Existential Therapy

Existential therapy, created out of the existential philosophy tradition, is a treatment orientation based that focuses on the human condition as a whole. One of the primary goals of existential therapy is to help clients face life and its anxieties head on and to embrace the freedom of choice humans have, taking full responsibility for their choices as they do so. Therapists trained in existential therapy believe that unhealthy or undesirable behaviors result from an inhibited ability to make authentic, self-directed choices about how to live. Therefore, in therapy, an existential counselor will work with you to focus on your own responsibility and freedom. You will be challenged to think and behave responsibly by confronting internal thoughts, rather than outside pressures. Existential therapy seeks to help clients live more authentically, to be focused on the present (not the past), to be less concerned with superficiality and to find meaning in their lives. Think this approach might be right for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s existential therapy specialists today.

Meet the specialists

I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy & I slide back and forth between existentialism and absurdism depending on the day. I'm a devotee of Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin, Bruce Alexander, Gabor Maté, Albert Camus, Viktor Frankl, and Michael Steger. I echo Frankl's agreement with Friedrich Nietzsche that "those who have a 'why' to live can bear almost any 'how.'" “I can't be a pessimist because I am alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter." -James Baldwin

— Dr. E. Rose Sierra, Psychotherapist in Wichita Falls, TX

Do you know why you're here? Have you found your purpose? Within the model of existential therapy, we will work together to find meaning in your life, in spite of and because of the obstacles that you might face. We get one life, so we better make it count.

— Leah Rockwell, Licensed Professional Counselor in Mercersburg, PA

People are the only creatures on earth who are truly aware of their existence, which is a benefit and a burden. Setting time aside to look at our meaning and purpose is never wasted. This sort of work is why I am a believer in not setting artificial limits for time spent in therapy, since all of us are evolving, hopefully for the better.

— Gilbert Bliss, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Towson, MD

The search for happiness is usually frustrating and elusive because happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. If you focus on finding meaning, you are much more likely to succeed. I work with clients to discern their own values and help them adhere to those values. Life as a human being is inherently limited, and it is hard to accept those limits; however, choosing from among the available options helps you feel more in charge of your own life.

— Joanna Morse, Psychologist in Brandon, FL

Helping people find a balance and meaning in their human experience is at the core of why I am a therapist. I have practiced existential therapy for the past five years and quite honestly have lived this orientation all of my life. Challenges and issues are part of our experience as humans and can not be viewed as bad or good or black or white. Instead when it is viewed through this gray area it fosters self-awareness that I believe people make the most of their lives.

— ShannonElaine John, Counselor in Fort Morgan, CO

We are all capable humans with some amount of self-determination in our lives. My belief is that we each create meaning in different ways. Part of my goal is to explore with you how you find meaning in your life and what your narratives about yourself and others are to see where supportive shifts can happen.

— Augustin Kendall, Counselor in Minneapolis, MN

Life is about finding your individual meaning, purpose, and direction. This is the only defense we have against the random horrible things that happen to us. Perhaps the best way to describe this type of therapy is to give you the name of two books to read: "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl and "The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients" by Irvin D. Yalom.

— Greg Custer, Licensed Professional Counselor in Meridian, ID

Existential Therapy focuses on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning. This approach often centers on you rather than on the symptom you are experiencing. The approach emphasizes your capacity to make rational choices and to develop to your maximum potential.

— Cheryl Perry, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Charlotte, NC

I use tenets of Gestalt and Existential therapy in my work, as I believe that we all gravitate naturally towards self-determination and holistic congruence. Self-examination and self-awareness are key steps for this - supported in therapy. I use tenets of Gestalt therapy in association with existential therapy: such as immediacy, the therapeutic relationship, and individual responsibility.

— Neil Panchmatia, Counselor in Portland, OR

I completed my training in cancer and chronic illness with existential therapy and CBT being the primary modalities utilized in treatment and recovery.

— Jill Gray, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in St. Petersburg, FL

A fan of Abraham Maslow, I view client experience as one that, cultural contexts aside, has universal elements across all people when it comes to issues of purpose and meaning, life, esteem, aging, and death.

— Gregory Gooden, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in POMONA, CA

Living is not for the faint of heart. To seek meaning and actively engage with an exploration of individual and collective humanity is a shifting lifelong journey. Existential therapy wrestles with matters of life and death, and what it means to you to be a human being with all the attendant pain, sorrow, joy, and questioning.

— Polly Harrison, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in Portland, OR

Existential therapy focuses on how we find meaning in our lives. People who seek psychotherapy often have lost abilities, careers, or relationships. How do we redefine our lives and find new sources of satisfaction and joy while grieving such loss? I can help you find ways to connect with meaning in yourself, your relationships with others, and your relationship with the world around you.

— Peter Addy, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR