Yesterday I listened to an ACA Podcast entitled Existential Therapy hosted by Rebecca Daniel-Burke with Dr. Gerald Corey as the guest. Those who know of Dr. Corey will recognize him as an author or co-author of countless books and articles in the mental health counseling field. Ms. Daniel-Burke asked several questions such as:
1. What is existential therapy?
2. In what ways is the search for meaning a major contemporary challenge?
3. How can a practitioner use the existential approach as a foundation and then integrate other therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavior therapy?
Dr. Corey indicated that Existential Therapy is less of a technique and more of a philosophical foundation for a therapist. It contains a belief system about life and how everything, including suffering can have meaning. He spoke of Victor Frankl, the founder for the basis of Existential Therapy and the author of the renowned Man’s Search for Meaning. He also reviewed some of Alfred Adler’s Existential standpoints, and reviewed how cognitive behavioral therapy or other therapies can be used as techniques in conjunction with Existential Therapy.
An interesting point was his discussion on existential anxiety, in that people tend to seek meaning in existence through material means and then find themselves feeling short-handed; thus, resulting in existential anxiety. Existential therapy can aid an individual in overcoming anxiety as they evaluate themselves, what gives them true meaning, and making appropriate changes.
Dr. Corey also talks about the importance of an Existential therapist working on themselves to live a meaningful life. I found that very important as to avoid hypocrisy in the profession. We are all on our own personal existential journeys. He recommended trying new things to expand our own professional and cultural competencies. One example was living or working with a different culture to be able to learn to adapt to another’s lifestyle and to understand how they find meaning.
Overall, I appreciated the information as I am an Existential therapist myself. The information and discussion was educationally simplistic and adaptable to every-day practice.
Jamison Law, LPC, NCC
Corey, Gerald. "Existential Therapy." ACA Podcast HT014. American Counseling Association. 0000, Alexandria, VA : 11 Sept. 2009. Retrieved on 4/5/2011 from http://www.counseling.org/Counselors/TP/PodcastsMembers/CT2.aspx