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Transcript of Existential Therapy
Existentialism and Existential Therapy
Five minutes to discuss the quote
Discuss your reactions, thoughts, and/or applications to your professional and/or your personal lives
Have a group leader ready to talk about your conclusions with the rest of the class
Rollo May (1909-1994)
Irvin Yalom (1931- )
Born and educated in Vienna in 1900's
MD (1930) & PHD in Philosophy (1949)
Accomplished writer and speaker
Held prisoner in Nazi concentration camps
These experiences contribute to theory:
- Adversity did not dampen love & enthusiasm for life
- Choose what and how experiences shape you
- Essence of humans lies in our search for purpose found in our actions
Video: Search For Meaning (:57-4:21)
Had an unhappy home life
Struggled with his own existential concerns
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
Paul Tillich, existential theologian
Several publications, Love and Will (1969).
Concern with human experience, such as accepting responsibility and discovering one’s identity.
- Awareness of Death and Nonbeing
Death is not view in a negative way
Death gives meaning to life and motivation to appreciate the moment
- Personal Connection
- Implications for the role of a counselor
Accept responsibility for direction of our lives
Courage to be Ourselves
Live by own code of what is valuable existence to us
Embrace Client's/Student's Individuality
Being Careful Not to Impose Our Perspective's on Client
- Opportunity As Counselors
Victor Frankl (1905- 1997)
"Existential psychotherapy is an attitude toward human suffering that has no manual. It asks deep questions about the nature of human being and the nature of
, despair, grief,
and anomie" (isolation from social norms) "It also deals centrally with the questions of
, creativity, and love."
-Yalom and Josselson (2011).
Yalom's 4 Givens of Living
Existentialism rejects deterministic view
(ie. Psychoanalytic & Behaviorism
To challenge people to stop deceiving themselves about their role of being responsible for their choices and their demands on life.
Angst = Dread + Anxiety
Responsibility for our decisions leads to stress
"Sickness unto death" - Not living true to oneself
The importance of choice in a world where morality is subjective.
"God is Dead" - says a character in a play.
Sartre (1905 - 1980)
Humans have complete control over our choices, values and beliefs.
All excuses are "bad faith"
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)
Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855)
The Therapist's role...
The acceptance and understanding of death
The fear of being alone leads to the doing mode
Giving up your freedom to others
- Discarding Old Values
Need to have a healthy replacement
- Personal and Professional Connection
Grew up in poor neighborhood in inner city of Washington DC
Chose to be indoors reading novels as a child vs on the streets
Developed existential approach to psychotherapy addressing the four "givens of existence": freedom and responsibility, existential isolation, meaninglessness, and death
Believes due to every person's unique story, a different therapy must be designed
Professor, Author, Psychiatrist, Husband, & Grandfather
We are responsible for our choices and actions
We have the freedom to CHOOSE
-How we respond to events
-What to do as a next step
Are we living a life designed by someone else?
Personal and professional connection
"It takes courage to "be", and our choices determine the kind of person we become" - Rollo May
Corey, G. (2013). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 9th Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Logotherapy. (Producer) (2007). Search for meaning [Web]. Retrieved from
Frankl, V. (1959). Man's Search for Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
May, R. (1969). Love and Will. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
1. Freedom (of choice) and responsibility
2. Existential Isolation
3. Meaning and
"Being Free and Human is Identical" (Corey)
Help clients become more present
Challenge clients to assume responsibility for designing lives
Help to increase awareness
Avoid offering solutions
How else would you apply this theory?
"We all are free to make choices"