Objectives of Existential Therapy




Objectives of Existential Therapy :


My basic understanding of the human behavior is not grounded in one psychological approach. Instead there are two therapeutic approaches that govern my rationale. These two approaches, Existential and Person centered (Client-centered too many) heavily influence my philosophical orientation to counseling. In writing this paper, I will explore some of the basic philosophical premises that lay the essential groundwork for these two approaches. The following information will also show the reader that using the two therapeutic approaches together will effectively diagnose and treat teenagers.


Definition of Existential Therapy

One survey taken by Corey suggests a definition of Existential Therapy include two key elements. Existential Therapy is essentially an approach to counseling and therapy rather than a firm theoretical model, it stresses core human conditions. Normally, personality development is based on the uniqueness of each individual. Sense of self develops from infancy. Self-determination and a tendency toward growth are control ideas. Focus is on the present and on what one is becoming; that is the approach has a future orientation. It stresses self-awareness before action.


In layman terms, Existential therapy can be described as a philosophical approach that is not designed to cure people but instead help the client reflect and search for value and meaning in life. Existential Therapy does not supply a cookbook of methods like other approaches but instead it provides a framework that is adaptable to the therapist, in which to view the individual and the world in which they participate.


Definition of Person-Centered (Client-Centered) Therapy

According to Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary, client-centered therapy is a non-directive method of group or individual psychotherapy, originated by Carl Rogers, in which the role of the therapist is to listen to and reflect or restate without judgment or interpretation the words of the client.


Objectives of Existential Therapy

The objectives of Existential Therapy are quite unique. Existential counselors are focused on helping the client achieve and expand their self-awareness. Many Therapists assume once self-awareness is achieved, the client can examine new ways of dealing with problems and except the responsibility of choosing.


Objectives of Client-Centered Therapy

The objective of client-centered therapy is to assist the client to experience self-exploration, so that they can identify problems that are hindering their growth process. Essentially, the main goal of client centered therapy is to have the client achieve a sense of increased awareness and understanding of his attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.


Professional Opinions

Existential and client-centered therapy has been criticized for not being scientific enough. They have been down played as not being empirical and not having a therapeutic model that is firmly set in stone with a set of methods and interventions. A large number of therapists feel that Existential and client-centered therapy are not sound therapeutic approaches for treating and diagnosing adolescents. One main reason for this argument is the existential view toward adolescence. Existentialist view adolescence as a time when a young person begins to gain a sense of awareness on a surface level.


After achieving this level, the adolescent gradually starts to focus on self-meaning, which takes place through the development of their identity. Existentialist also believes that how the individual conceptualizes death plays a part in the whole being of the person. A survey of 82 students revealed people viewed death as cold and denied. This information indicates death is very influential in creating anxiety in people.


Existential and client-centered therapy has not labeled themselves with a distinct clinical procedure, instead these techniques and concepts have been effective in helping patients to recognize and accomplish their goals. For this reason, I believe existential thought coupled with client-centered therapy are appropriate in treating clients who confront some type of obstacle or major event in their life (confronting death, sudden isolation, changing from childhood to adolescence). David Cain (1993), a person-centered therapist, believes client-centered therapy is not a wise decision for treating clients in some cases, he sites that due to the lack of evolution of Client-centered therapy and the client-centered community's unwillingness to change with the advancements of counseling and psychotherapy has limited the therapeutic approach.


On the other hand, therapist Philip Kendall and Michael A. Southam-Gerow, seem to recognize the importance of client-centered therapy. Kendall and Southam-Gerow conducted a study which examined the long-term effects of psychosocial treatment for anxiety disordered youth which they evaluated the long term effects and the effective components of the treatment.


The results from the study revealed that children and adolescent clients treated two to five years earlier with psychotherapy retained their gains over anxiety related disorders. Kendall noted the lack of anxiety related problems could have resulted from the client’s maturation and not the long-term effects of therapy. This evidence alone exhibits just one aspect of the tremendous effects of client-centered psychotherapy. The study also demonstrated the variety of techniques used with the clients which ranged from relaxation exercises to role playing.


Another ongoing criticism of the two dynamic approaches to therapy is gender plays a major role in the outcome of therapy. Researchers have provided research to argue this point. They conducted a study which a Client-Behavioral system was used to evaluate the therapeutic process with 27 sexually abused girls who were enrolled in individual counseling, the study revealed that when sexual abuse was formally taught that the girls were more likely to answer with abuse related answers in response to child abuse questions, regardless of whether the counselor was male or female.


Summary and Conclusion

One can see from the material provided that there are some recurring themes in the areas of client-centered and existential psychology: The search for meaning and value in life, self-awareness and behavior. While existential and client-centered roots are planted firmly in philosophical and humanistic styles of thinking without clear evidence of any scientific model, existentialism and client-centered therapy offers the science of psychology a path much different than the other approaches to therapy that seeks only a scientific outcome. Existential and client-centered offer an alternative form of therapy, a phenomenological approach to the person, not a look at the instincts of the person, not a separation of the id, the ego and superego, but a view of the entire being in the now.


The drawbacks of existential and client-centered therapy have been stated as a basic lack of pure scientific methodology. These two approaches do not offer a textbook of how to techniques, but instead they offer a viewpoint, a lens, a way of picturing the person and the world in which they live. It offers a way to view oneself, as a therapist, a motivator, and as a helper. They do not however, offer a fix-all to every problem, rather they seek to help the client realize responsibility for their actions and thoughts while helping the client gain a deep sense of awareness and trust in themselves in the therapeutic relationship.


This paper examined two philosophical and humanistic approaches I have chosen as my rationale to counseling and psychotherapy. The paper will define and explain the objectives and techniques of these two dynamic therapies. Furthermore, it will illustrate existential and client centered therapy's importance in regards to treating adolescence.




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