What is existential therapy?
Existential therapy is based on the belief that psychological dysfunction results primarily from an individual’s conflict with the realities of existence. These realities include the following:
- The inevitability of death
- The idea that although we crave connections with other people, our sense of validation has to come from within
- The concept of existential isolation, and the responsibilities and freedoms that come with it
Through existential therapy, individuals learn how to come to terms with themselves as isolated individuals who have the power to create the lives and futures that they want. They learn how to make the choices that will transform their lives, and they are empowered to be accountable for those choices. During this process, they learn to see existential isolation not as a desolate loneliness, but as a source of individual power.
What are the benefits?
Existential therapy can be immensely beneficial to those who are seeking meaning in their lives, or who have had experiences that have resulted in a sense of shame, anxiety and other troubling emotions. Examples of how existential therapy can help include the following:
- It can help you develop your decision-making skills and set fulfilling goals for yourself
- It can help you understand what you really want to do in your life
- It can lead you to a better understanding of the beliefs and values you grew up with, and whether you will maintain those beliefs and values going forward
- If you have lost a loved one, existential therapy can help you through the grieving process
- If you or a loved one are approaching the end of life, existential therapy can help you face the anxieties and concerns as you approach the transition
How does it work?
Existential therapy can help you gain deeper insights into the four basic dimensions of human existence:
- The physical: how you relate to your physical surroundings, your feelings about your body and your relationship with food, the importance of material possessions in your life, your bodily needs, health, illness and mortality
- The social: the extent to which you feel a sense of belonging, how you respond to the culture you live in and the socioeconomic class you belong to, your desire to seek out human interaction or isolation
- The psychological: how you think about who you are as a person, how you relate to your past experiences, how you set goals for the future, whether you feel a sense of identity, what you feel your personal strengths and weaknesses are
- The spiritual: how you relate to the unknown, what things, people and ideas you draw meaning and inspiration from, how strongly you would defend your values, your views of death and what happens thereafter