Existential Therapy

Existential therapy is a form of psychotherapy based on the model of human nature and experience. It focuses on the positive view that each person is a unique individual capable of growing and realizing their potential, as well as making the choices that shape their life. 

The Meaning of Anxiety

Psychologist Rollo May (1909-1994) brought this human-centered philosophy into psychology for the first time with his 1950 book “The Meaning of Anxiety”.  May believed that people generally tend to seek experiences that allow them to be comfortable. We tend to seek familiar people, events and surroundings that keep our physical and mental senses in a state of balance. This natural tendency, however, forces many to judge and label these experiences as “bad” or “good” depending upon the amount or level of comfort or discomfort they give us. 

Accept Negative Feelings

He wrote that we do ourselves a disservice by avoiding processes that lead to immense growth. May proposed that we approach life with a Buddhist view, where we judge all experiences equally rather than shunning or denying those that are uncomfortable. We should learn to accept our negative feelings rather than avoid or suppress them.

He also believed that suffering and sadness are not issues that required fixing. Rather they are natural and essential parts of living a human life, and important to psychological growth.

Self-Imposed Limitations

Existential therapists help clients discover their self-imposed limitations in personal identity, and try to give the client courage to make rewarding and constructive choices. A key ingredient of Existential therapy is confrontation. Clients are challenged to examine their values and choices and to take responsibility for the quality of their existence. To be successful, the client must fully accept the challenges of changing their life. 

Emotional Rebirth

When Existential Therapy is successful, it brings about a renewed sense of purpose and a re-appraisal of what’s important in life. Some individuals report they experience an emotional “rebirth.”

Buddhists seek a similar state they call “Radical Acceptance.”

Like other forms of psychotherapy, existential therapy can help alleviate anxiety, shame, guilt and other difficult emotions through honest self-evaluation. 

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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