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Existentialism in Psychotherapy- A Meaningful Theory

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Megan Cobb

on 28 September 2013

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Transcript of Existentialism in Psychotherapy- A Meaningful Theory

Chloe Wyen, Megan Cobb, Whitney Wolgamot
Existentialism in Psychotherapy- A Meaningful Theory
The existentialist perspective was initially explored by philosophers such as Sartre, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The greatest and most influential minds in Psychotherapeutic Existentialism (ie: Victor Frankl, Rollo May) tend to be those who have discovered, through their own intense experiences of suffering, that the essence of life is suffering. In order to survive and be satisfied in life regardless of this fact one must find meaning in their lives to make sense of and endure the suffering inherent in life.
A Philosophical Framework
Existentialism suggests that we generally already have within us the answers which we seek...
Self Directed Meaning Making
Rollo May (1909-1994)- American Pioneer
of Existential Psychotherapy
History and Origin
Dr. Viktor Emil Frankl (1905-1997) developed his own version of Existentialism termed 'logotherapy' after surviving his traumatic experiences as a concentration camp prisoner of the Nazis during WWII.
Man's Search for Meaning
How we choose to create meaning in our lives will differ for each individual, so there is no right or general answer to the question "what is the meaning of life"!
Find Your Own Meaning!
Existential Attitudes
"If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself."
"The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity."
Therapeutic Practices
and Techniques
Rollo May's Theory
American Humanist
Stages of Existential Development
+ Innocence
+ Rebellion
+ Ordinary
+ Creative
Rollo May On Anxiety
“The apprehension cued off by a threat to some value which the individual holds essential to his existence as a self” (1967, p. 72).
Kierkegaard: "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom."
Purpose of Therapy
Love and Will
Daimonic Possesion
"Man's task is to unite love and will."
*Future focused
*Will to meaning
*Existential frustration- noögenic neuroses
*Existential vacuum
*You are responsible!
Logotherapy as a Technique
*Hyper-intention and hyper-reflection
*Anticipatory anxiety
*Paradoxical intentions- implications for anxiety and phobias
Finding Your Life's Meaning
*Create work or do a deed
*Experience something/Encounter someone
*Attitude towards unavoidable suffering is critical!
The Importance of
*Kairos- Critical choice points
*go against 'bad faith' (Sartre), or conscious self-deception
*Paul Tillich- necessity to act
*We are each responsible for creating the circumstances in our lives and
finding meaning for our life
experiences, leading to the
development of self awareness
and self understanding.
How Change Occurs
An Interpersonal Experience
Role of Counselor
Unrealistic expectations and assumptions lead to anxiety leads to problems
Developmental Schema
"How can we know whether we are seeing the patient in his real world, the world in which he ‘lives and moves and has his being,’ and which is for him unique, concrete, and different from our general theories of culture? In all probability we have never participated in his world and do not know it directly; yet we must know it and to some extent must be able to exist in it if we are to have any chance of knowing him" (May 1958, pg. 3-4).
Multicultural Application
Children and Existentialism
-Not empirically supported technique
-Not easily applied with certain populations
+focus on client's perspective
+look on the bright side of life!
Children and adolescents manage their lives in the innocence and rebellion stages of May's theory.
*Yearn for freedom*
Irvin Yalom
Guide and provide honest feedback
Must develop a genuine relationship--> "I-thou"
Focus on healing
Does not have the answers
Dasein- 'being there'
Accurate empathy
William Glasser
Reality Therapy
present, choice, and strength centered
behavior aims to fulfill 4 needs:
Ludwig Binswanger
(1881-1966) emphasized critical choice and accepting dark side of life &
Medard Boss
(1903-1991) worked to join existential and psychoanalytic schools of thought
We exist in relation to:
*Umwelt-> being-in-nature
*Mitwelt-> being-with-others
*Eigenwelt-> own-world/being-for-oneself
-Anxiety a natural response to awareness of 'non-being'
-Boeree, C.G. (1998). Rollo May. Personality Theories. http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/may.html
-Daniels. (1997). Rollo May Lecture. http://www.sonoma.edu/users/d/daniels/Maylect.html
-Frankl, V. (1984). Man's search for meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
-Frankl, V. (2000). Man's search for ultimate meaning. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.
-Garrett, J., (2007). Counseling Theories. http://mucounseling603theories.blogspot.com/2007/10/chapter-9-existential-therapy.html
-Hoffman, L., (2004). Existential Therapy. http://www.existential-therapy.com/
-May, R. (1969). Love and Will. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
-May, R. (1950). The Meaning of Anxiety. New York, NY: Ronald Press Company.
-May, R., Angel, E., Ellenberger, H.F. (1958). Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology. New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc.
-Pitchford, D. B. (2009). The existentialism of Rollo May: An influence on trauma treatment. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49(4), 441-461
-Prochaska, J. O. & Norcross, J. C. (2010). Systems of psychotherapy: A transtheoretical analysis. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
-Scalza, C. (2010). Therapy with children: An existential perspective. London, UK: Karnac Books Ltd.
-Sharp, W. G., Wilson, K. G., & Schulenberg, S. E. (2004). Use of paradoxical intention in the context of acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychological Reports, 95, 946-978.
-Scholten, A., (2010). Existential Therapy: Coping with the Human Condition. http://www.aurorahealthcare.org/yourhealth/healthgate/getcontent.
-A motivating factor to live.
-Gives significance to living.
-In order to significantly think about life, we
must significantly
think about death.

Steve Jobs on Death
In order to significantly think about life one must think about the inevitability of death.
Take a few minutes and write two obituaries- one that would be written about you now and one that you hope can be written about you in the future.
Be ready to discuss:
What is different about the two? Would you live differently now if you knew that you didn't have long to live?
Existential Realities

-These four existential realities
are the root of most psychological problems and have no ultimate answers.

-It is generally agreed that these four issues are central to the human experience.
-Boss viewed dreams as important with regard to the meaning that unfolds from them.
-In contrast to Freud and Jung, dreams show us how we are revealing our lives.
-Increase Self-awareness and Authentic Living

-Take Responsibility for Decisions

-Find Personal Meaning

-Find a way to Cope With Anxiety

-Live in the present
May's Daimon
-Reworking of Jung's idea of the shadow
-Is the entire system of motives, different for each individual
-Is anything that can take over the person, a situation he refers to as daimonic possession
-These Daimons wind up being those aspects of ourselves which we deny or repress; by repressing them, we give them power or strength.
-Eros Daimon- Love, not sex, Being one with a person
*May be difficult for children to grasp such abstract concepts.
*Opportunity to grow by creating new awareness of life's challenges and ways to overcome these
No Theory, but Good Stuff
Essence of psychopathology is Lying!!
An inauthentic response to being..leads to neurotic anxiety which leads to psychopathology.
"Therapy is not based on technique alone, but an experiential exploration of the client’s world uses techniques as supportive tools when needed." (Pitchford, 2009)
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