What is existential therapy approach?

What is existential therapy approach?

There are many questions that human beings have wondered since the dawn of humanity: Who am I? What’s my goal in life? Why am I here? What’s after death? What’s the point? And the list may continue several pages. These questions will remain unanswered unless we find someone who helps us to reveal life’s mysteries.

These existential questions may cause emotional and psychological difficulties which are considered an inner conflict. People don’t need to be depressed, obsessed with death or wear black to have existential problems as they’re depicted in movies.

However, it’s true many people who suffer anxiety, depression and stress for a long period in their lives may experience an existential crisis. They question their existence in life. Such people whose negative emotions have taken over them may find relief in counselling and psychotherapy.

Existential therapy and approach are not new since crises associated with our purpose in life have been studied since the beginning of the last century. Psychologists and psychiatrists have worked on the search for meaning for decades to help patients recover from anxiety or depression.

 Existential therapists reckon that people’s existential problems can be reduced to four main categories: death, meaningless, isolation and freedom. To best understand existential psychology, you should visit the BetterHelp website.

Even though this type of theories have been of concern to many philosophers for centuries, it’s still unknown for many people. Before plunging into an existential therapy session, it is good to know its origin, how it works and its benefits on patients with minor mental problems.

Origin

It’s believed that the fathers of existentialism are the European philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friederich Nietzsche. However, both of them differed at some points. They both were committed to exploring reality and how it was experienced. Kierkegaard thought that human unhappiness could only be solved through internal wisdom. Whereas Nietzsche developed his theory based on the will to power and personal responsibility.

Later on, other philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger started working on how interpretation and investigation affect the healing process. All of these existential philosophers developed a theory based on self-respect and self-awareness, personal evolution and the concept of “experiencing” as a way to achieve psychological wellness and balance.

What’s existentialism?

Existentialism is a school of thought which was founded in the 1940’. Its premise is the fact that human beings struggle consciously and unconsciously with specific aspects of human existence.  

This school of philosophy categorizes human beings existence problems in four major areas:

  • The idea of accepting our own mortality
  • Freedom as a result of our responsibilities
  • Finding meaning
  • Overcome fear of isolation

 This philosophical mainstream believes there’s no inherent meaning in our world but humans give meaning to everything in our world.  This means we have to look within ourselves to find meaning in life. We also have the responsibility and freedom  to make our own choices rather than trusting in institutions such as the church or the government  to look for meaning.

What’s existential therapy?

Existential therapy grew out due to different crises that the world went through during 1940 and 1950 such as World War II, The Great Depression, widespread famine, poverty, among others. As a consequence of these horrors, many people started to question humanity’s existence and the purpose of such devastation.

This new therapy is based on the philosophical and intellectual approach and takes some of its main ideas by focusing on free will, self-determination and the search for meaning. Existential therapy helps people to find meaning in life and deal with the struggles inherent to our human condition.

Causes of existential crisis

Many people experience existential crisis which means they don’t find a purpose in life,  they don’t know why they’re here or what’s the meaning of life. These symptoms are quite common in patients who suffer from stress, anxiety or gender identity problems. It’s considered a crisis since people want quick answers to life’s big problems but they’re unable to find them. As a consequence many of them experience an inner conflict, demotivation and unhappiness.

There are many situations that may trigger an existential crisis. Everyone faces and struggles with life problems but they’re not considered a crisis.   Those who have gone through a major loss or trauma, bottle up their emotions for a long period of time, feel guilty or are socially unfulfilled are highly likely to experience an existential crisis. 

Benefits of existential therapy

This new approach proves to be really helpful in supporting people to face and deal with the anxiety of daily life routine from children to adults, individuals to families or groups. The emphasis should be given to people’s capacity to make rational and responsible choices.

Existential therapy is appropriate for those who plunge themselves into addictive substances to escape from reality or thinking about death, for those who work obsessively to find meaning in life or bond in unhealthy relationships so as to connect with others. 

Aim of existential therapy

Unlike other kinds of therapies, existential therapy aims to help people to live with one’s own problems and thrive despite them. Existential therapists help patients to explore their own experiences to break free from an existential crisis and discover that life has true meaning.

One way of coping with existential problems is to take control of your thoughts so positive emotions take over pessimistic ones. Counsellors will help you understand that there’s no answer to every question. Alternatively, you can ask yourself smaller questions so as to be satisfied in finding smaller answers.

Many patients go through existential crisis on their own. However, if symptoms worsen or persist for a long period of time affecting your mental and body health you should consult with an existential therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist. These health professionals will help you out to cope with life problems through talk therapy so as to open up and try to change behavioural and thinking patterns. 

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Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 10 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. All my ideas come from my very active lifestyle, every day I ask myself hundreds of questions to doctors, specialists, and physicians. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. In all my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. I believe that any information should be free, we want to know more every day because we learn every day. Most of our medical sources come from Canada.ca and government research. You can contact me on our forum or by email at info@sind.ca.