Dr Joel Vos PhD MSc MA is a chartered psychologist and philosopher. He works as a Senior Researcher and Senior Lecturer with a research specialty at the Metanoia Institute in London. He is the director of IMEC International Meaning Events and Community. He has published over 160 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books. He is known for his research on meaning in life, systematic literature reviews, meta-analyses, and conceptual models of existential, transactional, and other humanistic psychotherapies. His career started with examining the existential impact of immigration, and how individuals perceive existentially threatening physical diseases, such as cancer, DNA-test results, Cardiovascular Disease, and COVID-19.

After his training in Clinical and Health Psychology at Leiden University, Joel specialised in existential, cognitive-behaviour, and group therapy. He has given therapy to thousands of clients in different mental health care settings, including his private practice. He has developed existential and humanistic treatments which he has tested in clinical trials, and which are now used worldwide. He is specialised in helping clients at turning points in their lives, such as a diagnosis of a physical disease, and offering therapy and coaching to help individuals live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. He has offered consultancy to small, medium and large businesses, such as Unilever and Phillips International, to help their employees experience more meaning in their work; his experiences in business consultancy inspired him to write the book ‘The Economics of Meaning in Life’.

Joel is currently writing his tenth book. In September 2023, Sage has published his go-to book for therapy students and researchers, entitled “Doing research in psychological therapies: a step-by-step guide”. His previous books include for instance “Meaning in life: an evidence-based handbook for practitioners” (Bloomsbury), “Mental health in Crisis” (with Ron Roberts and James Davies, Sage), “The psychology of covid-19” (Sage), and “The economics of meaning in life: from Capitalist Life Syndrome to Meaning-oriented Society” (University Professors Press). He has been a guest editor of several scientific journals, has supervised 90 doctorate students, examined doctorate 100 students, and helped reorganise research programmes at universities.

With the help of his evidence-based research on social justice and social movements, he has trained and consulted politicians and activists and has helped to design social movements. He has for example been nominated by the Council of Europe for the Democracy Innovations Award 2022 (shared), advised democratic activists and politicians during uprisings in several countries such as Myanmar and Sudan, was awarded the title ‘Chief of Peace’ for lobbying for girls to attend schools in Ghana, and was one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion which was named after his existential research. His work was debated several times in the Dutch House of Commons (‘Tweede Kamer’) where the Deputy Prime-Minister Rouvoet described his vision as the cornerstone of the formation of the governmental coalition in 2006 and for the 2006-2010 government policies on immigration and multiculturalism. His book ‘The psychology of COVID-19’ was published early during the pandemic, and both his book and invited consultancy inspired several governments in their policies. His research has been awarded approximately two and a half million GBP in grants and awards.

Buy my recorded lectures and learn at your own time and space!

The Science & Practice of Meaning in Life: How to Live a Meaningful Life?Link

This lecture describes what meaning in life is, and how people can find it. Based on systematic research. Inspiring for anyone interested in learning to live a meaningful life, including people in the talking professions.


Rediscovering Meaning in Life after Trauma and COVID-19Link

This lecture is about how to live a meaningful life after trauma, pandemics and other life changes. It also explains how politicians influence our sense of meaning in life. Inspiring for anyone interested in learning to live a meaningful life, including people in the talking professions.


The Science of Existential Therapies: An Introduction – Link

This lecture gives an overview of the empirical foundations of working as a talking professional with existential themes such as meaning in life, responsibility and life’s struggles. This is based on the largest body of empirical research in the field.


Getting Rid of Dictators and Stopping Climate Change: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Permanent Social Change – Link

This presentation uses a large body of research findings to explain how to build effective nonviolent social movements and political campaigns. This explains the Conditions and Mechanisms of Social Change model. It will be explained that for modern movements, the conditions of social change have changed (e.g. due to new policing laws), due to which they need to develop new strategies. The key message is that political movements need to become smarter, not bigger. The presentation also explains with insider-stories why several contemporary social movements, such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, are failing.

Breaking the Cycle of Injustice and Trauma: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Permanent Individual Change – Link

This lecture offers a thought-provoking overview of how individuals can get stuck in a cycle of structural injustice, and how they can get out of this cycle. This is based on the work from the existential philosopher Iris Marion Young, supplemented with empirical psychological research studies. The presentation offers a step by step approach to support individuals breaking the cycle (Social Justice Oriented Interventions).


Treating Victims of War, Oppression & Trauma + Preventing Activist Burnout – Link

This lecture may be relevant for therapists and laypeople supporting victims of political or social crises, such as information about stress and trauma responses. This may also be relevant for social movements, to develop emotional care for activists to prevent burnout. This presentation also gives an overview of the existential impact of stress/trauma, and how individuals can learn to live a meaningful life again after trauma.


The science of meaning in life and existential therapiesLink

This is an interview conducted by Natalie Fraser about meaning in life and existential topics. About punk as well! Buy this interview, and get access to other interviews as well.

NEW! Doing research in psychological therapies

To be released in September 2023 with Sage Link

This comprehensive and highly practical ‘how to’ book guides researchers from start to finish through the research process. The easy-to-follow consecutive steps cover: basic academic skills, literature reviews, research aims, selection of quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods, research and ethics proposals, data collection and analysis, and final thesis or report. Supported by decision-making flowcharts, further reading, reflective questions, state-of-the-art trends and templates, this book ensures you produce a sound and coherent research project that fulfils your training and publication requirements. It is the go-to guide for beginning and advanced researchers in counselling, psychotherapy, counselling and clinical psychology, psychiatry and related disciplines.

Check out the Doing Research page which has many downloadable resources for students, lecturers and researchers in psychological therapies:

  • editable Word-templates for research proposals, essays, theses, articles, presentations, etc.
  • resources for lecturers of research methods in psychological therapies
  • downloadable figures and tables from Doing Research in Psychological Therapies (e.g., easy to zoom in, or to integrate in lecture presentations)
  • extra online-only tables from Doing Research in Psychological Therapies 
  • many more resources

NEW! Editor of the special edition of The Journal of Constructivist Psychology on Meaning in life in Society

The Journal of Constructivist Psychology published in April 2023 a special edition on Meaning in life in society. This edition was edited by Joel Vos, Pninit Russo-Netzer and Stefan Schulenberg. This special edition focused on the intersection between meaning in life and society.

See special edition on the publisher’s website

NEW! The Meaning Sextet: A Systematic Literature Review and Further Validation of a Universal Typology of Meaning in Life

Joel Vos (2023) The Meaning Sextet: A Systematic Literature Review and Further Validation of a Universal Typology of Meaning in Life, Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 36:2, 204-231, DOI: 10.1080/10720537.20

Many researchers have asked what individuals experience as meaningful, valuable, purposeful, or important in life. However, there seems little consensus about a world-wide typology of meaning. This project aimed to identify a comprehensive universal typology of meaning in life in the empirical literature, and to find additional support for this typology. Study 1 included a systematic literature review on all studies on meaning in life, to identify types and sub-types of meaning via thematic analysis. Study 2 conceptually compared these findings with other published meaning typologies. Study 3 operationalized this typology in the “Meaning Sextet Questionnaire” (MSQ). The MSQ was developed in a sequential mixed-methods study design, consisting of the sub-studies of Item-development, Three-Step-Test-Interview, an informal feasibility study and a formal survey. The literature review identified 6 types and 29 sub-types of meaning in 107 studies in 45.710 participants, which integrated and extended other published typologies: materialistic types of meaning (material conditions, professional-educational success), hedonistic types (hedonistic/embodied experiences), self-oriented types (resilience, self-efficacy, self-acceptance, autonomy, creative self-expression, self-care), social types (social connections, belonging, conformism, altruism, and children), larger types (purposes, personal growth, temporality, justice/ethics, and spirituality/religion), existential-philosophical types (being-alive, unique, free, grateful, and responsible). The MSQ confirmed the universality of this meaning sextet in 1281 participants in 49 countries, with factor-structure and correlations as expected with other questionnaires. Materialistic, hedonistic, and self-oriented meanings correlate with low psychological well-being, and social and larger meanings with large psychological well-being. In sum, the meaning sextet seems to be a comprehensive valid typology of meaning in life which may be used in psychological therapies, counseling, coaching and education.

NEW! The Effectiveness of Transactional Analysis Treatments and Their
Predictors: A Systematic Literature Review and Explorative MetaAnalysis

Journal of Humanistic Psychology. Epub ahead of print. 

The Psychology of COVID-19: Building Resilience for Future Pandemics

2021. SAGE Swift: London.

Read the book that has influenced the health policies of several governments!

The Psychology of Covid-19 explores how the coronavirus pandemic is giving rise to a new order in our personal lives, societies, and politics. Rooted in systematic research on Covid-19 and previous pandemics, this book describes how people perceive and respond to Covid-19, and how it has impacted a broad range of domains, including lifestyle, politics, science, mental health, media, and meaning in life. Building on this, the book then sets out how we can improve our psychological and social resilience, to safeguard ourselves against the psychological effects of future pandemics.

More infoGoogle Ebook / Amazon

  • Testimonial

    Vos integrates traditional approaches with recent evidence-based approaches of psychotherapy. An important contribution.

    Prof Paul Wong

  • Testimonial

    The ‘go-to’ guide for counsellors, psychotherapists, and researchers in this field for many years to come. A remarkable achievement.

    Prof Mick Cooper

  • Testimonial

    Fired up for change. The evidence is so compelling that I find myself asking, ‘What can we do about this and when will we start?

    BPS The Psychologist Review

  • Testimonial

    Joel Vos is a radical psychologist for our time.

    Dr Neil Faulkner

  • Testimonial

    Joel Vos is a brilliant scholar with an astonishing sweep of knowledge across economics, history, philosophy, psychology, and culture.

    Prof Carol Ryff

  • Testimonial

    Vos makes clear that values, lived experiences, responsibility and compassion are at the heart of living meaningfully in a democratic society

    Prof Henry Giroux

  • Testimonial

    Progressives in universities should insist that their departments hire at least one person who promotes this book and further develops Vos’ ideas.

    Prof Michael Lerner

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