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Existential Therapy

Existential therapy focuses on teaching clients that they are responsible for who they are today because of the choices they have made and their future choices will reflect the person they will become.   For someone who is struggling with where they are in their current situation, existential therapy can be a great benefit to them.  Existential therapy can help individuals identify who they are on the inside and teach them how to make choices that will benefit them from that moment on.

The counselor or therapist plays a huge role in helping individuals identify themselves.  First, the counselor or therapist must create an authentic relationship with their client.  To do this, the counselor or therapist can express deep empathy, share personal experiences, or anything that they feel is important and appropriate to open the dialogue.  After the connection is made, the counselor or therapist will be able to set goals and use techniques that will help the client want to strive for identity.   One goal of existential therapy includes, “making clients sensitive to their existence.”  (Gladding, 53) By working on going from outer awareness to digging deep, the client will learn how to identify with themselves in a way that helps them explore their inner emotions.

Because of the freedom counselors and therapist have in implementing techniques, they are able to adapt the techniques they know to help the client in the realization of their unique identity.   Some critics however, claim that using existential therapy limits proper treatment due to the fact that they do not diagnose or properly assess.  Nevertheless, this consequently forces therapists and counselors to focus more closely on the individual needs of the client, bringing out their identity.


The goal of therapy when using existential therapy is to help the client find their meaning of life or in other words a purpose.  It is important in the therapeutic process for clients to feel this and the professional using this theory is able to guide the client to find their motivation to meaning.  The relationship between the professional and the client plays a vital role in helping the client discover the meaning.  The relationship must be built on trust and once the trust is established the professional should be able to help the client become more aware of them.

Many techniques can be used to help the client find the meaning of life including confrontation.  Confrontation is a great tool to use when helping clients discovers the meaning.  Confrontation allows the professional to challenge their clients to be able to recognize that they are responsible for their life.  By helping them look into the future and setting goals a client can then start to see that their choices now make a direct impact on their future life.  This is a great way to paint a clearer picture of the meaning of life.

While most people believe that anxiety is a bad thing and those who don’t take care of it are destined for doom, the existential theory believes some anxiety is healthy.   This theory explains that some anxiety is normal and can be motivating.  Many people find themselves more anxious leaving the sessions than they did before the sessions started however, the goal of existential therapy is make a person more aware of their anxiety instead of suppressing it.  By making a person more aware of their anxiety, they can then find use the proper tools in which they acquire through therapy to channel the anxiety in a healthy way.  By making a person more aware of normal anxiety they can explore themselves more deeply and become fully aware of their thoughts and feelings.

Existential therapy does not use the DSM to diagnose nor does it use most traditional psychological tools.  However, it is important to note that the DSM does deal with anxiety disorders throughout.  The goal of existential therapy is to make clients more aware of their inner self.  Anxiety is something that comes from within.  Many times anxiety is unavoidable so it is the professional’s job to help the client become aware of the anxiety, its causes, and how to change the negative way that they may be dealing with it.

A benefit of treating anxiety through existential therapy is that a therapist will be able to use unique tools as needed.  Existential therapy understands that each person is exclusive and no one will require the same treatment.  They will never try to cure or eliminate anxiety but would rather use the tools in which they are trained to use to adapt into a client’s individual needs.  Anxiety is a great way for clients to learn to make productive choices once it’s taught to them that it is okay to feel what they are feeling.