Existential Psychotherapy

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Do you ever find yourself feeling anxious when facing difficult questions. It may lead you to ask questions like Who am I?" or "Should I seek out something more important in life?"

A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you to discuss and understand why you feel unsettled emotionally and relentlessly questioning yourself. If you are suffering from feelings of depression and anxiety, they can help you better manage these feelings.

Existential Psychotherapy acknowledges that our sense of purpose and meaning in life has great influence over our sense of wellbeing. Depression and anxieties can often be linked with confusion or doubt surrounding our purpose and meaning.

Unlike other talking therapies, Existential Psychotherapy does not place sole focus on an individual's life history and psyche. Instead, it encourages individuals to examine the human condition as a whole and their place within it. Knowledge from philosophy is drawn upon to achieve this.

This approach can help individuals discover a sense of clarity about themselves, including their core beliefs and values, their journey to their present self, and the journies they are heading towards in life. This can help you feel connected to both yourself and others around you while also helping you lead a life that inspires you


How does Existential Psychotherapy work?

While Existential Psychotherapy utilises knowledge gathered from philosophy, it should not be viewed as 'wishful thinking.' Asking well thought philosophical questions of yourself can help individuals gain a greater understanding of themselves and live a more fulfilling life.

As existential thought is a vast field, Existential Psychotherapy has developed a number of different movements and branches of thought. While some psychotherapists will approach Existential Psychotherapy differently to others, there are some main concepts of Existential Psychotherapy that many may choose to explore:

Understanding the 'bigger picture of our lives can lead to contentment.

Examining our thinking is not enough when it comes to finding a sense of contentment in life. Instead, we can ask philosophical questions and find answers to help us feel comfortable within our lives.

Anxieties often arise when we are faced with 'existential givens.'

Existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom identified four 'existential givens' that can arise in life: isolation, meaninglessness, freedom, and death/mortality.

Yalom believed that human existence involves the inevitably of having to face these 'existential givens' at points in life, causing anxieties and mental distress if we do not learn to accept them and make careful decisions when up against them.

Meaning is found in all situations.

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl suggested that all situations in life contain meaning. If we cannot find meaning in a situation, he believed, then we have yet to discover its true meaning.

Individual purpose and meaning are the key to wellbeing.

Understanding what matters most to ourselves as individuals, outside of the influence of others and the society in which we live, may offer a sense of inner peace and clarity. This can help answer bigger questions, such as: "What beliefs are essential to you?" or "What would you like to say you have achieved when looking back at the end of your life?"

We are all alone.

While we spend our lives forming connections with others, true validation is often sourced from within ourselves. This viewpoint suggests that we are alone in our individual journies towards contentment, which can feel like an anxious prospect for some.

Responsibility, freedom, and acceptance can push us forward.

It is important that we come to accept that we will inevitably face challenges in life. Often our choices dictate the path our lives may take, and recognition of this can help us to achieve freedom of choice to make the best decisions in life.

Individual definitions of reality are influenced by different connecting levels.

We can encounter the world through different interlinked 'dimensions' of existence: psychological, social, physical, and spiritual. Each of us holds fears and aspirations within these dimensions, prompting us to question them in order to understand ourselves and the world around us.

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If you don't feel satisfied with your first Therapy session for any reason, we'll offer you a session with an alternative therapist at our expense.

Who can benefit from Existential Psychotherapy?

Existential Psychotherapy can benefit individuals experiencing an identity crisis or those who feel they lack an identity. Individuals finding it difficult to focus and move forward in life may also find Existential Psychotherapy helpful, as would those experiencing self-sabotage and patterns of poor decision making.

It can also be used as a tool to treat a number of psychological conditions and emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, addiction, loneliness, obsessive thoughts, and relationship difficulties.

What results can be expected from Existential Psychotherapy?

Existential Psychotherapy can help individuals better understand the personal challenges they may face in life and develop the ability to recognise their own power to change. It may also provide individuals with renewed confidence in their decision-making skills and help them feel less overwhelmed by life's questions and challenges. This form of therapy can also help build self-awareness and uncover paths to be taken forward.

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Find an Existential Psychotherapist

A qualified, professional therapist will work with you to examine your thoughts and behaviors and improve how you feel. You will build a relationship based on trust, giving you the confidence to share your feelings and emotions with them. Your counsellor will listen to all that you have to share with empathy and openness.

An experienced therapist or counsellor like those listed on the Harley Therapy platform can help you to manage your symptoms and find your own way forward.

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