Existential psychotherapy addresses the problems of human existence and the human condition. The main premise of this therapy is that disease (more accurately spelled “dis-ease”) is a consequence of existential problems. Existential problems include universal human feelings of aloneness and meaninglessness.
Impact of Existential Philosophers and Thinkers on Existential Psychotherapy
Existentialist thinkers laid the foundation for existential therapy. They impacted psychotherapists’ development of existential therapy by providing the philosophical groundwork. Existentialist philosophers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sarte, Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Rollo May, Irvin Yalom and other thinkers grappled with issues of the human condition and attempted to define ways to effectively respond to the challenges posed by existence.
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, a Nazi concentration camp survivor, also played a large and direct role in the creation of existential therapy. In fact, he created his own version of existential therapy called logotherapy.
Existential Therapy Treatment for Anxiety and Depression
Existential psychotherapy views the underlying cause of anxiety, depression and other mood disturbances to be existence itself. These problems of existence include human beings’ awareness of the self as alone in the world, sense of mortality and confrontation with meaninglessness.
The job of existential therapists is to help clients take ultimate responsibility for how they choose to respond to their lives. Therapists assist individuals in accepting the often overwhelming fact that they are the creators of their lives and thus responsible for their psychological well-being in the world.
Existential therapy helps clients explore their own inner reality. Self-awareness leads to clients’ increased ability to live consciously and authentically and define personal values and meaning. When individuals accept the harsh realities of existence, they become better grounded, and their problems with anxiety and depression can be lessened or alleviated.
Existential Psychotherapy, a Practical Application of Philosophy
Existentialist philosophers struggled with the question of how people could define meaning in a world that is not conducive to this human need. In response to the seeming absurdity and meaninglessness of life, existentialist philosophers asserted that people must take full responsibility for their lives and create their own meaning.
Existential therapy addresses existential difficulties, which frequently lead people to feelings of anxiety and depression, by helping individuals affirm their existence even though there are, and because of the, profound and inherent problems with the human condition. When one is living consciously and completely in the present, one is able to live deliberately and truthfully and better cope with the difficult truths of existence.