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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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