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Existential Therapy

Essay by   •  January 16, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,249 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,547 Views

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Existential Therapy is essentially an approach to counseling and therapy that stresses core human conditions. It is not, however, a firm theoretical model. Normally, personality development is based on the uniqueness of each individual. Sense of self develops from knowing who you are or your identity, while self-determination is governed by one's own fate or course of action without compulsion. In layman terms, Existential Therapy can be described as a philosophical approach that is not designed to cure people but instead helps the client reflect and search for value and meaning in life. Existential Therapy does not supply a cookbook of methods like other approaches but instead provides an adaptable framework that allows the therapist to view the individual and the world in which they participate. According to Mosby's Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary, "client-centered therapy is a non directive method of group or individual psychotherapy, originated by Carl Rogers, in which the role of the therapist is to listen to and reflect or restate without judgment or interpretation the words of the client."

The objectives of Existential Therapy are quite unique. Existential Therapists are focused on helping the client achieve and expand their self-awareness. Many therapists assume once self-awareness is achieved the client can examine new ways of dealing with problems and accept the responsibility of choosing. The objective of client-centered therapy is to assist the client in experiencing self exploration, so that they can identify problems that are hindering their growth process. Essentially, the main goal of client-centered therapy is to have the client achieve a sense of increased awareness and understanding his or her attitudes, feelings, and behavior. Existential and Client-Centered Therapy have been criticized for not being "scientific enough". They have been down played as not being empirical and not having a therapeutic model that is firmly set in stone with a set of methods and interventions. According to Victor Frankl (1967, p. 139), "approaching human beings merely in terms of techniques necessarily implies manipulating them." A large number of therapists feel that Existential and Client-Centered Therapy are not sound therapeutic approaches for treating and diagnosing adolescents. One main reason for this argument is the existential view toward adolescence. In the Existential view, adolescence is a time when a younger person begins to gain a sense of awareness on a surface level. After achieving this level, the adolescent gradually starts to focus on self-meaning, which take place through the development of their identity. (Hacker, 1994) Existential also believe that how the individual conceptualizes death plays a part in the whole being of the person. A survey of 82 student's revealed people viewed death as cold and denied. This information indicates death is very influential in creating anxiety in people (Westman, 1992, p. 1064). Existential and Client-Centered Therapy have not labeled themselves with a distinct clinical procedure, instead these techniques and concepts have been effective in helping patients to recognize and accomplish their goals. For this, reason, we believe existential thought coupled with client-centered therapy are appropriate in treating clients who confront some type of obstacle or major event in their life (confronting death, sudden isolation, changing from childhood to adolescence). (Cain, 1993), Person-centered therapist, believe client-centered therapy is not a wise decision for treating clients in some cases, as such, Cain sites that due to the lack of evolution of Client-Centered Therapy and the client-centered community's unwillingness to change with the advancements of counseling and psychotherapy the therapeutic approach is limited. On the other hand, therapist Phillip Kendall and Michael A. Southam-Gerow, seem to recognize the importance of client-centered therapy. Kendall and Southam-Gerow conducted a study which examined all long-term effects of psychosocial treatment for anxiety disordered youth, which they evaluated the long term effects and the effective components of the treatment. The results from the study revealed that children and adolescent clients treated two to five years earlier with psychotherapy retained their over-anxiety related disorders (Kendall & Gerow, 1996, pg. 728). Kendall noted the lack of anxiety related problems could have resulted from the client's maturation and not the long term effects of therapy. This evidence alone exhibits just one aspect of the tremendous effects of client-centered psychotherapy. The study also demonstrated the variety of techniques used with the clients, which ranged from relaxation exercises to role playing. Another ongoing criticism of the two dynamic approaches to therapy is gender plays a major role in the outcome of therapy. Researchers (Porter, Cox, Williams, Wagner, & Johnson, 1996) have provided research to argue this point. They conducted a study which a Client-Behavioral system was used to evaluate the therapeutic process with 27 sexually abused girls who were enrolled in individual counseling, the study

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