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Existential Therapy Techniques Help You Find Meaning in Your Life

What is existential therapy? When you hear the word “existentialism,” you might think about pondering what the meaning of life is and how to find it. After all, existentialism is a philosophical movement. Existential therapy is a little bit different. It can help you figure out your future and find your life purpose. What is existential therapy? Existential therapy focuses on the present and the future. It doesn’t necessarily focus on your past. You accept what has happened and you’re moving towards what you want to do next.

The difference between existential therapy and philosophy

Existential therapy and existential philosophy are similar, but existential therapy relies more on practical measures that can help individuals overcome fear. One thing that existential therapy can help people with is trauma and recovery. It differs from behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing patterns of behavior.

What to expect

The techniques you’ll learn in existential therapy will teach you how to cope with change. You’ll learn ways to love yourself and to let go of things that are out of your control. Existential therapy techniques help you to act responsibly, understanding that there are consequences to your actions.

How existential therapy works

According to philosopher Paul Tillich, existential therapy helps a person confront “life’s ultimate concerns.” You will talk about being lonely in this form of therapy. The human experience is innately a lonely one, but when you’re able to embrace the fact that we’re all feeling loneliness at one point or another, it unifies us. Sometimes, people think existential therapy is negative or pessimistic, but what you learn in existential therapy is that you have the free will to make choices that impact your life, for better or worse.

What to seek in an existential therapist

When you’re looking for an existential therapist, you need to make sure they have the appropriate qualifications. One of the things that you want to make sure of is that they have a background in philosophy. That is essential due to the importance of understanding the philosophical context of existential therapy. Unlike person-centered therapy, existential therapy thinks about the big picture. It helps us examine the human experience and identify ways we’re interconnected as people. 

How existential therapy developed

Existential therapy emerged out of concepts from Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is one of the first known existential philosophers, and he talked about human discontent. Later on, philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre started to explore how to heal from human discontent. Later on, Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, 20th-century psychiatrist and neurologist, established something called “Logotherapy.” Logos is a Greek word that translates to “meaning,” and Frankl wrote a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” in which he detailed his personal experience with loss and grief in the Nazi concentration camps. He went on to work from the perspective of existential therapy and finding meaning in life. 

Logotherapy techniques


An individual uses dereflection when they’re self-absorbed and hindered from achieving a goal they’ve set for themselves. They redirect their attention away from the “self” and then become whole as a result of focusing outward. 

Paradoxical intention

Paradoxical intention is a technique that prompts a person to ask themselves what they fear the most. People who have severe anxiety or phobias may find it difficult to get in touch with their deepest fears, but by facing what they fear the most, they may be able to overcome these battles.  

Socratic dialogue

Socratic dialogue is a technique where a Logotherapist takes their client’s words and allows the individual to use them as a form of self-discovery by listening to what the client says and identifying patterns in what they say, then proceeding to find solutions within the word patterns. It allows an individual to solve their problem with a solution, and the point of this technique is to show a client that the answer comes from within.

How therapy can help you in your search for meaning

Whether you’re pursuing existential therapy or searching for meaning in a different form of mental health treatment, you have the agency to discover your life purpose and how to pursue it. Online therapy is a convenient mode of therapy that can help you find out that purpose. Whether you’re working with an existential therapist online or in your local area, existential therapy can help you find that meaning

Getty photo by bob_bosewell

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