RUNNING HEAD: Existentialism
Theory, Practice, and Research
EDUC 5705 - Counselling Psychology: Theory
October 29, 2007
Existential Psychotherapy: Theory, Practice, and Research
Existential therapists assist clients to develop a deeper understanding about life, enhance their self-knowledge, and become the authors of their own reality. Existential psychotherapy can be seen as a tapestry of intersecting practices, all oriented around the concern of the lived human experience (Cooper, 2003). In this paper, I will explore the history and philosophical ideas of existentialist theory, examine its descriptive and prescriptive value with regard to therapeutic practice, and evaluate the research in support of it. I will conclude with the proposition that existentialism is a very broad theory that has many potential applications, and is in need of more research to support its practices.
History of Existentialist Theory
As long as humankind has been consciously aware of its own existence, there have been existential ponderings. Although the philosophy of existentialism has deep roots within our ancient heritage, it was during the nineteenth century that it started to become a formal system of thought. Its philosophical roots are found in the works of Kierkegaard (1941, 1944) and Nietsche (1954, 1974). Methods of existential therapy have been modeled on the work of Heidegger (1949, 1962, 1966), Husserl (1900, 1962), and the philosophy of Sartre (1939, 1943).
From this theoretical background and early clinical work, a myriad of therapies have emerged. Historically, existential therapy began when Binswanger (1963) and Boss (1962) attempted to use Heidegger's theory in therapeutic practice, an approach that has been adapted and developed by Bugental (1965), Frankl (1955, 1963, 1967), Laing (1960, 1967), May (1958, 1969, 1983), Szasz (1961, 1965), Weisman (1965), and Yalom (1980, 1989, 1996)....