Existential Psychotherapy

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EXISTENTIAL PSYCHOTHERAPY
INTRODUCTION
The aim of this essay is to examine the basic concepts of existential therapy and its practical implications. Main existential approaches are outlined including short-term modalities. The significance of therapeutic relationship from existential point of view is reviewed. The essay will conclude with the critique of existential approaches to psychotherapy.
BASIC CONCEPTS
Existential therapy is a philosophical approach to explore with a client the fundamental questions every conscious human being faces inevitably at some point of life: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? The approach is highly individualistic and allows the client search for truth in the phenomenological framework rather than the pre-established and dogmatic way. (Van Deurzen, 2007). Thus, existential therapy is not a prescribed structured methodology but rather “an attitude toward human suffering.” (Yalom and Josselson, 2011, p. 310). According to Rollo May existential therapy is “an encounter with one’s own existence in an immediate and quintessential form.” (May, 1967, p. 134).
Since the underlying philosophy of existentialism encompasses all aspects of human life, existential techniques are used by practitioners of all major school of therapy and counselling. Indeed, sooner or later key existential themes of loneliness, freedom, responsibility, purpose, meaning or death arise in a therapist’s room.
Although the definition of existential psychotherapy is philosophically broad and hard to capture in a single way, there are, however, a few distinguishable figures and existential approaches that emerged in the period since psychoanalysis to modern days.
MAIN EXISTENTIAL THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES o Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy “not only recognizes man’s spirit, but actually starts from it.” (Frankl, 2010, p. 10). Indeed, Frankl views a human as a spiritual being with the ultimate “supra-meaning” which he/she is drawn to fulfil.



References: Bugental, J. and Sterling, M. (1995). Existential - humanistic psychotherapy: new perspectives. In Gurnman, A. and Messer, S. (eds) Essential psychotherapies: theory and practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Cooper, M. (2003). Existential therapies. London, England: Sage. Frankl V.E. (2010). Doctor and a soul. London, England: Souvenir Press. May, R. (1953). Man’s search for himself. New York, NY: Norton. May, R. (1967). Psychology and human dilemma. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand. Schulenberg, S. E. (2003). Approaching terra incognita with James F. T. Bugental: an interview and an overview of existential-humanistic psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 33(4), 273-285. Strasser, F. and Strasser A. (1997). Existential time-limited therapy: the wheel of existence. Chichester, England: Wiley Van Deurzen, E. (2007). Existential therapy. In Dryden, W.(ed.) Dryden’s handbook of individual therapy (5th ed., pp. 195-226). London, England: Sage Yalom, I. and Josselson, R. (2011). Existential psychotherapies. In R.J. Corsini & Wedding, D. (eds.), Current psychotherapies (9th ed., pp. 311-341). Belmont, CA: Brooks & Cole.

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