The Process of Existential Psychotherapy
The existentially-oriented psychotherapist guides his or her clients to confront life’s anxieties. If the client has not been fully exercising the freedom to choose, the therapist will lead a discovery of how and why the client is stuck. The client may have been allowing others to make important decisions which he or she alone should be making, or the client may be afraid to take the risks required to grow and is instead choosing an easy and non-threatening path. The psychotherapist will encourage his or her clients to reflect on the aloneness and meaninglessness of life, and to understand how they can find their own ways to cope with these anxieties. The therapist does not try to eliminate these anxieties, but instead encourages the client to face them head-on. Alternative paths can be explored together. The risks entailed with these paths can be evaluated, and the client will then be able to make new, more authentic choices.
The existential psychotherapist is not overly concerned with the client’s past; instead, the emphasis is on the choices to be made in the present and future. The therapist and the client may reflect upon how the client has answered life’s questions in the past, but attention ultimately shifts to searching for a new and increased awareness in the present and enabling a new freedom and responsibility to act. The client can then accept the nature of their own existence and discover meaningful ways forward. By accepting this, they can overcome their anxieties, and instead view life as moments, in which they are fundamentally free together with a responsibility to make choices that will direct their existence.