Sunday, May 20, 2012

Existential Therapy

   Viktor Frankl 1905-1997                  Rollo May 1909-1994         Irvin Yalom 1931-

Existential Therapy

  • Founders- Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, and Irvin Yalom (Corey, 2012).
  • Key concepts- view of human nature, Proposition 1: the capacity for self-awareness, Proposition 2: freedom and responsibility, Proposition 3: striving for identity and relationship to others, Proposition 4: the search for meaning, Proposition 5: anxiety as a condition of living, and Proposition 6: awareness of death and nonbeing (Corey, 2012).
  1. View of human nature- this concept deals with the idea that the significance of our existence is is never really fixed but instead we are always recreating ourselves through projects (Corey, 2012). We are in constant change in our life nothing never the same because we are always making new discoveries about ourselves and our life. We are always trying to make sense of our existence (Corey, 2012). People are always questioning everything about life and everything in it. 
  2. Proposition 1: The Capacity for Self-Awareness- freedom, choice, and responsibility creates the foundation  of self-awareness (Corey, 2012). This concept tells us that we can either limit or expand our conscious depending on our awareness. By expanding our self-awareness allows to grow in our life and in the things we do in life. 
  3. Proposition 2: Freedom and Responsibility- this concept deals wit a person to having freedom to choose whatever they want for shaping their own destiny (Corey, 2012). This meaning we are responsible for our actions and everything else we choose to do with our life. According to Frankl, freedom and responsibility are often linked together (Corey, 2012). It is very important to consider culture backgrounds when counseling someone and assisting them with their choices. 
  4. Proposition 3: Striving for Identity and Relationship to Others- this concepts deals with people being concerned about themselves but also likes to relate to other human beings. Everyone wants to create their own personal identity (Corey, 2012). We often look for answer, try to choose our values and beliefs from other people not truly from within ourselves. According to Corey, we are constantly looking at what others are expecting from us rather than just trusting our own instinct (Corey, 2012).
  5. Proposition 4: The Search for Meaning- according to Corey, it is a constant struggle to find a purpose in life (p. 151). I existential therapy this is often the goal to find the meaning or challenge the meaning of their life. The questions often ask when trying to find the meaning of life are why am I here, what do i want from life, what gives my life purpose, and where is the source of meaning in my life (Corey, 2012).
  6. Proposition 5: Anxiety as a Condition of Living- this concept says anxiety is something that becomes greater as we realize our freedoms and consequences of accepting or rejecting that freedom (Corey, 2012). Anxiety comes from a person's strive to survive and this often makes a person feel anxiety. Anxiety can often be a sign one is desiring personal change in which can help with personal growth. 
  7. Proposition 6: Awareness of Death and Nonbeing- according to Corey, a existentialist does not think of death as a negative thing but gives significance to living (p. 153). A important human characteristic is the ability to understand the reality of death and dying. Death should not be considered a bad thing but something to motivate one to appreciate the present time and not worry about the future. 
  • Therapeutic goals- in existential therapy a main goal  is for a client to have better understanding ways in which they may not be living a fully authentic life and help them make better choices that will help lead them to being all that can potentially be (Corey, 2012). Having a better awareness and understanding of responsibility and reality of things in life is very important also when giving existential therapy. 
  • Techniques- not like most other therapies the existential therapy is not really based on a technique (Corey, 2012). It may be helpful with some clients to include some techniques from other different approaches to help depending on specific client's needs. It is thought to be better to make sure a client has a true understanding of reality in existential therapy as opposed to making a diagnosis or prognosis (Corey, 2012). There are four different areas to approach in existential therapy: phases of existential counseling, clients appropriate for existential counseling, application to brief therapy, and application to group counseling (Corey, 2012)
  1. Phases of Existential counseling- during first visits it is important to understand and help client understand of their assumption of how the client views the world.
  2. Clients Appropriate for Existential Counseling- some of the common clients that are thought to need existential therapy are those that have had substance abuse, ethnic and racial minorities, gay and lesbians, and psychiatric inpatients (Corey, 2012). 
  3. Application to Brief Therapy- this approach can can focus on significant area of a client such as assuming personal responsibility, making a commitment to deciding and acting, and expanding their awareness of their current situation (Corey, 2012).
  4. Application to Group Counseling- this is the idea of a whole group of clients making a commitment to a lifelong journey of self-exploration with these goals in mind: 1. helping members to be honest with themselves, 2. having a better perspective on themselves and the world, and 3. and help them give a better meaning to their present and future of their life.

Corey, G. (2012). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy (9th edition). Belmont, CA


  1. Where can one find an existential therapist?

  2. Are the cognitive behavioral therapy and existential therapy same? And what about their goals and techniques..?