Existential Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Integrated Approach to Counseling
During a lifetime, most individuals question the meaning of their existence at one point or another. Existential therapy aims to help individuals find purpose, have better defined goals, and live life to the fullest. Existential therapy takes into account cultural, social and political values of the client. It attempts to help the client live more deliberately, while accepting life’s unpredictable challenges and contradictions. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is complementary to existential therapy by providing techniques to help clients make changes once their awareness is increased through existential discovery. Existential therapy and REBT integrated approach to counseling can provide successful results by combining individual meaning with reasonable thinking. This empowers clients to take control of their lives. The first step in the therapy process is to help the client become aware of what changes need to be made in order to live a more fulfilling and satisfying life. This is achieved by examining one or more existential themes. In his book Existential Psychotherapy, Irwin Yalom describes four major themes that permeate existential psychotherapy: death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. In the first theme, death, here are two major ideas that play key factors in therapy (Yalom, 1980). First of all, death and life coexist. Even though physically they are clearly separated, psychologically they exist simultaneously. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life, and as one dies, another is given an opportunity to experience life (Kaufmann, 1975). Death is a realistic threat and a part of our daily lives. Every day we are alive, we are closer to death. Frankl (2006) believes that “if there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete” (p.67). Nothing in this world lasts forever. It is only natural for humans to see death as a part of life that is unavoidable. The awareness of death has a significant impact on life and “Although the physicality of death destroys man, the idea of death saves him” (Yalom, 1980, p. 30). Awareness of death allows individuals to live life more fully, authentically, and appreciate how truly precious life is. Authenticity is one of the main concepts of existentialism and is defined as being genuine, true to one’s feelings and beliefs, aware of self and surroundings, and ability to successfully deal with issues related to existence (Sharf, 2008). People come to appreciate life more, exist mindfully and purposefully. Nietzsche wrote: “He that consummates his life dies his death victoriously” (Kaufmann, 1975, p. 129). Those who live a complete and happy life are less likely to be afraid of death because they have experienced life to the fullest. A potential threat of life be taken away makes it more likely for people to appreciate and enjoy life. Without suffering how does one know pleasure? For example, someone with cancer who previously has taken life for granted may have a greater appreciation for life after beating the illness. In such cases, people feel the urgency to take pleasure in life’s every unique moment and relish the simple joys while they still can. Very often people do not value things until they are taken away or are threatened to be taken away. The second idea is that death anxiety constantly affects the way people experience their life. In addition, most anxiety comes from issues related to death and decreasing anxiety is one the major goals of psychotherapy. Anxiety can stem from many issues, such as control or fear. Fear of death is one of the significant motivators in our society. We constantly come up with new ways to avoid death by building safer vehicles, wearing protective gear,...
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