Existential psychotherapy is rooted in existential philosophy. Existentialism or existential philosophy is concerned with the themes of existence (e.g., being, choice, freedom, death, responsibility, isolation, meaninglessness). The existential approach stems from the existential philosophy of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, among many others. Existential psychotherapy is flexible and non-doctrinaire in nature – a truthful therapy (Van Deurzen). Whereas many psychotherapeutic techniques are based on making assumptions, the existential approach opens up the space to explore a client’s world from their own perspective. As a result, the modality enables individuals to find a way forward that is best for them – based on their interaction with the world and others. My role as an existential practitioner is to facilitate individuals in finding acceptance and facilitating them in making steps forward that are of their own choosing.
Unlike many forms of therapy, the existential approach does not seek to explain, but to explore. Each of us is confronted with the ultimate givens of our existence in the physical, social, personal, and spiritual realms within which we find ourselves. Confrontation with these givens of our existence presents us with the paradoxes of life that cause inner conflict. Therapy can offer the space to explore and unpack some of these inner struggles and make sense of them.
At the heart of working from this perspective is the exploration of the phenomena of our conscious world – our experiences, emotions, cognitions, and perceptions. Our lived experience is an embodied one and exploration of the nature of our existence as we live it can open up the ability to discover meaning and direction.
Existentially we are in a world where we are always in relation. Our ability to navigate within and throughout this complex world can at times be difficult and the challenges of doing so overwhelming. To address these challenges takes courage, openness, and effort. Personal psychotherapy is a journey that can open up new horizons, but it is not one that is without confrontation with our own weaknesses, uncertainties, doubts, and humanness.