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Existential Therapy

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on 27 April 2014

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Transcript of Existential Therapy

Existential Therapy
Existentialism and Existential Therapy
Lets Discuss!
Instructions -

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
Discussion Exercise
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
- Authenticity
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
- "In-authenticity"

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.
Therapists Role...
Origins: Existentialism

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)
KC's Spotlight
The Therapist's role...

Restricted Existence.
The acceptance and understanding of death

- Identity
The fear of being alone leads to the doing mode
Giving up your freedom to others
- Discarding Old Values
Imposed 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"
Let's Discuss!
Full transcript