Existential Therapy – Value and Meaning in One's Life

     Existential therapy was introduced by Victor Frankl and Rollo May. Existentialism is an area of philosophy concerned with the meaning of human existence. It looks at issues such as love, death and the meaning of life – and how one deals with the sense of value and meanings in their own life. In an existentialist approach to therapy, there are basic dimensions of the human condition. These are the capacity for self-awareness, the tension between freedom and responsibility, the creation of an identity and the establishment of meaningful relationships, the search for meaning, the acceptance of anxiety as a condition of living and the awareness of death and non-being.

     Existentialists believe that our human capacity for self-awareness gives us possibilities for freedom – as we will realize that we are finite and time is limited, we have the potential and the choice to act or not to act, meaning is not automatic and we must seek it, and we are subject to loneliness, meaninglessness, guilt and isolation. Therefore, people are free to choose among alternatives available to them in living and have a large role in shaping their own personal destinies. The manner in which we live and what we become are results of our choices and people must take responsibility for directing their own lives.

     The aim of existential therapy is to encourage clients to reflect on life, recognize their range of alternatives and decide among them. The goal is to make people realize the ways they passively accepted circumstances and surrender control in order for them to start consciously shaping their own lives by exploring options for creating a meaningful existence. The therapies central tasks are to invite the client to recognize how they have allowed others to decide for them, and to encourage clients to take steps towards autonomy (independence).

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