Existential psychotherapy was introduced to the United States in 1958 with the publication of Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel, and Henri Ellenberger. Existential therapy attempts to understand the human condition. It do not recognize a fixed view of human nature but instead contends that each person must ultimately define his/her personal existence. It’s prime focus is on individuality and one’s search for meaning in life.
What to expect?
Existential therapy is more a way of viewing human beings. The main goal of therapy is that the fundamental neurotic process is the repression of ontological sense, thereby involving the loss of a sense of being and truncation of awareness and potential. Because therapy is primarily concerned with helping clients about their existence, any symptomatic cure is a secondary goal. Existential therapists do not uptake a technical, mechanical approach to clients for a mere cure at the expense of constricting their evidence.
How does it works?
The existential approach is known for its anti technique orientation. It regards description, understanding and exploration of reality to diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Therapists generally do not implement any particular technique, strategy or skill but follow a specific philosophical method of enquiry which requires a consistent professional attitude. It generally includes some or all of the following ingredients:
- Cultivating a naïve attitude
- Enquiring into meaning
- Exploring personal world view
Four fold world
When it is used?
One of the different aims of existential therapy is to enable people to stop deceiving themselves about both their lack of responsibility for what is happening to them and their excessive demands on life and themselves. Clients change through existential psychotherapy by gradually accepting more and more of life’s ups and downs in their stride. They strive find ways of tuning into these changes instead of fighting them or trying to speed them up. They acquire a measure of wisdom by recognizing the things they can change and those they cannot change and thus find out what matters enough to them to be committed to it, live for it and ultimately perhaps die for it.
The therapy also bestows clients the opportunity to rediscover the importance of relating to themselves and taking time for contemplation and recreation.
As existential therapy has no commitment toward cure of a specific disorder, the therapy can be an endless process. To make sure it does not become so, the criterion for finishing a series of session is to simply to terminate when the client feels ready to manage on her own again . To encourage such self resilience, short term therapy is encouraged (3 months to 2 years), though sometimes the process might take even longer time.
Role of the therapist:
It is central to existential therapy. Flexibility is necessary. All existential therapists strive to recognize and question his/her perception and prejudices as much as possible. There is also constant appreciation of the client’s unique situation. The therapist takes the dilemmas of the client seriously eschewing recourse to diagnosis and solutions with openness, and wonder as essential attributes and does not preclude humor when appropriate. They are at basic level concerned with what makes the client avoid making normative judgments. The client is provided assistance in finding the investigations through an attitude of relative passivity and silent intervention. However when situation demands, the therapist intervenes and points out contradictions in or implications of the client’s avowed point of view.