“The existential approach is first and foremost philosophical. It is concerned with the understanding of people’s position in the world and with the clarification of what it means to be alive. It is also committed to exploring these questions with a receptive attitude, rather than a dogmatic one: the search for truth with an open mind and an attitude of wonder is the aim, not the fitting of the client into pre-established categories and interpretations.”
Professor Emmy van Deurzen, Principal of the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, London UK
What is Existential Therapy?
Existential therapy is concerned with helping people make sense of the world in the face of whatever difficulties they are facing. It is a collaborative process between therapist and client, a mutual exploration and journey to better understand the client’s individual experience in the world.
Existential therapy accepts that for all human beings existence is subject to some external constraints. However, within that each of us free to choose form a range of choices and is therefore responsible for our choices and actions.
Existential therapy encourages clients in the search for meaning and purpose in their lives and invites them to examine the way they are in the world.
A basic goal of existential therapy is to enable individuals to accept their personal freedom. Clients are challenged to take responsibility for how they choose to live in their world and to empower themselves to deal with the conditions of their lives.
Anxiety is a part of the human condition, it may be a normal reaction to an event, but if it becomes a barrier to action or a severe limiting factor then we need to understand and manage it better. Sometimes anxiety itself contains the seeds of our personal growth and by confronting and exploring it we may become more fully ourselves.
Kate says “ As an existential therapist I will strive to understand your subjective world and your experience in order to help you find ways of living more fully and authentically in order to become what you are capable of being. As an existential psychotherapist I will help you explore
- your life,
- your relationships,
- the things that trouble you
- your Being in the World
- the way you live and relate to the different aspects of your life
- your values
- the things that matter to you and that feel important as you live your life
- your worldview
Irvin Yalom defines the 4 ultimate concerns of human existence as:
“The individual’s confrontation with each of these facts of life constitutes the content of the existential dynamic conflict”
Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy, 1980
Many issues can benefit from the existential approach:
- Grief and loss