Existential Therapeutic Relationship

There are four major goals in the existential therapeutic relationship. First, the therapist encourages the client to embrace their freedom as an individual and to do so responsibly; second, the therapist assists the client in growing in their own self-awareness; third, the therapist and the client together explore the meaning and purpose of the client’s life; fourth, and finally, the therapist encourages the client to let go of self-deception, in-authenticity, and lying to self and to others in exchange for being authentic and truthful to oneself .Existential therapy tends not to be a short-term therapeutic process due in part to its nebulous nature. The questions that are regularly confronted in the existential therapy session are not the sort that lends themselves to quick or easy answers. However, it is at its root a very psychological pursuit. Whatever disconnects may be experienced by the client, whether of a spiritual, philosophical, or purely psychological nature, there is an existential argument to be made. The existential therapist exists to help the client make sense of the thought or feeling or fear that so afflicts them, but this is a process that takes time. The existential therapeutic change process involves three steps: first, to elicit what is most important to the person, their values, and purposes; second, to collaboratively organize the meanings and value system into that person’s unique vision of what the good life might be.

The existential therapist is able to borrow techniques and practices from other therapeutic methods and adapt them to the needs of the client. For instance, it is not uncommon for the existential therapist to teach, confront, encourage, take a history, employ gestalt exercises, or assign cognitive homework (Kruger, 2002). The topic of using established therapeutic techniques in an existential session is not free from controversy, as some existential therapists see this practice as objectifying the client. However, therapeutic intervention is not oriented towards what the client should be; that is to say, it doesn’t try to encourage change, but rather comprehend, reflect upon, and clarify the client’s experience of “being-in-the-world” .One technique that is being used increasingly often in existential sessions is the practice of mindfulness

Key Concepts

Existential therapy deals with human pain, suffering, and anxiety in a much different manner than other psychotherapies, taking a much more spiritual view than other therapeutic modalities. As such, the very core of existential therapy is quite far afield. At its core, existential therapy is about the freedom of the individual and how they may exercise this freedom in order to live their lives as meaningfully as possible. The goal of existential therapy, ultimately, is not to “cure the clients of their symptoms or psychopathology, but rather to help them cultivate a deeper self-awareness.