Existential psychotherapy: what is it about and what is its philosophy based on?

When a person attends a psychologist, the goal is to receive treatment that is often arduous. Assuming that the idea is to open the emotions towards another person, which is unknown at first. Now, existential psychotherapy is created from a base that is humanistic. Being sensitive to that insecurity and looking for a way to make the patient more comfortable. Because of this, we will talk about what the existential psychotherapy and its philosophy.

What is existential psychotherapy about?

The foundations of existential psychotherapy are concentrated in a homonymous current that is part of philosophy. Where the essential concern is oriented in the way in which everyone builds their way of being and being in the world. Søren Aabye Kierkegaard has been considered the founder of this technique to understand suffering.

Despite this, the roots of the theory of this therapy are based on the contributions of other thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, Simone de Beavour and Edmund Husserl. Although psychology is used conventionally, it is dedicated to the understanding of thought, behavior and on specific occasions in psychopathological dimensions. A branch like existential psychology focuses on the sense that existence offers for each person.

It means that existential psychotherapy seeks to carry out a deep analysis of the biggest questions, such as freedom, meaning, guilt, death and time.

This is a discipline that was founded by psychiatrists mostly disappointed by the use of traditional models. Some of the clearest examples were Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss. Wants made searches within the constructivist currents, with the aim of expressing the way in which they could understand their work.

In this way it was possible to transcend further from negative things and pain, to go towards identifying all the positive aspects and potential. Which are important elements to contribute to the development of a happy life.

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Nature of the human being

Starting from an existentialist point of view, every person is like a project that is under construction, and that is why it can never be fully understood. It could also be a flexible reality and at the same time open to experience. That houses in itself all the potential to want to live and to feel an infinite range of ideas and emotions.

Nor does it refer to an isolated person, but rather its meaning is born as it enters a world of social relationships, where it is capable of creating its own subjectivity. Existentialism is not oriented towards the human being as a biopsychosocial reality. It's more of a way of looking at the intersections between various dimensions.

Unwelt, which includes the body and its basic needs. Mitwelt, which is based on the connections that are established with others within society and culture. Eigenwelt, which is the identity of the self within the relationship that is shaped as the self, as well as the effects or the thoughts that give it its shape. Überwelt, which are transcendental and spiritual beliefs about life and its purpose.

All these dimensions represent the basis on which the examination of the patient is carried out in the existential therapy. In such a way that the professional will ensure that a balance is established between each of them. If there is a disturbance in any of these dimensions or also in several, it will be taken as therapeutic purposes. Being in an existential psychology program that can be extended as long as the person wants or requires.

Sickness and health

Within existential psychology and from an existentialist point of view, illness and health are perceived as the ends of a continuous line in which a person could be located. Following the specific way in which she relates to others and to herself. Another of the criteria of great importance is based on adherence to the same principles and values ​​as a guide for life.

It means that it is not a conservative vision, it is more a way to flee from survival and to seek an existence for which it is possible to find an ultimate meaning. Health could be understood as the result of living a life that is unique. That it is guided by genuine will and at the same time open to both the positive and negative aspects.

Now, disease is based on everything that is opposed to health. In this case, a life that lacks authenticity would be led, where the rest of the people are the ones who decide the path to follow.

How does existential psychology intervene in people?

The following points indicate the objectives and the phases to be treated in existential psychology. Finally we will mention some of the most used techniques, being philosophical positions about life.


There are three objectives that existential psychotherapy is responsible for pursuing. Restore the state of trust in people who have lost it. Expand the way in which these people perceive their own life or also the world around them. Determine a goal that is meaningful to the person.

In other words, the idea is to find a position in life and also a direction to take. Therefore, it would be to determine all those things that make a person authentic.


The process involved in carrying out existential psychotherapy also has three phases. Establish an initial contact, the phase in which the work is done and the part of completion.

The initial contact phase in existential psychotherapy is where the patient establishes a therapeutic bond in which said intervention will continue. An alliance like this is based on actively listening and accepting the experiences of others. But it also includes a consensus, in which a way of evolving is established in each session. This response is generally assumed to be found in the patient.

It begins to delve into the history of the patient when the work phase in existential psychotherapy begins. Focusing on all the concerns and griefs of the person receiving treatment. From there, an exploration is carried out that includes the four spheres of the human perspective, which define how complex reality is.

It is at that moment where I establish the main objectives as a model. Which are the detection of all strengths and weaknesses, define values, examine emotional ties with important people, reinforce autonomy and build a life project.

Now, the final part in an existential psychotherapy treatment determines the tasks that the patient must follow in his own life. Where everything that is learned must have a beginning and also a conclusion.

Techniques used in existential psychotherapy

One of the main existential psychotherapy techniques It is the so-called epoché. This is one of the concepts that comes from existential philosophy and where one of the most important foundations of therapy is summarized: Approaching moments in life as if they were something new. While assuming an attitude of learning, where the person marvels at the event of the present.

Description is the second of the most used techniques in existential psychotherapy. Although for this case an exploratory analysis is carried out, allowing to obtain knowledge about things without the need to categorize them. The goal of this is to establish a curiosity in yourself, as well as in social relationships. Since both make up the essence of what it truly is to have an existentialist perspective.

The third of the techniques used in existential psychotherapy is horizontalization, through which it is intended to avoid the hierarchy of power where a conventional psychiatrist was shown. And in which at a moment in history the intervention proposal was created.

The relationships on which these techniques are based allow the patient to identify with the clinical figure and the role it plays. Offering encouragement to express their own truth, following a concept of therapy that deliberately relies on criticism and prosecutions.



Psychology and mind

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