Existential approach in psychotherapy. Existential psychotherapy: techniques, methods, representatives, basic concepts

At all times, people have come across psychological manifestations, such as frustration, fatigue, insecurities, depressions. Problems in different epochs were also different, but the feelings and experiences of people are similar. Today, more and more often people suffer from the loss of the meaning of life and inner emptiness, the cause of which are some life troubles. To help such people is called existential psychotherapy.

The concept of existential psychotherapy

Existential psychotherapy is a set of rules and psychological approaches for returning a person to a normal life, full of worries and sense. Here, emphasis is placed on realizing oneself not as a separate object, self-contained and experiencing oneself, but as part of being, reality around. Therapy forms the responsibility for one's life and what is happening in it. The very term originated from the Latin existentia - "existence".Existential psychology and psychotherapy closely correspond with philosophy. In the twentieth century there arose such a direction as the "philosophy of existence", which is close in essence to existential psychotherapy.

existential psychotherapy

The existential direction in psychotherapy was born thanks to Seren Kierkegaard. His teachings on which he worked in the 1830s were fundamental. His main postulates said that a person is inseparable from the external world, social life. The main components of human existence are conscience, love, fear, caring, determination. Man begins to realize his essence in extreme situations, which are death, struggle, suffering. Overestimating the past, a person becomes free. Kierkegaard introduced the concept of existence, unique and unique in its kind of human life, separate for each individual. He found a connection with the turning points in fate and self-awareness, a different view of himself and of life after a shock.

Postulates of Bidzhental

James Bujengtal is president of the association of existential psychotherapy. In 1963 he singled out the basic concepts of existential psychotherapy:

  • A person is an integral being that must be evaluated and studied in the sum of all its components. In other words, partial functions can not serve to assess the personality, only all the factors in general.
  • The life of a person is not isolated, but is tied with interpersonal relationships. A person can not be studied without taking into account his experience of communication.
  • To understand the identity is possible, only considering its self-awareness. The individual continuously evaluates himself, his actions, his thoughts.
  • Man is the creator of his life, he is not an outside observer, past which the pictures of being fly by, but an active participant in the action. He creates experience himself.
  • There is a sense and purpose in a person's life, his thoughts are directed to the future.

existential approach in psychotherapy

Existential psychotherapy is aimed at studying a person in life, in the world around him, with his life situations. Each of us acquires his life experience in communicating with the surrounding world, with other people. This adds up our psychological picture, without which it is impossible to help the patient in psychotherapy. A set of personal qualities will not give full awareness of the person, a person does not live in isolation, inside his cocoon, he constantly develops, changes forms of behavior, evaluates the environment and, on the basis of this, carries out certain actions. Therefore, some psychologists avoid the concept of personality, since it does not allow to fully study all aspects of human existence and consciousness.

The objectives of


Existential psychotherapy aims at directing a person's thoughts in the right direction, helping to understand life, to understand its importance and all the opportunities provided. Therapy does not provide for changing the personality of the patient. All attention is directed precisely to life itself, to the rethinking of certain events. This gives an opportunity to take a fresh look at reality, without illusions and conjectures, and build plans for the future, define goals. Existential psychotherapy the meaning of life determines in everyday cares, in responsibility for one's own life and freedom of choice. The ultimate goal - by creating a new look at being to make it harmonious. It can be said that therapy helps to understand life, teaches to confront problems, find ways to solve them, studies all opportunities to improve their existence and prompts for action. Patients are perceived not by sick people, and not able to rationally use their capabilities, tired of life. If a person is confused in life and his thoughts, a big mistake is treating him like a sick person. So believe the representatives of existential psychotherapy. You can not treat him as a helpless person, you just need to help him rethink what is happening around him and choose the right road that he will go to the future meaningfully and for a specific purpose. The goal is not to change the personality, but after the therapy, a person can understand that he needs to change something in order to improve his life, that now he does not live as he wants, because decisive actions are needed. Existential psychotherapy is the opportunity to gain knowledge and freedom, strength, patience. It teaches not to close from reality, not to hide from problems, but to study and feel life through suffering, experiences, disappointments, but to perceive them adequately.

Psychotherapy and philosophy

Now it becomes clear why the existential tradition in psychotherapy has originated from philosophy, and why it is closely interrelated with it. This is the only psychotherapeutic doctrine, the principles of which are grounded with the help of philosophy. The founder of existential doctrine can be called the Danish thinker Seren Kierkegaard. Other Western philosophers who made a great contribution to the development of the existential school: the German philosopher, the classicist of the existential philosophy M. Heidegger, as well as M. Buber, P. Tillich, K. Jaspers, the French philosopher Sartre and many others. Externally, psychotherapy has become widespread. Representatives of Russian philosophy also did not stand aside and invested no less forces and knowledge in existential teaching. This is V. Rozanov, S. Frank, S. Trubetskoy, L. Shestov, N. Berdyaev.

existential psychotherapy of technology

The Swiss psychoanalyst L. Binswanger decided to combine philosophy and psychotherapy for the first time. Such an attempt he made in the 30s of the twentieth century, proposing an existential approach in psychotherapy. The paradox is that he did not practice this direction in practice, but he was able to determine the basic principles of the inner world of man, his behavior and reaction to the surrounding reality, lay the groundwork for therapy. He can be called the founder of existential psychotherapy. Medard Boss, a Swiss psychiatrist, offered his concept, the first of its kind. This happened in the 50's of the twentieth century. As a basis, he took the teachings of the German philosopher Heidegger and transformed them for use in psychotherapy. He is considered the founder of one of the directions of existential therapy - dasain analysis, which contains a model of human understanding. In the 60's, the Boss organized a training program for psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in his own way. Many currents now have existential psychotherapy, its techniques differ, but the goal pursues one thing - to make a person's life comfortable and quality.

Frankl Psychotherapy

One of the most typical representatives of existential psychotherapy is Victor Frankl. This is an Austrian psychologist, psychotherapist and neurologist. Existential psychotherapy, the methods of which are based on the teachings of Frankl, was called logotherapy. His main idea is that the main thing for a man is to find the meaning of life and understand his life, to this he must strive. If a person does not see the meaning, his life turns into emptiness. Frankl's existential psychotherapy is based on the understanding that existence itself raises questions for a person about the meaning of being, and not vice versa, and a person must respond to them with actions. Existentialists believe that each of us can acquire meaning, regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion, social status.

existential psychotherapy representatives

The path to meaning is individual for any person, and if he can not find it himself, therapy comes to the rescue. But the existentialists are sure that man himself is able to do this, the main directing they call the conscience, which Frankl considered "an organ of meaning", and the possibility of finding it called self-transcendence. Out of the state of devastation, an individual can only interact with the surrounding reality;having become self-absorbed and sharpened your attention to your inner feelings, it is impossible to do this. Frankl argued that 90% of drug addicts and alcoholics became so because of the loss of the meaning of life and the loss of the path to it. Another option is reflection, when a person concentrates on himself, trying to find happiness in this;this is also a false path. Developed by Frank, logotherapy is based on counteracting reflexion - dereflexia, as well as paradoxical intentions.

Methods of logotherapy. Dereflexion

Dereflexion provides for complete self-surrender to the outside, stopping digging in their own experiences. This method is used in the presence of obsessive-compulsive disorder. An example of such violations is often problems in sexual life, associated with fear of impotence, frigidity. Frankl believed that the neuroses of sexual obsessions are associated with a desire to enjoy and fear of his absence. Trying to find happiness, constantly concentrating on this, a person does not find it. He goes into the reflection, observing himself as if from the outside, analyzing his feelings and not getting any satisfaction in the end from what is happening. Frankl sees the solution of the problem as the escape from reflection, self-oblivion. As an example of the successful application of the method of dereflexia in Frankl's practice, one can single out the case of a young woman who complained of frigidity. In her youth, she was subjected to violence and was constantly afraid that this fact would leave a mark on her sexual life and the opportunity to enjoy her. And it's this focus on yourself, your feelings and emotions, digging in yourself that provoked the rejection, but not the very fact of violence. When the girl could switch attention from herself to a partner, the situation changed in favor of her. She was able to enjoy sexual intercourse, the problem disappeared. The spectrum of application of the method of dereflexion is wide and can be useful in solving many psychological problems.

Paradoxical intention

Paradoxical intent is a concept based on Frankl's theory of fears and phobias. He argued that the fear of a person of some event, passing into an obsession, gradually leads him exactly to what he is afraid of. For example, an individual becomes poor or sick, because he experiences emotions and feelings of such a person beforehand, being afraid to become it. The term "intention" comes from the Latin intentio - "attention, aspiration," which means an internal orientation to something, and "paradoxical" means the reversal of action, a contradiction. The essence of this method consists in the intentional creation of that situation, which is the cause of fear. Instead of avoiding any circumstance, one must go to meet him, this is the paradox.

existential psychotherapy meaning

You can give an example with the scene. A man, once speaking on stage in front of the audience and at the same time worried, noticed that his hands were shaking. The next time before the exit, he began to fear that his hands would be shaking again, and this fear came true. Fear creates fear, as a result, all this turned into a phobia, the symptoms were repeated and intensified, there was a fear of waiting. In order to get rid of this condition and live peacefully, to enjoy life, it is necessary to eliminate the root cause of fear. The method can be applied independently, having formed a clear intention to create a situation, the inverse of the one that I would like to get rid of. Let's give a couple of examples.

One boy urinated every night in a dream, and his therapist decided to apply the method of paradoxical intention to him. He told the child that every time this happens again, he will receive a reward. Thus, the doctor transformed the boy's fear into a desire that this situation should happen again. So the child got rid of his illness.

This method can be used for insomnia. A person can not sleep for a long time, the fear of a sleepless night begins to haunt him every night. The more he tries to understand his feelings and tune into a dream, the less he does it. The solution is simple - stop digging in yourself, be afraid of insomnia and plan to stay awake all night. Existential psychotherapy( the reception of paradoxical intentions in particular) allows you to take a fresh look at the situation, gain control over yourself and your life.

Client-centered method

Another direction that includes existential psychotherapy. The basic concepts and techniques of its application differ from the classical ones. The method of client-centered therapy was developed by the American psychologist Karl Rogers and is described in his book "Client-centered therapy: modern practice, meaning and theory".Rogers believed that man in his life is guided by the desire for development, professional and material growth, while using the available opportunities. He is so arranged that he must solve the problems that arise before him, direct his actions in the right direction. But only this ability can develop if there are social values. Rogers introduced the concepts that define the basic criteria for the development of personality:

  • Field of experience. This is a person's conscious inner world, through the prism of which he perceives external reality.
  • Self. The union of bodily and spiritual experience.
  • I'm real. Representations about yourself, based on life situations, the attitude of people around.
  • I'm perfect. How a person presents himself in the case of the embodiment of his capabilities.

existential psychotherapy

"I-real" aspires to the "I-ideal".The less differences between them, the more harmoniously the individual feels in life. According to Rogers, adequate self-esteem, acceptance of a person as he is, is a sign of mental and mental health. Then they say congruence( internal consistency).If the difference is great, an ambitious person and self-esteem are inherent in man, overestimating his capabilities, and this can lead to neuroses. The real I can never get close to the ideal because of life circumstances, lack of experience, or because a person imposes attitudes, a model of behavior, feelings that distract it from the "I-ideal."The main principle of the client-centered method is the tendency to self-actualization. A person must accept himself as he is, acquire self-esteem and strive for growth and development within the limits that do not violate his self.

Techniques of the client-centered method

The existential approach in psychotherapy by the method of Karl Rogers distinguishes seven stages of development, awareness and acceptance of oneself:

  1. There is a detachment from problems, a lack of desire to change one's life for the better.
  2. A person begins to show their feelings, express themselves, reveal their problems.
  3. The development of self-expression, acceptance of oneself with all the complexity of the situation, their problems.
  4. There is a need for identity, the desire to be yourself.
  5. Behavior becomes organic, spontaneous, easy. There is inner freedom.
  6. The person opens himself and the world. Classes with a psychologist can be canceled.
  7. The appearance of a realistic balance between the I-real and the I-ideal.

existential therapy

Highlight the main components of the method:

  • reflection of emotions,
  • verbalization,
  • congruence establishment.

Let's briefly dwell on each of them.

Reflection of emotions. During the conversation, the psychologist calls out loud the emotions that the client experienced in one or another situation, based on his story.

Verbalization. The psychologist retells the client's own words in his own words, but does not distort the meaning of the narrated. This principle is created to highlight the most significant of the client's narrative, the most disturbing moments of it.

Establish congruence. A healthy balance between the real and the ideal self. The rehabilitation process can be considered successful if the client's condition changes in the following direction:

  • perceives itself adequately, is open to other people and new experiences, the level of self-esteem comes back to normal;
  • improves performance;
  • a realistic view of the problems;
  • decreases vulnerability, increases adaptability to the situation;
  • decreased anxiety;
  • change in behavior in a positive way.

Rogers' technique is used successfully in school with teenagers, in conflictology. She also has a contraindication - her use is undesirable, if a person really does not have the opportunity to grow and develop.

Awareness of the death of

There is a judgment that people who survive a clinical death or serious illness appreciate their life more and achieve much. Realizing the inevitable finitude of being, death, existential psychotherapy makes us rethink our attitude to the whole surrounding world, to perceive reality in a different light. Usually a person does not constantly think about death, but, faced with a serious illness, can behave inadequately. For example, close from others, close in yourself or start revenge on all the healthy people around him. The work of a psychologist on this method should lead to the client accepting the illness as an opportunity for personal growth. The proximity of death for a trained person leads to a reassessment of values, concentration on the present moment. He is open to other people, his relatives and friends are not an exception: the relationship becomes close and sincere. the finiteness of being death existential psychotherapy

Existential psychotherapy, whose techniques of realizing the death of someone will seem gloomy, in fact it helps many people to survive adequately the difficulties that have happened to them.