Existential analysis has it's roots, historically, in philosophy, and it is not a philosophical, but a literary movement. It is a philosophy of empiricism, a positivism, a study of human being who is value free. Irvin Yalom believes that Existential Psychotherapy is not defined by specific techniques but by its attitude. The existential therapist, according to James Bugental, "is present as the client explores her or his deepest life predicaments."
These include:
  • Self and Society
  • Love and Transience
  • Freedom and Responsibility
  • Meaning and Absurdity
  • Fear and Transcendence
  • Belief and Faith

    Kirk Schneider and Rollo May's The Psychology of Existence: an Integrative, Clinical Perspective advocates for a therapy that focuses on experiential "liberation." Focusing on constriction and expansion of "experiential being" Schneider and May postulate strategies for gently challenging the client to "deeper spheres of liberation." A key element of liberation is the ability to be deeply present in our life. As Bugental states, "presence is the quality of being in a situation or relationship in which one intends at a deep level to participate as fully as [one] is able."

    The roots of the existential orientation in the United States can be traced to 1958 when May, Angel, and Ellenberger's Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology was published. The roots of the humanistic orientation are traced to 1951 when Carl Rogers' Client-centered Therapy was published. At the core the emphasis is on phenomenology. As a result, the existential perspective honors the subjectivity of conscious existence. As part of our subjective nature each individual struggles with self-awareness, basic freedom, social and intra-personal identity, the meaning of our life and death, and the anxiety associated with consciousness. James Bugental, Rollo May, Kirk Schneider, and Irvin Yalom have contemporary publications that reflect both orientations.

    Existentialism is a protest against the reduction of the whole person to a thing (medical model), a mind without feeling (rationalism), vugar materialism (thought is to the brain what urine is to the kidney). In its religious form it attempts to reconnect man with his spiritual values. In secular terms, its mission is to reconnect man with his purpose in life, to discover a meaning in life and uncover authentic choices and values.

    Out of all the bounties Allah has bestowed upon human beings, the most precious is the gift of life. Each one us should remember that this life Allah has granted us, it is not our personal possession or our personal property. In-fact it is a trust from Allah, making us merely trustees. Because we are trustees we should utilise each and every moment of our lives in the paths that please Allah.
    In one verse of the Quraan Allah informs mankind,
    "And I (Allah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)". (Surah Adh-Dhariyat Verse 56)
    From this verse we can learn the reason why Allah created mankind.


  • "Existential psychotherapy is a dynamic approach to therapy which focuses on concerns that are rooted in the individual's existence." I.Yalom
  • "Existential counseling can be seen as a process of exploration of what can make life meaningful." E. van Deurzen-Smith.
  • Dynamic: passions are set in motion within the individual by the conditions of human existence and may be unconscious or consciously experiences. The four ultimate concerns are: death, freedom, isolation, meaninglessness.( I. Yalom)


  • The goals of E.A are authentic existence. The self is the focal point in E.A. and man of good faith is reflective, conscious, knows his feelings and thoughts, does not deceive himself , is aware of self and his identity. Knows where he is going in life.
  • The Biblical proverb 'Man does not live by bread alone' expresses deep psychological insight. Spiritual values, refers to values which make life meaningful and reflect needs which are to do with psychological well being.
  • V.E. Frankl emphasizes the need for logotherapy because loss of meaning may result in existential despair even though it is not strictly a 'medical model'.


  • The process of therapy is an increased awareness of obselete attitudes and behavior patterns which were learned in the past and which continue despite their frustrating effect on the person's well-being in the present (Hatcher & Himelstein, 1976).
  • The therapy process has three elements: insight, emotional discharge and coping with habitual behavioral reactions.


  • Nuclear crisis lies behind every reaction though the event varied. It resides in emotions, hidden from the light of reason by the emotional defense. Perls puts it " you must lose your reason and come to your senses".
  • Therapy is a voyage where Client is going to his past accompanied by the therapist who will help him to open doors which are found closed.
  • Therapist does not go for a historic approach, making diagnosis and going for the treatment but he should act as a facilitator, supporting, challenging, reflecting, helping him to focus and maintain the structure of the therapy.
  • Therapist should not tell the client of his discovery but teach him how to learn to do this.
  • Follow the contract strictly, only work on what was signed.
  • Use Dynamic Focal Method: That past is alive within, and can be recalled in10 minutes which include present and future with it. Take the microscopic vision of the past event and make it exist in "here and now". Keep the track of minute details, vital links to the present, background and be a "surgeon of words".
  • Ask the client? What does that make you want to do?" rather than asking how do you feel ?
  • Remember as you become less confused after listening to the client the more understanding he/she will have into the problem. Do the inquiry where you feel a missing link or gap.
  • Reflect back to the summary in each session before ending the session and let the client hear the tape of the recorded session after 4 days at home for good insight.
  • If you encounter resistance and you feel the defence mechanism is not breaking then either leave it for the homework to let it come out with a "Freudian slip" with the cues as "I wonder if you noticed that…" or halt the session which sometimes works very well. You can make client do relaxation exercises as psychosomatic symptoms can communicate feelings.


    Let the client experience the feeling of childhood or any present event in "here and now" with the present tense use. Make the client act like a child and you too become a child and lead the client's child to understand the conflict by having dialogue with it. Look carefully for any conflicting statement as saying a sad thing and smiling, or double statement which are used with BUT, as I like my husband but I do not feel like being with him. Try to use the question WHY because it opens rationalization and theoretical philosophy of client's life.


  • Insight is knowing well but it can take a rational turn and does not discharge emotions. There is a soft spot of past in the client which keeps multiplying and this is a real original nuclear emotion which causes "existential threat". You can deal it by asking the client to close the eyes, then you asking permission of the imaginary parents to talk to the child,, then talk to client's child and see he/she reply in monosyllabus (as children usually answer in monosyllabus) then have a "healing dialogue" with therapist adult and client's child. Client should accept the "hurt child" within him. This is where he will get to know about himself.
  • Therapist can also do dream analysis, teaching the client to role play each object, event and object in the dream. As the every thing in the dream is the client himself in a symbolic form (either in a latent or manifest content).


  • Always ask to yourself "What the client will lose when his 'this' particular symptom is taken away? What are these symptoms doing for the client?"
  • The client has developed this behavior in childhood and he learnt then how to deal with threat. It is through play that children learn this behavior. For the child it is not play but work. Teach the child threat is funny not fear. Like a child conquers the threat of loneliness in hide and seek. When the hides behind the door, he seems to be alone but then he goes and find her there and vice versa.
  • Try to use humor picked up from the client's story. He/she will learn to deal with threat in terms of humor not fear. It is controversial issue either to use humor or not but humor makes the client learn that events are not serious.


  • Self-actualization cannot be pursued, it ensues, (V.E.Frankl)
  • Authentic existence is commitment to freedom and social justice (Jean-Paul Sartre).
  • Alienation from self is not simply a psychological problem, it is a social and economic problem (Erich Fromm).


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