This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Freedom to Thrive: Integrative Existential Therapy Molly Gum Grand Canyon University
FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 2 ³Joy. It is based on the experience of one's identity as a being of worth and dignity. for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. is the goal of life.Rollo May . rather than happiness.´ .
2001). explained that. claiming that they only hinder the true meaning and value of the counselor-client relationship (Murdock. Advocates of the Existential model shy away from using specific techniques. They emphasize the importance of choice and personal responsibility in everyday living. believed that individuals are essentially responsible for their choices and actions and must therefore be accountable for their own lives (Corey. According to existential theorists. Rollo May. Although it is the target of widespread criticism as a formal therapeutic model. 2000). many practitioners inadvertently implement several aspects of existential theory into their counseling (Corrie & Milton. It emphasizes the importance of human interactions and maintains that individuals are most fulfilled when seeking deep. personal meaning in their lives.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY Freedom to Thrive: Integrative Existential Therapy Although philosophy and psychology share many similar roots. ³as long as we actually interpret our task merely in terms of techniques and dynamics. Existential therapy is almost entirely based on philosophic ideology. there are several beliefs that serve as a foundation for clinical practice. although currently the body of research available in support of this approach is continuously growing. the only way to truly understand what it means to live is through an exploration of an individual¶s concrete existence in the context of the world they live in (Buxton. one of the founders of Existential Theory. and believe that increased awareness will lead to a better understanding of self and an improved quality of life (Corey. 2009). 2005). 2001). we have missed the point²and we have . Unlike other schools of psychology. Existential Theory does not offer any sort of systematic viewpoint or methodology regarding human development and psychotherapy practice. Viktor Frankl. Although there are no formal guidelines illustrating how to practice existential therapy. one of the pioneers of Existential Psychology. contemporary 3 psychology typically seeks to align itself with the scientific method by producing and utilizing theories that are supported by empirical research.
but more prevalent in adolescent populations is the tendency to adhere to the expectations that others have on us (Corey. and social limitations at play. we can still determine how to perceive and define our existence. It is often labeled as more of a philosophy than a science since most of its practices cannot be supported with empirical evidence. 2006). Existential therapy helps individuals discover their own personal strength and live more meaningful and productive lives. I find existential therapy to be most aligned with my values and worldview. and although there are physical. and encourage the development of new attitudes regarding those realities. often seeking the answers anywhere but within themselves. Adolescents are torn between childhood and adulthood and often battle with which way to turn. and fulfillment. growth. and progress and growth can come from the most painful of experiences. 2001). Existential Theory is widely criticized for lacking structured therapeutic methods and theories regarding human development and neuroses. 1969. I believe that we all have the power to determine the course of our lives. According to Hanna. p. As an aspiring psychologist. Meaning can be found in even the darkest of circumstances. Hanna. Adolescence is often a period of existential crisis as teenagers struggle to discover an identity of their own.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 4 missed the hearts of those to whom we wish to offer mental first aid´ (Frankl. biological. Existential therapy can help adolescents grapple with the realities of freedom and limitation. 6). difficulties stemming from trauma. and self-injuries. As someone who strives to find meaning in all aspects of life. Existential therapists rely on their own humanity and life experiences to relate to clients and assist them in taking personal responsibility for change. A struggle common to all of humanity. adolescents are often seen as the most challenging clients to work with. my goal is to work with adolescents who are struggling with the following issues: eating disorders. Existential therapy helps . & Keys (1999). chemical dependency. It is ultimately up to the client to determine the effectiveness of treatment (Feist and Feist.
401). most adolescents hunger for this type of freedom. and cultivate a stronger sense of self-awareness. and cultivating awareness (Corey. cognitive-behavioral techniques provide the tools necessary to accomplish these tasks. and . cognitivebehavior therapy involves challenging negative and automatic thoughts. Focusing on the person rather than the diagnosis is what will assist in crafting a trusting and productive therapeutic relationship (Hanna et al. challenging rigid beliefs that limit freedom. 1999). control. facing anxiety. and dishonesty. Additionally. adolescents receiving Existential therapy may develop a healthier and more fulfilling approach to their lives which can assist in a healthy transition into adulthood. Therapeutic Goals in an Existential/Cognitive-Behavioral Approach One of the benefits of combining existential therapy with cognitive-behavioral techniques is the ability to adequately address multiple dimensions of an individual¶s functioning. Merging these two approaches allows the therapist and client to examine functioning on cognitive. for as Yalom (1980) says. This involves examining levels of authenticity in thoughts and behavior.. monitoring thinking and behavior. social. create meaning in their lives. especially since many teenagers have a strong distrust for adults including suspicious of manipulation.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 5 clients understand that they are free to decide what to make of their circumstances. A primary goal of the phenomenological models is to enable clients to take personal responsibility for their lives by choosing how to live. ³It is the relationship that heals´ (p. physical. More specifically. and Existential therapy can help them develop new attitudes regarding their abilities. What also makes this approach to counseling ideal for adolescents is the lack of formal clinical labels. Allowing adolescent clients to claim responsibility for their own choices and attitudes may help them feel more respected by their therapist. establishing meaning in their lives. and developing healthier styles of coping with distress. 2001).
2001). Existential therapy is guided and defined by who the therapist is in the counseling relationship rather than the use of formal techniques and clinical terminology (Buxton. Goals would include intercepting. and modifying faulty cognitions. In the phenomenological therapeutic approaches. As a result. one of the pioneers of existential therapy. In order to adequately do so. Existential therapists are less concerned with techniques and clinical labels than they are with understanding the subjective worlds of their clients (Corey. but instead assist them in self-inquiry and efforts to clarify and understand their freedoms and limitations in the world they exist in. challenging. or the personal and existential encounter´ (p. the counselor-client relationship is the most important determinant of therapeutic outcomes. 2000). existential therapists must maintain a high level of self-awareness and a willingness to continuously learn and grow from life experiences and interactions with clients (Corrie & Milton. therapists do not attempt to offer solutions or answers to clients. Existential therapy is based heavily on the philosophy of thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sarte (1981). 2005). 6). Role of the Therapist According to Viktor Frankl (1969). and discovering a sense of purpose and meaning in existence (Corey. no one can ever fully know or understand the experience of another person. discovering and defining a personal role within the world. 2001). developing effective coping strategies. .FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 6 interpersonal levels. who emphasized that because the human experience is subjective in nature. stepping out of the victim role by accepting personal responsibility for attitudes and behavior. Existential therapists strive to develop an authentic relationship with clients in order to foster an environment of trust and empathy (Murdock. ³What matters in therapy is not techniques but rather the human relations between doctor and patient. 2009).
Each conceptual model has its own reasoning for resistance. crippling. but we can always control the way we handle and react to those circumstances. p. 167). it is important to respect both the ³life-giving´ and ³lifetaking´ qualities of client resistances (Schneider & May. Ultimately. Therapy helps the client transition from the old self to the new self. individuals are attempting to protect themselves from any sort of threat to their self-efficacy or self-concept. Beyond goal-setting and selfexploration is the need to actively live out personally defined values. p. 1995. 167). Empathy and patience . resistance is defined as the process of avoiding or impeding the therapeutic process by evading participation and communication with the therapist. 1995. ³Although such methods may at first seem crude. even if these views are already flawed or self-defeating (Murdock. to most clients they are starkly preferable to the alternatives´ (Schneider & May. 2009). Resistance in Existential Therapy Resistance is quite common when working with adolescent clients. or even life-denying.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 7 Role of the Client Existential therapy requires clients to take responsibility for their lives. and this can only happen through actively making changes (Corey. the Existential approach holds that clients demonstrate resistance as a way to avoid uncomfortable or painful feelings that may challenge or damage their current perception and experience of the world (Watson). This includes recognizing the fact that we cannot always control the circumstances we are presented with. Clinically. Clients are active participants in the goal-setting process and are responsible for establishing and defining their own set of values without the influence of external factors. especially when they are brought to therapy unwillingly. 2005). As an existential therapist.
the therapist is indirectly challenging resistance by helping them determine a need for change (Schneider & May. an indirect approach is more preferable to existential therapists so they can work with the client to better understand their subjective experience (Corrie & Milton.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 8 are powerful and necessary tools in working with clients and developing a strong therapeutic alliance. Because the counseling relationship is seen as the most important therapeutic tool. 2000). developing a trusting and authentic relationship with the client may help break down their barriers. the power lies within the individual and must be claimed. Some situations may require therapists to indirectly challenge a client¶s resistance in order to prevent confrontation (Schneider & May. In this situation. 1995). By allowing clients come to these realizations on their own. Corey (2001) cautions that a therapist must have a . however. When combining approaches. This reminds clients that it is not the therapist who has the power to create change. Therapists are interested in understanding the subjective world of their clients. 167). Direct verbal feedback is sometimes used to confront client resistance. 2001. 458). 2001). Working with resistance in existential therapy would involve helping clients realize that they are in control of their own lives and at every moment have choices about how to ³be´. the therapist can metaphorically ³hold up a mirror´ to the client so they can examine themselves and the world they have constructed (Corey. p. as this may actually aggravate their condition rather than mitigate it (p. 1995). and would need to demonstrate empathy and compassion when encouraging clients to break the pattern of resistance. Therapeutic Techniques Using an Integrated Existential/Cognitive-Behavioral Approach Psychotherapy integration involves looking beyond the limits of a single framework and discovering what can be gained and how clients can benefit from other perspectives (Corey. Schneider & May (1995) recommend avoiding challenging a client¶s resistance prematurely.
according to Meichenbaum (1993). 2009). more functional patterns that support healthy psychological functioning (Murdock.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 9 firm understanding of the ideology that frames their reasoning for integration and a distinct purpose and vision in mind for implementing specific therapeutic techniques. According to Aaron Beck (1979). Additionally. These perceptions are usually filtered through a set of schemas that develop as a result of previous experiences. While I will not disregard the influence of unconscious and past experiences from my own personal philosophy. Cognitive-behavioral techniques seek to relieve or eliminate symptoms and develop better coping strategies while . and most have proven to be highly effective when used properly and in the right context (Corey. most of the problems that individuals face are a result of how they perceive situations. there are many similarities and compatibilities between existential therapy and CBT. one of the leading cognitive therapists. and these filters can easily distort an individual¶s perception by incorrectly relating current experiences to past events. p. Although cognitive-behavior therapy maintains a constructivist approach. ³An undisciplined eclectic approach« can be an excuse for failing to develop a sound rationale for systematically adhering to certain concepts and to the techniques that are extensions of them´ (Corey. Each model has its own approach to helping clients on the journey of self-discovery. negative automatic thoughts have the power to corrode an individual¶s self-esteem and perpetuate anxiety and depression. this can be done even when working within a client¶s personal history. One of the commonalities between existential therapy and CBT is the tendency to focus on the here and now rather than past experiences. cognitive behavior therapy. 2001. 2001). The goal of cognitive therapy is to change the client¶s defective thinking patterns and create new. interestingly. I will still utilize cognitivebehavioral techniques within the existential framework in my own practice. aims to modify a client¶s overt behavior by teaching them to modify their thoughts and feelings in order to improve functioning. More specifically. 3).
we can delve into deeper aspects of their lives including the nature of their anxiety and fear. Combining these two models offers a comprehensive approach to treatment (Corrie & Milton. This includes addressing. time limits. I will aim to help clients alleviate their current symptoms and develop coping strategies to better manage their dayto-day lives. social. changing one¶s language from ³shoulds´ and ³musts´ to words that indicate preference and therefore place power and responsibility in the client¶s hands. Limitations Although existential therapy can be highly effective. and self-monitoring/selfevaluation. interpersonal. An individual must have the capacity to engage in existential self- . Additionally.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 10 existential techniques aim to help clients take responsibility. Existential therapy is typically a long-term treatment process requiring up to a year of counseling in order to reach certain goals. we will address freedoms and limitations and how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life within those boundaries. 2001). this form of therapy is not appropriate for all clients and issues. spiritual. and discover meaning in their lives. certain limitations such as managed health care programs. Dialectical Behavior Therapy can help clients develop relaxation techniques and coping strategies that can reduce distress and anxiety (Nanda. and modifying faulty thinking patterns. 2000) and can help clients deal with physical. 2010). Once the client¶s symptoms are reduced. my first goal would be to establish a trusting and authentic relationship with clients in order to cultivate a safe and productive counseling environment. Furthermore. Both existential and cognitive therapists acknowledge that counseling will not be effective without this crucial component (Corey. and session limits can pose problems when implementing this approach. Secondly. develop awareness. disputing. and personal issues. Additionally. In working with the specified adolescent population.
they begin to lose their sense of selfworth and personal power. I feel that therapists limit their ability to truly understand their clients. then other forms of treatment might be necessary before proceeding (Corey.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 11 exploration before they can begin this form of therapy. 2005). confident. Alternatively. While theories provide framework to guide the therapeutic process. most teenagers just want to have a voice. I plan to lean heavily on contemporary Existential theories while utilizing more specific techniques to influence client growth and insight. I witness their astounding abilities every single day. Existential therapy can help them recover and cultivate that power. if adolescents can learn to trust themselves and take responsibility for their lives at a young age. and when that voice is constantly being minimized and disregarded by adults. I found that taking responsibility for my choices and pursuing deep and significant meaning in my life has transformed me into a more secure. especially since teenagers have difficulties constructing ideas and perspectives outside of parental and social influences. In my own personal growth beyond counseling. they can enter adulthood having a stronger sense of self-efficacy. Concluding Thoughts One of the most interesting aspects of counseling is that clients will bring varying needs. and a therapist must be open-minded and flexible in order to adequately meet the individual needs of clients. As a high school teacher. and compassionate individual. and qualities to the table. In my own practice. Many adults underestimate adolescents¶ abilities to engage in self-reflection and think critically and philosophically about existence. This means that the dynamics of each counselor-client . if certain symptoms impede this ability.By strictly adhering to an inflexible model. goals. I plan to tailor my approach to meet the unique needs of each individual client. Some practitioners might be opposed to using existential therapy with adolescent clients. I see this age as an excellent time to begin the process of self-exploration.
FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY 12 relationship will differ. of victims tortured And of old people left helpless. relational. Three Passions By: Bertrand Russell Three passions have governed my life: The longings for love. the search for knowledge. I found it worth living. I have wished to understand the hearts of [people]. unconscious. And I too suffer. but I cannot. But always pity brought me back to earth. This has been my life. interpretations will be based on a wide variety of factors (conscious. I have wished to know why the stars shine. respect. Expecting to work with each client in a similar fashion is unrealistic and detrimental. And unbearable pity for the suffering of [humankind]. In the union of love I have seen In a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision Of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined. Love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness. . and environmental). and as a therapist. my task is to acknowledge. Love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens. Each and every individual has their own way of experiencing the world. With equal passion I have sought knowledge. and do my best to understand the world through each client¶s eyes. I long to alleviate the evil. 2001). and goals will be determined based on the client¶s personal values (Corey. Cries of pain reverberated in my heart Of children in famine.
(2006). Embodied Integration. 295-308. Murdock. 62-74. J. J. NJ: Prentice Hall. J. Aggressive Adolescents: Reaching. M. Corey. Hanna. NY: McGraw-Hill. Nanda. (2001). Accepting. & Feist. N. 3(1). Upper Saddle River. A. Existential Psychoanalysis. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Case Approach. New York. Existential Analysis. (1969). Counselling & Health.J.P. Corey. M. Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy.G. (2005). Conceptualisation and Existential Therapy. 77. (2005) Case Approach to Counseling and Psychotherapy. S. and Relating. & Miltin. The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. European Journal of Psychotherapy. Belmont.L. Theories of Personality. Belmont. 26(1). Sarte.E. M. (2011). Journal of Counseling & Development.. 131143. & Keys. (1981). The relationship between existential-phenomenological and cognitive-behaviour therapies. 21(2). C. DC: Gateway Editions. 331-350.. (2010). Existential therapy: A useful approach to trauma? Counselling Psychology Review. NY: Plume. (2010). (2008). Existential Analysis.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY References 13 Buxton. New York. G. & Milton. CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. 16(1). CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. (1999). Mindfulness Based-Third Wave CBT Therapies and ExistentialPhenomenology. L. Corrie. Fifty Strategies for Counseling Defiant. Claessens. V. Washington. 395-403.A. 7-24. . F. S. Feist. Corbett. G. Hanna. Friends or Foes? Existential Analysis 21(2). (2000). G. Frankl.
New York. NY: McGraw-Hill. Addressing Client Resistance: Recognizing and Processing In-Session Occurrences . Existential Psychotherapy. K. C. Clinical Perspective. .).J. R.FREEDOM TO THRIVE: INTEGRATIVE EXISTENTIAL THERAPY Schneider. Retrieved April 4. (1995. The Psychology of Existence An Integrative.d.htm Yalom. & May. I. J. 2011. New York: Basic Books. Counseling Outfitters. (1980). from http://counselingoutfitters. (n.com/Watson. 14 Watson.D.