Home » Counselor Intern » LCDC Exam 2014 » Existential Counseling – Rollo May and Viktor Frankl

Existential Counseling – Rollo May and Viktor Frankl

1. View of Human Nature

a. Existentialists believe that the individual writes their own life story by the choices that they make.

b. Psychopathology is defined by existentialists as neglecting to make meaningful choices and accentuating one’s potential.

c. Anxiety is seen as the motivational force that helps the clients to reach their potential. Conversely, anxiety is also seen as the paralyzing force that prevents clients from reaching their full potential. Therefore, through awareness, this anxiety can be helpful in living more fully.

d. Frankl shares that each person searches for meaning in life, and that while this meaning may change, the meaning never ceases to be.

e. According to Frankl, life’s meaning can be discovered in three ways:

i.by doing a deed (accomplishments or achievements),

ii. by experiencing a value (beauty, love, nature, and arts)

iii. by suffering (reconciling ourselves to fate)

2. Role of the Counselor

a. Each client is considered a unique relationship with the counselor focusing on being authentic with the client and entering into a deep personal sharing relationship

b. The counselor models how to be authentic, to realize personal potential, and to make decisions with emphasis on mutuality, wholeness and growth.

c. Existential counselors do not diagnose, nor do they use assessment models like the DSM-­IV.

3. Goals

a. A goal of existential counseling is to have the clients take responsibility for their life and life decisions.

b. A goal of existential therapy is to develop self-­awareness to promote potential, freedom, and commitment to better life choices

c. A major goal is to help the client develop an internal frame of reference, as opposed to the outward one.

4. Techniques

a. The most common technique used in existential counseling is the relationship with the client .

b. Confrontation is also used by existential counselors, when they challenge the clients with their own responsibility for their lives.

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  1. Tim Prentice says:

    I would like to say that given Frankl’s history, who else could have reason enough to stay motivated and find a cause to live. Victor was able to find meaning to live and carried on what he learned. I believe one of the ideas he stressed, is that individuals lack meaning, and therefore search for it , whether from alcohol, or work. I think everyone is on that journey to find themselves and peace.

    • Hi Tim. That’s true. Existentialism and Maslow’s needs hierarchy are so similar. To me, Frankl’s “meaning” is what Maslow calls “self-actualization.” Amazingly, Frankl was able to reach the top of the needs hierarchy even when his basic needs were not being met. Any other thoughts on this?

      • Tim Prentice says:

        I would like to interact more on this, but with a little more research. Although I am not in a therapist position at this point, I would like to think how I would interact on the human level, by coming along side a client and helping them discover what meaning is to them and how they can find hope and true meaning and value as an individual.

  2. Malcolm Wilson says:

    Client growth requires clear meaning and purpose. We are influenced by genetics, socialization, and our own psychology. Through socialization family influences may inhibit individuation leaving us fused with life expectations and emotional ties that are incongruent with who we are. This insight can be transformational bringing clearer identity and meaning. It can place us on a path of growth and discovery bringing meaning and purpose.

    • Hi Malcolm. I wish this approach worked with all kinds of clients. Unfortunately, this is not a good approach for clients that need direction and structure. Also, since it uses abstract terms, it would not work with clients with poor verbal skills. So, it has its limitations, like everything, of course. I am sure we can adapt this approach to meet clients’ needs. It would not be my first option to treat clients in extreme crisis or major depression. Thanks for sharing!

      • Malcolm Wilson says:

        Good point. This is just one approach versus one size fits all. Each clients context should guide our eclectic approach.

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