What is Existential Therapy?

The word ‘existence’ is derived from the Latin word “existere”, literally meaning ‘to stand out, to emerge’. Existence is not a static process, but entails the process of coming into being or becoming. ‘Existential psychotherapy is a dynamic approach to therapy which focuses on concerns that are rooted in the individual’s existence.’ – Irvin Yalom.

How can Existential Therapy Help?

Existential therapy helps in assisting you to stand out or to affirm your existence, despite and within the constraints involved in existence. It goes beyond dealing with surface problems to assist you to confront the basic issues of your existence: anxiety, despair, death, loneliness, alienation, and meaninglessness. All the preceding issues have the potential to generate ‘existence pain’ (Yalom, 1989). Existential therapy is also concerned with questions of Freedom, Responsibility, Love and Creativity. It aims to help you to feel fully alive, to help you to expand your consciousness, so that you will be in a better position to make choices, these choices lead to the simultaneous growth of freedom and responsibility.

Existential therapy intervention is based on philosophy rather than psychology- it concerns in working with you- in helping you to understand your life, your place in the world, rather than just understand yourself and your psych. ‘My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than intellect. The body-unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos.’ – D. H. Lawrence.

How can Existential Therapy Help?

Existential therapy helps you to understand where you are now at the present and figure it out where you want to be going to. Existential therapy assists you to find your purpose, in which the therapist works to understand your values, to help you to understand and to become clear, with regards to what you want your life to be about. Consequently, it helps you to get back in touch with what really matters to you, what is really important, what you really want to live for. To get back in touch with that sense that your life matter, not just to you but to people.

“When I am every day all day all body and no mind, when I am physically, wholly and completely, in this world with the birds, the deer, the sky, the wind, the trees…this shining moment in the now, devoid of mental rumination.” – David Budbill

It helps you to become clear with what you would like to be accomplishing in your life, here and now, and that you will be good enough- even when things are difficult, to know that you can learn from them; even when life event ripples your soul- to know that you can still be fully deeply alive – no matter what comes in your way. It helps you to make peace with your ‘existence pain’ – allowing you to spread your lively energy around- to share it with others and teach other people what you have learnt and equally as important, to learn from them what is to be learnt.

Existential therapy assists you to learn to taste life, to saviour it, to enjoy it- to get to a place in which you are deeply feeling you are living life rather than just existing!

We must go down to the very foundations of life. For any merely superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt at order had ever been made…’

– I Ching, Hexagram #34 “The Well” (circa 2500 BC)

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