A Breakdown of Existential Therapy in 8 Points - Psych2Go
How to establish and develop the therapeutic relationship. ◇ How to . existential counselling and therapy that we will describe in these pages. We will . distinction between 'I–Thou' and 'I–It' modes of relating, with the latter being more He argued that it is in the unavoidable 'limit situations' like death. presence and orientation of existential therapists from around the world. .. The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for notion of the I- Thou relationship and drawing from Trub and Friedman. Existential therapy is a good choice if you are experiencing anxiety about be human rather than on the I/Thou relationship and thus “lessens the chances of guilt, freedom, death, isolation, and commitment”(Corey, ).
Existential therapists differentiate between normal and neurotic anxiety, and they see anxiety as a potential source of growth. Normal anxiety is an appropriate response to an event being faced. It can be used as a motivation to change. Neurotic anxiety, in contrast, is out of proportion to the situation. It is typically out of awareness, and it tends to immobilize the person. Being psychologically healthy entails living with as little neurotic anxiety as possible, while accepting and struggling with the unavoidable existential anxiety that is a part of living.
When we make a decision that involves reconstruction of our life, the accompanying anxiety can be a signal that we are ready for personal change.
Opening up to new life means opening up to anxiety. Existential therapy helps clients come to terms with the paradoxes of existence — life and death, success and failure, freedom and limitations, and certainty and doubt. Facing existential anxiety involves viewing life as an adventure rather than hiding behind securities that seem to offer protection.
The therapist must guide clients in finding ways to deal with anxiety constructively. The therapist can help clients recognize that learning how to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty and how to live without props can be a necessary phase in the journey from dependence to autonomy.
When a client becomes more self-confident, the anxiety that results from an expectation of catastrophe will decrease. It is necessary to think about death if we are to think significantly about life. Death provides the motivation for us to live our lives fully and take advantage of each opportunity to do something meaningful.
If we realize we are mortal, we know that we do not have an eternity to complete our projects and that each present moment is crucial.
Without being morbidly preoccupied by the ever-present threat of nonbeing, clients can develop a healthy awareness of death as a way to evaluate how well they are living and what changes they want to make in their lives. Existential therapy is best considered as an invitation to clients to recognize the ways in which they are not living fully authentic lives and to make choices that will lead to their becoming what they are capable of being. An aim of therapy is to assist clients in moving toward authenticity and learning to recognize when they are deceiving themselves.
Existential therapy seeks to take clients out of their rigid grooves and to challenge the narrow and compulsive trends blocking their freedom. Existential therapy aims at helping clients face this anxiety and engage in action that is based on the authentic purpose of creating a worthy existence. Increased awareness is the central goal of existential therapy, which allows clients to discover that alternative possibilities exist where none were recognized before.
Clients come to realize that they are able to make changes in their way of being in the world. This requires some time in existential therapy, for it is not a matter of solving problems. Short-term applications of existential therapy require clearly defined and less ambitious therapy goals.
Existential therapists are primarily concerned with understanding the subjective world of clients to help them come to new understandings and options.
Existential therapists typically show wide latitude in the methods they employ, varying not only from client to client but also with the same client at different phases of the therapeutic process.
They may make use of techniques that grow from diverse theoretical orientations, yet no set of techniques is considered essential.
Existential Isolation and I-Thou-relationship
Throughout the therapeutic process, techniques are secondary to establishing a relationship that will enable the counselor to effectively understand and challenge the client. Clients with restricted existence have a limited awareness of themselves and are often vague about the nature of their problems.
They may see few, if any, options for dealing with life situations, and they tend to feel trapped or helpless. A central task of the therapist is to confront these clients with the ways they are living a restricted existence, or how they are stuck, and to help them become aware of their own part in creating this condition. Clients in existential therapy are clearly encouraged to take seriously their own subjective experience of their world.
They are challenged to take responsibility for how they now choose to be in their world. Clients are expected to go out into the world and decide how they will live differently.
Further, they must be active in the therapeutic process for during the sessions they must decide what fears, guilt feelings, and anxieties they will explore. Through the process of their therapy, clients can explore alternatives for making their visions real.
Clients can begin building and augmenting that range by taking small steps. Another aspect of the experience of being a client in existential therapy is confronting ultimate concerns rather than coping with immediate problems. Existential therapists assist clients in facing life with courage, hope, and a willingness to find meaning in life.Existentialism: Crash Course Philosophy #16
Relationship Between Therapist and Client: Existential therapists give central prominence to their relationship with the client. The relationship is important in itself because the quality of this person-to-person encounter in the therapeutic situation is the stimulus for positive change.
Therapists with this orientation believe their basic attitudes toward the client and their own personal characteristics of honesty, integrity, and courage are what they have to offer.
A Breakdown of Existential Therapy in 8 Points
It is essential for the counselor to adopt a flexible style and to draw from different theoretical approaches with different clients.
Rather than prizing therapeutic objectivity and professional distance, existential therapists strive to create caring and intimate relationships with clients.
If counselors lack a sense of presence, it will affect the therapeutic relationship in a negative way. The interventions existential practitioners employ are based on philosophical views about the essential nature of human existence. Existential therapists are free to draw from techniques that flow from many other orientations. They have a set of assumptions and attitudes that guide their interventions with clients. Therapy is a creative, evolving process of discovery that can be conceptualized in three general phases.
The initial phase, counselors assist clients in identifying and clarifying their assumptions about the world. Clients are invited to define and question the ways in which they perceive and make sense of their existence. The counselor teaches them how to reflect on their own existence and to examine their role in creating their problems in living.
The middle phase, clients are encouraged to more fully examine the source and authority of their present value system. This leads to new insights and some restructuring of their values and attitudes. Clients get a better idea of what kind of life they consider worthy to live and develop a clearer sense of their internal valuing process.
The final phase, focuses on helping clients take what they are learning about themselves and put it into action, to find ways of implementing their examined and internalized values in a concrete way.
Clients typically discover their strengths and find ways to put them to the service of living a purposeful existence. Existential therapy is especially appropriate for clients who are struggling with developmental crises, doing grief work, confronting death, or facing a significant decision.
Some examples of these critical turning points that mark passages from one stage of life into another are the struggle for identity in adolescence, coping with possible disappointments in middle age, adjusting to children leaving home, coping with failures in marriage and work, and dealing with increased physical limitations as one ages.
It tends to work well with people who are at a crossroads and who question the state of affairs in the world and are willing to challenge the status quo. It can be useful for people who are on the edge of existence, such as those who are dying, who are working through a developmental or situational crises, or who are starting a new phase of life.
It helps clients of all cultures find meaning and harmony in their lives, because it focuses on the sober issues each of must inevitably face: These are the human experiences that transcend the boundaries that separate cultures.
A strength of the existential approach is that it enables clients to examine the degree to which their behavior is being influenced by social and cultural conditioning.
Clients can be challenged to look at the price they are paying for the decisions they have made. The existentialists can be criticized on the grounds that they are excessively individualistic and they ignore the social factors that cause human problems.
If a counselor consistently tells certain disenfranchised clients that they have a choice in making their lives better, they may feel patronized and misunderstood. A limitation within existential theory is that it is highly focused on the philosophical assumption of self-determination, which does not take into account the complex factors that many people who have been oppressed must deal with.
In many cultures it is not possible to talk about the self and self-determination apart from the context of the social network and environmental conditions. Another problem is the lack of direction that clients may get from the counselor. Many clients expect a structured and problem-oriented approach to counseling that is not found in the existential approach, which places the responsibility on the client for providing the direction of therapy. Contributions of the Existential Approach: One of the major contributions of the existential approach is its emphasis on the human quality of the therapeutic relationship.
This aspect lessens the chances of dehumanizing psychotherapy by making it a mechanical process.
Existential counselors reject the notions of therapeutic objectivity and professional distance, viewing them as being unhelpful. Limitations and Criticisms of the Existential Approach: A major criticism often aimed at this approach is that it lacks a systematic statement of the principles and practices of psychotherapy.
Some therapists who claim adherence to an existential orientation describe their therapeutic style in vague and global terms such as self-actualization, dialogic encounter, authenticity, and being in the world.
The fact that few techniques are generated by this approach makes it essential for practitioners to develop their own innovative procedures or to borrow from other schools of therapy. It must be realized, however, that philosophical insight may not be appropriate for some clients seriously disturbed or nonverbal clients.
Martin Buberin describing existential isolation, would cite the differentiation of the I—Thou relationship versus the I—It relationship.
The I—Thou relationship brought one more authentic and deeper connection to another human being, but this concept was in fact likely the genesis of my tendency to see this type of connectedness with the other as an antidote to transpersonal isolation rather than existential isolation. No matter how close one becomes to another a child, a parent, a loverthere is an ultimate unbridgeable gap. I once described the process of caring for my dying mother in the pages of this journal.
As opposed to isolation or loneliness, existential isolation is an intrapersonal experience. Existential isolation really refers to the concept that each of us is responsible for creating our own lives and living that life authentically. So, in fact, we are completely unique in every aspect of our existence and our death.
Deep loneliness is inherent in the act of self-creation. Our reality, the people we love, our consciousness ceases to exist the moment we die.
And the memory of our existence dies when the last person who remembers us dies. I am not sure. The other day I was having a discussion with a bright 25 year old who had widely metastatic melanoma. He knew he was going to die, and we were discussing life and death and his attitude toward a variety of existential concerns, including existential isolation.
In describing the concept of existential isolation, I found myself not thinking of loneliness, or of isolation, fear, or despair.