Existential therapy is an explorative insight-orientated approach that draws from philosophy as much as psychology. Historically, existential therapy developed as an alternative to psychoanalysis, evident through the works of Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss (both contemporaries of Freud).

A thematic aim of the existential approach will involve how one lives in the world with others as an autonomous person. Under this approach, our current difficulties may emerge when we are confronted by what we perceive as limitations and, in turn, a reduced agency in the world. How we choose to navigate, those elements frame the background of our actions and, in doing so, reveal aspects of ourselves. If we are to reduce it to three factors, we could see existential therapy as a way of helping the client clarify:

  1. The choices they make
  2. How they relate to others
  3. The world as they perceive it

For example, a person may characterise themselves as an anxious person. Existential therapy may explore: 1) the choices one makes to avoid situations; 2) how they feel insecure with others; and 3) how they may experience the world as a precarious place. From all this, we may gather the central theme is uncertainty, as inevitably, all our choices will be anxiety-provoking due to a sense of anticipation. Following this, existential therapy may support the client to learn how to accommodate uncertainty and facilitate shifts in their understanding of choice, how they relate to others and the myriad ways of experiencing the world.


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