What is Existential Psychotherapy?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Do you often feel low because of a feeling that your life lacks meaning and purpose? Wish you could somehow contribute to the world, but suffer anxiety because you don’t know where to start? Or do you often wonder who you really are, anyway?

Existential psychotherapy might be for you.

What is existential psychotherapy?

Existential psychotherapy is quite different to other talk therapies because it looks to philosophical thought, instead of just medicine or psychology.

It believes that wellbeing is directly connected to feeling like life has meaning and purpose, and that philosophy helps us ask the right questions to find that purpose.

Key concepts of existential therapy

Existential psychotherapy has grown into a very big school of thought, with different branches and no one single viewpoint. But most forms of existential psychotherapy will include key concepts like the following:

1. We need to see the big picture of our lives to feel happy.

It’s not enough to just work to understand ourselves. We also need to expand our perspective, and see where we came from and where we are going to.

2. We have to accept the fundamental truth that we are alone.

Existential therapy believes that if we want to overcome anxiety, we must face a truth about being human. We will always long to be connected, but we are always essentially alone on the journey of life.

3. Life has certain ‘givens’ we all must face.

As well as accepting we are alone, we must also accept other ‘givens’, the things that happen to us all. These include death, our freedom and the responsibility it brings, and also meaninglessness.

4. Meaning is present in ever situation.

Despite the fact that we must face meaninglessness, because life presents us with death and suffering we can’t understand? We are at the same time free to find our own personal meaning for every experience.

5. Responsibility is key.

If we want to truly free ourselves from anxiety, we have to accept that freedom is a responsibility.

We are responsible for the life we are in, as our freedom to choose has bought us to this point we are at. And we now have the power to claim our responsibility and choose differently.

6. Finding a sense of purpose and meaning is crucial.

We can’t feel good if we don’t feel life has meaning. So we have to let go of what everyone else around us thinks, or what we have been told is important, and spend the time to truly find what matters to us individually. We can then find joy if we create a life based on those personal values.

Benefits of existential psychotherapy

The above might seem like big and challenging concepts, but they are designed to deliver the following benefits:

  • find purpose and meaning
  • understand who you are
  • accept yourself and your life
  • create a plan for the years ahead
  • break out of old patterns and stop feeling in a rut
  • feel you belong here
  • take responsibility for your life
  • stop being afraid of death
  • feel excited to be alive.

What can existential therapy help with?

Not sure if existential psychotherapy is right for you personally? It might be if you have some or any of the following issues:

Ready to try existential psychotherapy and recover your sense of purpose? Use our easy booking tool to find an existential therapist near you and get talking.

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