Thursday, April 07, 2011

ACA Podcast: Dr. Gerald Corey Discusses Existential Therapy

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Homeless Man

I have had the privilege of working as the primary mental health care provider with a middle-aged man who has been homeless for nearly nine years. Plagued by severe mental health problems, he came to my office a year ago in terror of counseling and other people. It took months of silent sessions to finally start getting to know him. It required modifying my therapeutic approach. I am very much a "go-getter" and solution-focused person. However, when the solution requires time and patience, I begin to doubt my approach, because I do not observe overt behavioral changes. But, over time, he began to talk and told me a horrific story of childhood abuses. Rather than engage in sand-tray therapies, EMDR, or other resolution-focused techniques, the relationship building became the therapeutic goal. I found him to be very intelligent. He had spent years in silent contemplation regarding his own life, the lives of others, and the human condition. He was familiar with Freud, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and other prominent psychotherapists. He was interested in understanding developmental theories by Erik Erikson and Piaget. He often asked for handouts on the information. I was more than happy to give them as I am a strong supporter in developmental theories, and especially in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As time went on, the man began opening up more, expressing his fears of others, including fears of me. He began talking to others in the shelter where he has found refuge. As he does this, it appears (my conjecture) that even the emotional pains and fears he had from childhood traumas are pealing away. This man has taught me the value of unconditional positive regard in the therapeutic process. All he needed, it seems, was someone he could trust; someone that wouldn't tell him that he was mentally ill and broken. Though he has thanked me for my efforts with him, it is I who is truly thankful for what he has taught me as a clinician, and as a human being. Because of this, I would actually love, if it were possible, to continue working with the homeless. I had been afraid before, but have found it invigorating with this one person. The difficulty is finding the funding to pursue this venture. The clinic I work for once received funding for a year to run a free clinic for the homeless. The results were astounding. It all ended with the fall of the economy. Here is to hoping that things will build up so we can continue working with men like him.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Trauma Education

I had the opportunity to develop and teach a course on trauma counseling at Argosy University. It was the first time this course was offered at the Salt Lake City, UT campus. As part of the class, I decided to use a self-effcacy questiontionnaire at the beginning and end of the class (pre and post-test) to see if self-efficacy would increase in regards to trauma assessment and counseling. there are some limitations to the study, but it is preliminary and is expected. The results were cool for me. the students' self-efficacy scores increased in all areas that the scale (Counselor Activity Self-Efficacy Scale--CASES) measures. I am going to compare them to the original test results and see how it compares. Then, I'll see if I can publish it, even if it is a local journal. It's been fun.
In my studies, I found that there is very little information on trauma counseling in a graduate-level education program. I find that ironic when traumatic incidents can be correlated to many problems in the DSM-IV-TR. I read a recent study on trauma counseling education that included a literature review of the subject. It was disappointing to find that trauma counseling education has had very little research to support the idea that it is required to create effective counselors. Ironic, isn't it?

The CASES measure can be found on the net and requested by Dr. Robert Lent.
Black, T.G. Teaching Trauma without Traumatizing is the study on trauma education. Interesting material.