Existential therapy: Process, Approach and Realms

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What Is Existential Therapy?

“Existential therapy is a strategy where a person can investigate self-awareness and develop insight alongside the notion that unfavourable thoughts and feelings are a natural component of human experience. When it is presented in this manner, the person may think about whatever is taking place in their life, comprehend how it fits into the “larger picture,” and how it relates to others who experience a similar situation. In this manner, a person experiences less isolation and loneliness when they are going through a challenging time in their lives.”

Bisma Anwar, LCSW

Existential therapy is a psychotherapy that seeks to investigate problems from a philosophical angle. Existential therapy highlights our abilities and encourages us to take ownership of our accomplishments by focusing on the human experience.

It is believed that emotional and psychological problems result from an individual’s battle with life’s realities. The existential perspective, which explores the human condition as a whole and what it implies for an individual, looks at the here and now rather than dwelling on the past. This way of thinking is expanded upon by existential therapy. It is a philosophical approach to therapy that considers the nature of humanity. As you confront and explain your values, existential therapy aims to help you discover meaning and purpose in life.

What Are The Fundamental Ideas in Existential Therapy?

Existential therapy’s fundamental tenet is that experiencing anxiety is a natural part of being human and that acknowledging this fact is a critical first step towards realising your full potential. Existential therapists contend that there are four universal truths about being human—basic “givens” that every person must face—that are the source of this innate uneasiness. The philosophy of existential therapy enables you to examine the challenges in life from a philosophical standpoint. This therapeutic strategy’s main goal is to motivate you to accept responsibility for your success. It implies that your struggle with life’s problems is what causes your inner conflict. The present moment should be your focus rather than the past. Try to understand every given circumstance. You can put a stop to the excessively frequent fear of the unknown by doing this.

These guiding ideas consist of the following:

  • Humans have the freedom to choose, but that freedom also carries responsibility.
  • Everybody struggles with the thought of death.
  • It is common for people to feel or experience social isolation.
  • Each of us is continuously seeking purpose in life, and this frequently leaves us feeling empty.

Existential therapy is supposed to help us deal with these realities and the anxiety they engender.

Who Is The Most Likely To Gain From Existential Therapy?

One of the main goals of existential therapy is to support patients in facing their fears about life and in accepting the freedom of choice that people have while taking full responsibility for their decisions. Existential therapists work to encourage people to live more genuinely and to care less about appearances. They additionally exhort clients to take charge of their lives, discover purpose, and live fully in the moment. This method will work best for those who are engaged in self-examination and who see their worries as problems with daily life rather than signs of a mental disorder. When dealing with existential difficulties, such as when facing a terminal disease, considering suicide, or even going through a major life transformation, existential counselling is a great option. Depression, PTSD, and substance abuse are other conditions that can benefit from existential psychotherapy.

You may gain increased self-awareness, self-understanding, self-motivation, and self-respect via working with a skilled, experienced existential psychotherapist in addition to addressing certain mental health disorders. For those struggling with addiction or substance misuse, existential therapy has been employed most frequently. It can assist those who struggle with addiction in making better, more self-aware decisions by putting an emphasis on wise decisions and natural knowledge.

An existential perspective has something to offer to almost everyone. Existential therapy has also been recognised to treat the following topics about mental health:

  • Relationship Problems
  • Death or the loss of a loved one
  • Resentment
  • looking for a reason to live
  • Identity concerns
  • Changes in life
  • overcoming your fear of the unknown and locating your life’s purpose
  • heightened receptivity to life’s prospects and determination to experience life to the fullest
  • because of self-reflection and awareness of your relationships, aspirations, and beliefs, you will have more self-control.

What’s The Process Of Existential Therapy?

Existential counselling differs from other forms of therapy in that it does not prioritise the past, which is a crucial component. The method does take the past into account, and the therapist and patient may comprehend the effects of earlier experiences together.
Existential counselling, on the other hand, uses prior experiences as insight rather than as excuses, turning them into a tool to encourage independence and self-confidence. Realizing that your identity is neither determined by your past nor predetermined by your destiny, is frequently a paradigm shift that brings emancipation.
According to practitioners, the goal of existential therapy is to support a person while they examine their own encounters with themselves and their own values, presumptions, and goals. An existential therapist will refrain from passing judgement and assist the patient in expressing their own viewpoint.
The therapist needs to approach each session with an open mind and the willingness to consider their own prejudices and presumptions. The therapist’s objective is to comprehend the person’s assumptions with clarity that the person might not be able to muster on their own.
Existential counselling is based on the idea that even though people are fundamentally alone in the world, they yearn to connect with others. This idea may assist the person to comprehend why certain worries arise and why they feel the way they do occasionally.

What Approaches Are Used In Existential Therapy?

There are three techniques in the existential therapy

  • Empathic reflection: Reflection that is empathetic acknowledges not just one’s own feelings but also of those who were engaged in the event. The reflector may need to learn lessons in emotional intelligence along this reflective trip, either via self-monitoring or by using support structures put in place by others with greater experience in the reflective process.
  • Socratic questioning: It entails a controlled and deliberate conversation between two or more persons. It is frequently employed in counselling and education to reveal and dissect deeply ingrained values and ideas that shape and underpin what we believe and speak.
  • Active listening: Listening ceases to be passive and most surely ceases to be uninteresting when your purpose is to comprehend and communicate the genuine meaning of an experience. When you place a tale into the broader context of a person’s life and use it as just another data point in your quest to truly understand, you suddenly become quite interested in something that may have previously looked boring.

The Realms of Existential Therapy

There are four realms of existential therapy:

Four distinct levels of experience and existence that humans eventually encounter are described in existential psychotherapy. These frequently assist people in comprehending the context of their worries. A person’s perspective on the universe and the four realms is said to determine the reality they experience. The four worlds of existential therapy go by a variety of names, but the following ones are likely the most well-known:

1. The world of matter

The focus of this planet or domain is physicality. It is the realm of bodily requirements, which humans share with animals. The world is where desire, comfort, sleep/wake cycles, and natural cycles are stored. This area also includes bodily sensations and symptoms, as well as birth and death.

2. The social sphere

The social sphere encompasses all aspects of interpersonal connections. Work, attitudes toward authority, race, and family are all present, as well as culture, society, and language. The social realm also includes friendships, love connections, and emotions.

3. The private sphere

Personal matters are those that relate to the individual. This comprises closeness (to oneself and others), identity, traits, and a general feeling of oneself. Along with the issue of authenticity, it’s necessary to consider one’s own skills and shortcomings.

4. The world of making

The ultimate realm is thought of as our “perfect” world. Religion, values, beliefs, and transformation are all a part of it. This dimension, which is also known as the domain of transcendence, is where we find meaning in our existence.

Where To Find The Professional Therapist?



Existential therapy is a satisfying and uplifting process for many people. Being aware that we all experience the same emotions and reality may be liberating, despite your initial reaction that the idea that “being human implies being nervous” is a bad one. The notion that you are not the source of your own stress and anxiety and that these emotions are simply a part of what it means to be a person is also comforting.

After thoroughly accepting this idea, you’ll realise that you truly have a lot of freedom in life. You are not constrained by the past, societal pressure, or cultural conventions. You have the power to design the life you want. This freedom can enable you to live the most genuine and contented life possible by enabling you to discover who you are and what you want from life.


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