy.

A few years ago, my wife, Hella Merrill, encouraged me to renew my earlier interest in color photography. I listened to her and have been exploring and learning how to see more richly from the perspective of the camera. I have recently showed my work in Gallery One, Petaluma,CA, Petaluma Valley Hospital, Bank of Marin, Petaluma, and at the annual photography show at the Hamilton Art Gallery, Novato, CA.

Currently, I am writing about the photographic process and finding symbolic personal connections to my life experience. I have learned much from composing photographic images which complements all my years of training myself to really listen to students and clients. These writings are short and use images from by work in photography. I have included three short creative papers in case you are interested. They are Balloons as Symbol, Photography as a Process, and The Moment of Composition.


Current Courses

Spring 2006:

Psych 418, Pychology of Family
Click here for the course description and project guidelines.

"Learning Within Mentoring Networks: The OD Program at Sonoma State University, Vision -Action: Journal of the Bay Area OD Network, Vol. 15, No. 2, (Summer 1996), 18-19. (Lead author was Saul Eisen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology)

"Person-Centered Expressive Therapy: An Outcome Study," Beyond Carl Rogers: Towards a Psychotherapy for the 21st Century, David Brazier, Editor, Constable Press, London, 1993.

"A Content Analysis of Person-Centered Expressive Therapy Outcomes, The Humanistic Psychologist, Vol. 21, No.3 (Autumn 1993), 354-363.

"A Review of, 'The Running Experience'", Bill Dellinger in Somatics: Journal of Bodily Arts and Sciences, Autumn 1979.

"My Last Afternoon with Grandad," (short story), Serendipity, A Forum of Contemporary Communication, University of New Hampshire Press, April 1979.

"A Review of, On Personal Power," by Carl Rogers, in Somatics: Journal of Bodily Arts and Sciences, Spring 1977.

"A Review of, 'T-Groups and Therapy Groups in a Changing Society,'" by Dee G. Appley and Alvin E. Winder, in Personnel and Guidance Journal, November 1974.

"A Review of 'Awareness: Exploring, Experimenting, Experiencing," by John Stevens in Personnel and Guidance Journal, Spring 1972.

"Proposal for M.A. Program in Counseling, Sonoma State University," Chancellor of California State Univ. System, May 1972.

"The Experience of Being Confirmed: Its Relationship to Self-Exploration and Self-Concept," Doctoral Dissertation, University of Florida, 1968.

"A Humanistic and Experiential Approach to Personal Development," Personnel and Guidance Journal, November 1966, 267-71.


Personal Interests
I am middle aged and even though I do not feel older I realize that time is quickly passing. For the last nine years my spouse and I have enjoyed boating on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento Delta. Boating is both exciting and at times scary. I learned to cope with fear and I have a healthy respect for the sea. Although we are not boating presently we have a "land boat" in the form of a motor home.

We have traveled along the Oregon and Washington coasts and greatly enjoyed the fantastic beaches and rocks along the Oregon coast as well as the rich green of the Pacific Northwest. Camping in the many beautiful State Parks in Oregon and California added a special touch. We periodically travel outside the United States because I find that my perspective changes from experiencing to new places and different cultures.