Existential therapy (ET) is a dynamic approach that focuses on issues and concerns that are imbedded in the individual’s existence (Yalam, 1980). ET is based on the view of “specific forces, motives and fears that interact in the individual” (Yalam, 1980). The purpose of ET is to help clients in making choices based on their belief system, accept reasonability for their actions and the outcomes, whether positive or negative, and find meaning in their life (Eliason, Samide, Williams & Lepore, 2010). ET is applied to a case vignette of Anna throughout this paper.
A concept that could be applied to Anna’s case is attention to nonverbal behavior. This is Anna’s first time in therapy. Anna arrived early, had shaky hands and presented tearful. Anna made little eye contact during the initial session, her speech was halting and she presented with flat affect. An ET therapist could interpret a lot from Anna’s nonverbal cues.
Other concepts in ET are: human nature, freedom and responsibility, striving for identity, relationships with others, anxiety as a condition of living, and awareness of death. Human nature is based on understanding what it means to be a human. ET therapists strive to understand human experiences (Eliason, 2010). The therapist could seek to understand Anna’s feelings of anxiety regarding her isolation from not seeing her family in a year, her husband being gone and her feeling of being a “single parent” as well as Anna identifying who she is and making sense of her existence (Eliason, 2010). With Anna having to quit school and being let go of her job, she may have questions regarding what she should do and who she is. This concept seeks to identify and clarify these questions.
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Risks of Treatment
A risk to ET is that its focus is on self-determination and does not take into account outside sources, which may contribute to factors that clients are dealing with (Eliason, 2010). Another risk is that the lack of direction that the therapist provides. Clients often expect a problem-solution approach, in which ET does not provide. Anna may struggle with feeling she is not receiving answers or direction. Another risk is that ET therapy is typically long term, however the therapist could advocate for additional sessions if clinically necessary for Anna.
ET believes that challenges occur when a client is not true to ones self and helps clients in making choices based on their belies, accept reasonability and find meaning in life. ET can be a useful approach in helping client’s deal, accept and change life’s circumstances.
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