Dr. Garri Hovhannisyan, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist (Supervised Practice)

About Me

Welcome! I am a clinical psychologist in supervised practice in the city of Toronto working with adult individuals and couples. I provide both therapy and assessment services, and my approach is grounded in the existential, humanistic, and psychoanalytic traditions. This just means that I strive to help people understand who they are, where they are coming from, and where they are meant to go.

Besides my work as a clinician, I conduct research on human personality and cognition. A specific topic I study is how people’s personality traits lead them to become stuck in their cycles of distress, and what can be done to break out of these cycles. My research has real-world applications and I often use it to support my assessment work in the clinic.


Who is this for?

We are all confronted with questions we are not quite sure how to answer or understand—questions that are generally about our relationship with others, ourself, and our place in the world. Though it might feel better in the moment not to pay these questions any attention, the satisfaction we get from avoiding them is temporary at best. Indeed, ignoring the questions life poses us comes with a heavy price that eventually becomes unaffordable no matter who we are. By the time we realize this, we are already stuck with all sorts of unwanted feelings, like helplessness, hopelessness, dread, and despair, not knowing what to do or how to move forward in our lives.

In my work as a psychologist, I help individuals to better understand the questions that their existence is posing them so they can move forward meaningfully in their life and experience a deeper sense of fulfilment. The two main ways in which this is done is through Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment.


Individual Psychotherapy

I have worked with adults of all ages both in Canada and the United States throughout my training and experiences in clinical psychology. I provide psychotherapy services for individuals with a wide range of concerns, varying from mood-related (e.g., depression) to anxiety-related (e.g., generalized anxiety) to personality-related concerns (e.g., persistent interpersonal difficulties), as well as challenges in motivation, interpersonal relationships, and a loss of meaning in life.

It is a fundamental belief of mine that in order to truly understand who someone is, it's necessary to turn to their world and see it as they do. To this end, I meet with my clients on a weekly basis, during which time we collaboratively explore their world and the various textured meanings that it holds.

Informed by the existential, humanistic, and psychoanalytic traditions, my approach to psychotherapy is holistic in that I do not simply care about reducing symptoms, but where they are coming from and what they are trying to say to the individual who is experiencing them. I try to consider the various factors surrounding one's symptoms of distress to understand what they might mean for the person given who they are, where they have been, and where they are trying to go.

Couples Psychotherapy

If to know who someone is requires turning to their world, then ruptures and recurrent conflicts in relationships are a sign that we have turned away from the worlds of those we love and care deeply about, leaving them painfully unseen and forgotten. This is typically what occurs in couples where either or both partners are feeling lonely, criticized, misunderstood, and frustrated with issues of communication in their relationship.

In my work with couples, I facilitate a type of process where partners can become more meaningfully attuned to their own and each other's worlds and underlying needs. Drawing on Emotion-Focused Therapy frameworks, a large part of the work becomes about understanding the root cause(s) of the negative cycles a couple is experiencing and stuck in, as well as what can be done to break out of these cycles. Similar to what occurs in individual therapy, negative patterns must first be brought into awareness before we try to overcome them—often the most difficult yet most important part of the process.

Throughout the course of therapy, partners gain a better sense of how not to simply feed into their negative cycles. They gradually become more in sync with one another, able to not only make space for any personal differences that might exist between them, but to make use of these differences to complement each other's ways of being in a synergistic fashion. Indeed, through couples therapy, I help to foster a deep and meaningful kind of coupling between the partners to cultivate a more resilient partnership with an improved sense of connection, empathy, and healing of each other's worlds.


What is Assessment?

People usually seek psychological assessments when they wish to know if they meet the criteria of a psychological disorder. For the most part, psychological assessments consist of a combination of in-depth clinical interviews and several hours of thorough testing with a psychologist. Once the interview and testing phases are complete, the psychologist interprets the results and crafts a report that summarizes the findings of the assessment to be shared with the client in a feedback session.

During my doctorate, I was fortunate to be trained in a unique approach to psychological assessment pioneered by Constance Fischer that goes beyond diagnostic labels. The main goal of this approach is to use instruments not for the purpose of classifying someone but understanding how they are experiencing and being in the world. In other words, testing becomes a way of empathically bridging into the client's world of experience, so as to arrive at individualized understandings of how the client is existing in and through their distress, to discover ways they can pivot onto a different, and more meaningful path in their unique situation. Individuals don't come to the clinic because of a problem they had last Tuesday that they couldn't solve, but because they keep having the same problem over again with no way to solve it. Psychological assessments can help us to understand why the same patterns keep repeating in our lives and how to break out of these patterns.

I offer the following assessment services:

  • Comprehensive psychodiagnostic assessments for individuals wishing to be assessed for mood, anxiety, or personality related disorders
  • Psychoeducational assessments for individuals wishing to be assessed for difficulties related to attention (i.e., ADHD)
  • Individualized assessments for individuals wishing to understand the underlying factors leading them to repeat their negative patterns & how to break out of these patterns


My Journey

My journey in psychology began when I decided to major in philosophy during my undergraduate studies at York University in Canada. At the time, I’d come to the realization that what leads people to act against their own better judgment is foolishness, and that the path to overcoming the kind of suffering brought on by foolishness lies in the cultivation of wisdom. So, I thought, if philosophy was about the love of wisdom (“philia” = love, “sophia” = wisdom), then by studying philosophy I could get the answers I was looking for.

Existential Philosophy

Fortunately, through philosophy, I learned about the existential tradition and was gripped by what it offered. What resonated with me most was the idea that the hardest part about being human isn’t that we lack personal freedom in our lives or that none of our choices matter in the grand scheme of things. Rather, the hardest part is precisely that every choice we make matters and we are therefore responsible for how we choose to live our lives and face the consequences of our actions! To protect oneself against the loss of meaning, it was therefore necessary to become more responsible for how one was choosing to exist in the world.

This reversal of meaning had a fundamental effect on me that I am still feeling to this day. Having opened up to the world in a different, more sensitive, and receptive way, I felt ready and eager to dive deeper into the philosophical waters I had discovered. After putting in some thought, I realized that clinical psychology is where my philosophical values could find a proper home, and it is through the art of psychotherapy that my love of wisdom could be brought to life in a meaningful way to serve others in the world.

Clinical Training

I received my M.A. degree in psychology at the University of West Georgia in 2018 where I became steeped in the existential-humanistic tradition. During this time, I was also introduced to psychoanalysis, which quickly became fundamental to my thinking and approach. Psychoanalysis is essentially based in the idea that there is more to know about ourselves and our situation than meets the eye, so that to know thyself, we must bring what is unconscious and in the dark, into conscious light. Indeed, I found these two traditions deeply complementary because the cultivation of consciousness (which is the goal of psychoanalysis) and the cultivation of wisdom and responsibility (which is the goal of the existential-humanistic approach) are really just two sides of the same coin.

Needless to say, my experience at the master’s level prepared me to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Duquesne University, where I was fortunate enough to further hone my clinical skills through my work with individuals in therapy and psychological assessment. For my doctoral research, I developed a novel method of applying the Big Five theory of personality to help individuals understand why they are caught in their cycles of distress and how they can find freedom from these cycles. I regularly draw on this research in my clinical work when conducting individualized psychological assessments.

I completed my pre-doctoral internship at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CPA-accredited) in Toronto, where I provided psychotherapy and assessment services to individuals and couples with a diverse range of difficulties.

To date, I have received direct training in the following modalities, which I bring into my work with my patients: humanistic, existential, phenomenological, Lacanian (psychoanalytic), Jungian, Attachment-based, Object-relations, Emotion-Focused, and Cognitive-Behavioural therapies.


I completed my doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at Duquesne University. My dissertation research was on the phenomenology of individual differences. Specifically, I advanced an empirical research paradigm based on the Enactivist Big Five Theory of personality for investigating how personality traits are not simply "within us" but inform how we come to perceive, make sense of, and participate in the very worlds which we experience! By integrating insights and various approaches within the cognitive and human sciences, I thus seek to study human personality as lived experience.


To inquire about psychological services or opportunities for research collaboration, you can reach me at doctor@garrihovha.ca.

© 2024 Garri Hovhannisyan.