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Existential Psychotherapy

The essential aspect of Existentialism is the notion that we exist no more or less profoundly than an ant or a tree, we exist. The only nature we have is what we make for ourselves. The meaning or purpose of life, our life, is what we chose it to be, and no one can stand in judgment of it because there is no such thing as truth, only perspective. Unlike the other philosophical and psychological systems that focus on metaphysical issues, existentialists focus more on how people should practically live. And existentialists suggest that one cannot have a meaningful life without a passionate belief in something wither that is God, black holes, or the Philadelphia eagles- just something.

Existentialism suggests a manner of existence or being has to do with these themes: freedom, responsibility, meaning, and death, contingency and time, imagination and spirit, joy and despair. There are 2 basic parts of being: the first is inauthentic mode. This pattern is characterized by the qualities of everydyness. This image usually corresponds to some sort of social norm. Being unauthentic when one who refuses to take the responsibility for becoming truly oneself and when ones accept the common convictions of life. The main point is how one takes own freedom and responsibility. The second part of being is the authentic mode. Here one acknowledges responsibility for one’s life in spite of the anxiety involve in doing so. Being authentic occurs when recognizing the ultimate uniqueness of oneself and strive to become what one inherently is. In this mode which is referred to as “ontological mode”...one remains mindful of being and of one’s responsibility for one’s own being. (Corsini, Wedding, 2005)

Like interpersonal and object relation theories, the emphasis is on the phenomenological moment of the therapist and patient relationship. Existentialism seeks to bring about a genuine encounter rather than to the patient and symptoms. Therefore, it considers a patient who is willing to change as an act of individual courage and will. The therapist and the patient may reflect upon how the patient has answered life's questions in the past, but attention ultimately shifts to searching for a new and increased awareness in the present and enabling a new freedom and responsibility to act. The patient can then accept they are not special, and that their existence is simply coincidental, without destiny or fate. By accepting this, they can overcome their anxieties, and instead view life as moments, in which they are fundamentally free.

Existential psychotherapy is a dynamic approach to experience, involving forces in conflict and motion. It has much in common with other dynamic psychotherapies, especially with Freud and Jung. It differs in its refusal to pre -determined explanatory system concerning the human ordeal. It has more emphasis on present rather than the past of human being. It applies the therapeutic techniques spontaneously as it arises in the context of the therapeutic relationship, rather than as determined by formalized set of procedures. (Corsini, Wedding. 2005)


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