Existential Therapy

Existential therapy, created out of the existential philosophy tradition, is a treatment orientation based that focuses on the human condition as a whole. One of the primary goals of existential therapy is to help clients face life and its anxieties head on and to embrace the freedom of choice humans have, taking full responsibility for their choices as they do so. Therapists trained in existential therapy believe that unhealthy or undesirable behaviors result from an inhibited ability to make authentic, self-directed choices about how to live. Therefore, in therapy, an existential counselor will work with you to focus on your own responsibility and freedom. You will be challenged to think and behave responsibly by confronting internal thoughts, rather than outside pressures. Existential therapy seeks to help clients live more authentically, to be focused on the present (not the past), to be less concerned with superficiality and to find meaning in their lives. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s existential therapy specialists today.

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Where do you find meaning? What is important to you? What does happiness look like to you? Who or what are you living for? The idea that only we can define or determine our own purpose and path is daunting and overwhelming, but can also be liberating and life-affirming.

— Nathan Robbel, Therapist in Chicago, IL

Existential therapy, primarily developed by Irvin Yalom, M.D., is an orientation that I believe should be a part of every therapist's wisdom and perspective.

— Robert Odell, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Seattle, WA

Underneath it all I see myself as a human- one who struggles and has struggled with the same fears that all humans have struggled with- mortality, isolation, our freedom to make choices, and our ultimate meaninglessness in a universe that is indifferent. I believe then that it is critical as a therapist to support people in finding their own meaning and purpose; and that they can trust themselves to make that decision.

— Morgan Flagg, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in South Burlington, VT

We're all going to die. (Yeah, I know). No but like, really. We are. At one point we didn't exist and at some point we will again not exist. In the meantime, what do we do with that? Is it motivating? Paralyzing? Somewhere in the middle? Let's go there. Let's dive in.

— Tamara Statz, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Saint Paul, MN

I believe that key aspects of existential therapy such as guilt, anxiety, responsibility, meaning, and death are important to not ignore. I also believe that these principles can guide people when they appear to be "stuck" on something, and can appropriately challenge thinking patterns to create long lasting positive changes.

— Jorge Flores, Licensed Professional Counselor in Denver, CO

I have a background in existential philosophy and psychology. Discovering deeper meaning by confronting the difficult questions that arise from the unique nature of the human condition. What does it mean to be alive? How do my choices define me? How can I live a life committed to action and purpose? How can I embrace my failures and celebrate my success?

— Michael Ianello, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Existential psychotherapy is deeply life affirming and is rooted in the belief that change is always possible. It is aimed to assist with issues that arise from being human—or, simply “existing”, to which no one is immune. Goals include to increase self-awareness, take responsibility of life, relate better to others, self-acceptance, and to live authentically. Existential therapists are curious, genuine and conversational. Therapeutic work includes dialogue, creativity, dream work and more.

— Lauren Hunter, Psychotherapist in New Orleans, LA

My experience and studies in literature paved the way for my current philosophical and therapeutic approach in counseling. It was the influence of French authors like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus that left a huge mark on my professional development. I would later consolidate their teachings with experts in Psychology, such as Viktor Frankl and his emphasis on the "will to meaning." How we make meaning out of the suffering we endure can be one of the most powerful questions in counseling.

— Dakota Fidram, Associate Professional Counselor in Atlanta, GA

We are free beings to choose as we see fit and create meaning out of those experiences that fulfills and enriches us. Yet, too many times we allow our perceptions to be shaped by biased meaning projected upon us and not authentic to our true self. What you have been through was not to diminish you. It was to equip you to receive more out of life.

— Sheldon Kay, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Duluth, GA

Living is not for the faint of heart. To seek meaning and actively engage with an exploration of individual and collective humanity is a shifting lifelong journey. Existential therapy wrestles with matters of life and death, and what it means to you to be a human being with all the attendant pain, sorrow, joy, and questioning.

— Polly Harrison, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

Existential-humanistic therapy is a relational approach that recognizes the importance of creating a therapy environment that helps clients deepen their awareness of themselves. Existential-humanistic therapy also recognizes the importance of addressing issues of freedom and responsibility, meaning, relationships, and working with one's potential and limitations. Rollo May, one of the founders of this approach, noted that the purpose of psychotherapy is to set people free.

— Louis Hoffman, Psychologist in Colorado Springs, CO

Let's look for the meaning in what you have experienced along with how you think and feel.

— Lori Lee Staton, BS, MA, (pre)LPC/MHSP, Counselor in Cookeville, TN

I love working within existential therapy and helping people identify their values and goals in life, and how to live by those. I believe it is important to find purpose and meaning in life that helps us to keep going when times are tough.

— Caley Johnson, Associate Clinical Social Worker in Bellingham, WA

Helping people find a balance and meaning in their human experience is at the core of why I am a therapist. I have practiced existential therapy for the past five years and quite honestly have lived this orientation all of my life. Challenges and issues are part of our experience as humans and can not be viewed as bad or good or black or white. Instead when it is viewed through this gray area it fosters self-awareness that I believe people make the most of their lives.

— ShannonElaine John, Counselor in Fort Morgan, CO

I want to help clients find and make meaning and purpose in their lives. I am honest with clients about harsh realities of the human experience in the interest of helping clients come to terms with them and become their most authentic and free selves.

— Kirsten Cannon, Counselor in Memphis, TN

I believe that experiencing both joy and pain is what makes us human. My goal when sitting with you is not to "fix" you or to change the ways in which you show up as a human, but to embrace what makes you, "you". Themes like choice, freedom, purpose often come up in my sessions; I am interested in helping you figure out whether what you are doing is truly what you want to do with your life.

— Nancy Juscamaita, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

I have been interested in the meaning of life since I first read Man's Search For Meaning 30 years ago. As a cancer patient, I have had a lot of time to consider my own purpose, and I think most people at some point (or many points) in their lives have moments where they contemplate what this all means. I love helping my clients explore the existential concerns of death, freedom, isolation, and meaning.

— Brandie Sellers, Licensed Professional Counselor in McKinney, TX

I completed my training in cancer and chronic illness with existential therapy and CBT being the primary modalities utilized in treatment and recovery.

— Jill Gray, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in St. Petersburg, FL

An existential approach to therapy emphasizes the importance of the meaning that each person makes in life and that the path that one takes can only be understood in the context of their unique life experience. This means that the questions, "Who am I?" and "What is the meaning of life" is a personal journey that, ultimately, only the individual can discover for themselves.

— Matthew Beeble, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Vancouver, WA