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

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

The name "Existential Therapy" sounds very philosophical and intellectual. But nothing could be further from the truth. Existential Therapy just means that we're talking about how we find meaning in our lives, what life means to us, and how we deal with the realities of being a human being.

— Jacob Brown, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Corte madera, CA

I approach therapy from an existential worldview with a psychodynamic approach to help clients better understand their distress. I tailor therapeutic interventions to the specific needs of each client with the goal of empowering my clients to make meaningful decisions regarding their wellbeing and safety. Therapy is often difficult, and I work to create a safe space for each client to allow for authenticity and genuineness.

— Heather Stephenson, Psychologist in Evanston, IL

Existential psychotherapy is a style of therapy that places emphasis on the human condition as a whole. Existential psychotherapy uses a positive approach that applauds human capacities and aspirations while simultaneously acknowledging human limitations. Six propositions of existential therapy are: Capacity for self-awareness. Freedom and responsibility. Establishing an identity and meaningful relationships. Finding meaning. Anxiety is unavoidable. Awareness of mortality.

— Radmila Hollnagel, Licensed Professional Counselor in Charlotte, NC

Listening to unease and discontent can shift our relationship to inherent pains and discomforts of living. Awareness of the impact and implications of beliefs, values, and actions allows us to be deliberate in how we show up, engage with ourselves and others, and participate in our lives and the world. Cultivating honesty with ourselves, drawing in spiritual and philosophical threads, illuminates purpose and meaning, moving towards ethical alignment and greater congruence and integrity.

— Jessamyn Wesley, Licensed Professional Counselor in portland, OR

Existential therapy is related to the issues of depression and suicidal thoughts. When we have depression or suicidal thoughts, we question, "Why do I exist in this world?" This question feels like it does not have an answer or if it does, we will not be able to reach the answer. I believe, however, we will be able to find our own answer if we open our hearts to this profound life question. Our answer is always within our own hearts, and our work is learning to be open to our hearts.

— Hideko Ota, Counselor in Berkeley, CA

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 Pasadena, CA

My approaches are supported by an existential foundation. The existential approach primarily has to do with understanding and empathizing with your efforts to manage the responsibility and anxiety of making choices and finding meaning in life. Our ability to 'think about' and choose (rather than just react) is a great gift, but also anxiety-provoking.

— Christopher Michael, Clinical Psychologist in Claremont, CA

While my theoretical approach can best be described as eclectic, I have a strong foundation in existential psychology and am heavily influenced by that school of thought, so I do often see things through that lens: really upbeat stuff like ‘neurotic anxiety’ and ‘existential paralysis.’ But it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. And it can be very liberating to view life in those terms, to find meaning in the way we are interacting with the world, and to make a choice to choose differently.

— Dr. Michelle Alvarez, Clinical Psychologist in Asheville, NC

An existential approach to therapy emphasizes the importance of the meaning that each person makes in life and that the path that one takes can only be understood in the context of their unique life experience. This means that the questions, "Who am I?" and "What is the meaning of life" is a personal journey that, ultimately, only the individual can discover for themselves.

— Matthew Beeble, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Vancouver, WA

"If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do." Meaning arises from the actions we take and the relationships we form with ourselves and others.

— Grant Gordin, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX

Existential therapy can help you uncover the underlying issue behind your empty feelings and discover what stands in the way of your emotional well-being. In our sessions, I can guide you to examine and define what is and isn’t providing satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. You will empowered to change your life and know yourself in a deeper way.

— Dillon Welliver, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Tallahassee, FL

I believe that most interactions are related to fear of something. We figure it out in sessions, but you'll probably never hear those words during sessions. This is all about the process behind the work we do. It is the themes that will drive our work- fear of rejection, abandonment, death, living, freedom, etc.

— Kristin Martinez, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Whittier, CA

Increasing your self-awareness and self-understanding, focusing on the freedom and responsibility you have to your choices which works to expose your power over the direction you are going are main tenets of existential therapy. Helping you confront negative internal thoughts rather than external forces while helping you focus more on the experiences that are life-enhancing while working to alleviate the symptoms that make life harder are the intentions of this type of therapy.

— Karen Harris, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Clackamas, OR

The goal is to understand the way the client sees the world and help them make choices based on this new insight. People often have a limited awareness of themselves. Main concepts for therapy are having the capacity for self-awareness, experiencing tension between freedom and responsibility; creating an identity and establishing meaningful relationships; searching for the meaning, purpose and values of life; accepting anxiety as a condition of living; and being aware of death and non-being.

— David Sachs, Counselor in Roseville, CA

Existential therapy explores core issues that affect us all as human beings regardless of ones diagnoses, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation etc. Realities such as freedom and responsibility, and finding meaning in ones life are part of the human struggle and affect us all. Existential therapy helps you gain insight how these issues impact your life and empowers you to be your most genuine self.

— Karly Hoffman King, Counselor in Cleveland Heights, OH

Our Therapist, Jenny Larson, practices from an integrative Existential-Humanistic counseling orientation.

— Elizabeth Gentzkow, Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR

the meaning of life, the embrace of the impermanence of life, being in the here and now, giving what you didn't get, and mourning what was lost. These are aspects of Existential Therapy that I draw on every day with every client.

— Stephanie Hubbard, Psychotherapist in West Hollywood, CA

Based on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning centering on you rather than on the symptoms. I believe we all have the capacity for self-awareness. Learning more about you and your uniqueness will help you made the best decisions for your life.

— Dr. Adriana Dyurich, Licensed Professional Counselor in Corpus Christi, TX

I work with clients to help them understand how they see the world and to find meaning in their lives and experiences.

— William Hemphill, Licensed Professional Counselor in Norcross, GA

I have been interested in the meaning of life since I first read Man's Search For Meaning 30 years ago. As a cancer patient, I have had a lot of time to consider my own purpose, and I think most people at some point (or many points) in their lives have moments where they contemplate what this all means. I love exploring that question with my clients and helping them to create meaning for themselves.

— Brandie Sellers, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Allen, TX

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

A core aspect of the work that I do is helping people break free of societal norms and expectations to connect most authentically with their truths about what will foster their optimal happiness. In my work I honor the core beliefs that we have a sense of agency in creating our own realities, that we each have inherent strengths & capabilities that give our existence unique purpose, and that we can thrive through our fears if we're brave enough to sincerely look at them.

— Anna Dow, Marriage & Family Therapist in online, CA

Existential Therapy (ET)approach asserts people experience intrapsychic conflict due to their interaction with certain conditions inherent in human existence. In other words, a person has discord in their life either related to the world around, extrinsically, or within, intrinsically. For example, differences with one's boss, struggles with coworkers, relational issues, problems with your teenager, etc. ET alleviates stress, anx, depression, and adds clarity, meaning & max's one's potential.

— Brendon Mendoza, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate in Seattle, WA

I have a Master's Degree in 'Clinical Mental Health Counseling,' (2016) completing my clinical internship placing a focus within this emphasis. Following graduation I was hired at the Western Montana Mental Health Center in Missoula, MT where I hired as a Clinical Outpatient Therapist (LCPC). With my return to Minnesota, I was hired as a Psychotherapist (LPCC) in Minneapolis before transitioning into private practice.

— David Baumrucker, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in Cottage Grove, MN

Existential therapy is based on the assumption that life is worth living, but you have to figure out your own answer as to "why". We all have freedom to make choices but sometimes that freedom can be scary, because it comes with a huge responsibility: you are in charge of making the important decisions in your life and finding/creating your own sense of meaning. I guide my clients towards their own sense of meaning and happiness, so they are never alone as they learn how to do it.

— Zofia Czajkowska, Psychologist in Montreal, VT

Life's meaning changes time to time. I'd like to focus how you live rather than your symptoms.

— Junko Yamauchi, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Santa Clara, CA

An existential approach to psychotherapy is about optimizing options in the face of limitations. It's an integrative way of working with people to help them become more internally free. It’s a life-altering therapy that will help you discover how to live a more deeply satisfying & productive life--helping you become more conscious of a wider vision of your life's purpose & trajectory. It promotes a revived sense of engagement with existence & can help open us up to a new attitude toward living.

— Dr. Johnathon Neda, Clinical Psychologist in Costa Mesa, CA