Conceptualization According to Existential Therapy



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Case Conceptualization According to Existential Therapy



CEFS/COUC 510: Theories of Counseling









Author Note


I have no known conflict of interest to disclose.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to






Existential therapy is a distinctive form of psychotherapy that focuses on the existence of human beings as a whole. It utilizes a positive approach from a philosophical point of view and emphasizes on human conditions. The therapy has a positive direction and commends human abilities and aspirations while encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions and success. The therapy aims at helping people to gain self-awareness, self-identity, achieve the meaning of their existence and accept anxiety as part of life. The theory believes that every person experiences psychological processes that bring conflict about life, including death, anxiety, freedom, and associated responsibility. As part of the treatment plan, this therapy utilizes various interventions, including active listening, Socratic questioning, and reflections. The outcomes of this therapy leave the person having gained self-awareness, identity and having resolved the problems and crisis in their lives.



Case Conceptualization According to Existential Therapy

Overview of Existential Theory

Existential therapy is a unique form of psychotherapy that focuses on the existence of human beings as a whole. It utilizes a positive approach from a philosophical point of view and emphasizes human conditions as a whole. The therapy has a favorable policy and commends human abilities and aspirations while encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions and success.

Origin of the Theory

The existential theory originates way back in the 1800s from the philosophers who were dealing with human existence. Some of the philosophers associated with the roots of existential therapy are Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s theory suggested internal wisdom was the only way to overcome human discontent, while Nietzsche brought into existence the ideas of personal responsibility and free will. By the 1900s, other philosophers and great thinkers like Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre started exploring the role of interpretation and investigation in the human healing process. After several decades, other contemporaries started appreciating the importance of experience and understanding to attain psychological balance and wellness.

Beliefs about Human Nature and the Counseling Process

Existential philosophy believes that every human being goes through an internal psychological process that brings about human conflicts. These conflicts arise due to individual interactions with some conditions built-in human existence referred to as givens. The four primary existential givens recognize by the theory include death, isolation, meaninglessness, and freedom and associated responsibility. The existential theory believes that a clash with any of the given above fills a person with anxiety, which reduces a person’s psychological, social, physical, and spiritual awareness. Besides, they might lead to critical long-term consequences. The theory holds that although we know at some point our loved ones and we will die, it brings some anxiety when we think about it. This might cause us to ignore the necessity and existence of death in human existence hence reducing the awareness of death. As a result, humans might fail to make decisions that might enrich our lives or safeguards us.

In existential theory, the main aim of the therapist is to help. The therapist aims at assisting people who are engulfed with anxieties of life in embracing the freedoms that humans have. As they do so, they are also encouraged to take full responsibility for their choices. They further encourage people to be more concerned about authenticity and to worry less about superficiality. During the counseling process, a therapist using existential therapy urges the patients to apply creativity, love, and all self-enhancing experiences to assist them in determining their future actions and making decisions. Some of the techniques used in existential therapy by a counselor include listening, talking, answering questions, and engagement with your therapist for several weeks and months in some instances.

Contributions and Limitations of Existential Therapy

Existential therapy has several contributions in the field of psychology and counseling. Being personal-centered counseling, it emphasizes the importance of respectful, authentic, and collaborative client clinician relationships. Current research gives the most prominent support of this theory and its connection between the outcomes of treatment and the treatment alliance. This therapy has widened the reach of psychotherapy through legitimizing inclusions in the deep treatment process and philosophical issues such as isolation, fear of death, actualization, freedom, anxiety, and the meaning of life. The therapy holds a growth-promoting and holistic approach that is relevant to everyone and de-emphasizes pathology.

Compatibility with Diverse Culture

            This therapy is steeped in Euro-American and western cultures and their assumptions. However, as it has commonly been represented in professional practice and literature, it has a high potential of being practices in highly diverse and sensitive cultures, with diverse clientele, and mixed cultures.

Appropriateness for Crisis Interventions

Existential therapy plays a massive role in crisis interventions. It majorly helps people confront the issues related to deaths and suicidal ideas while assisting people in focusing on their future. This therapy contributes to the client’s recovery by helping them deal with natural givens the right way. Since it involves direct engagements between the client and the therapist, it is appropriate for crisis interventions such as suicidal and death interventions.

Christian Worldview Compatibility with Existential Therapy

Although Christianity and existentialism differ sharply, they have several commonalities. The main point of difference between these two theoretical frameworks is that just like the way existentialism believes in freedom, the latter saints also believe in freedom. They think that a man must exercise full autonomy in making decisions and actions that lead him to godhood. They both believe that a human being does no determine his existence through actions and thoughts, but his essence is determined solely by his choices, and e is fully responsible for that.

Existentialism is not compatible with Christianity in the following ways:

  1. The first incompatibility is that since existentialism is a movement of the 20th century, Christians view it as an antithesis to faith since the philosophy asserts that God does not exist
  2. The second incompatibility is that existentialism believes that a person has full autonomy to the world and life without God of sovereign authority. On the other hand, Christians acknowledge God, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and personal creator of all human beings, giving life a human being meaning.
  3. The final compatibility is that existentialism regards the world as a wild place with no hope. On the other hand, Christians worldwide believe the world is a fantastic place, but it is beautiful as there is hope.

Case Conceptualization Using Existential Therapy

Luana’s problems when she went to a counseling agency include being very quiet and anxious. She was nervous, and she was trying to find her identity. She came in seeking assistance due to having questions about her mental health. She started to have a flashback about her past memories that she lost after a car accident.

The client stated that she would like to understand what is happening with her and perhaps help her find her true identity. According to her, some memories have started to come back, including her real name, more details about the accident, and some facts about her family. She also needed assistance to work on her self-esteem and confidence. Being illiterate and living with a rich, wealthy man, she was so anxious and found it hard to meet these class standards. Given the presented problems, this counselor can gather and organize clients’ concerns and develop a plan of action. Both client and this counselor agreed that the client would benefit from counseling since it is a tool that can help her work on herself and interact better with others in the higher society. It will also assist in helping her understand her past to make better sense of her present self. According to Corey (2021), the ultimate goal of treatment is to increase adaptive functioning, which involves reducing symptoms and resolving conflicts.

Evidence-Based Considerations

According to the problems that Luana has, Existential therapy will help her in dealing with the issues because it will help her overcome anxiety and get self-identity. This will work through encouraging the client to excessive creativity, love, and use of self-enhancing experiences. This will help her in finding self-identity and gaining self-esteem.

Ethical considerations

Just like any other therapy, there are some ethical considerations with existential therapy. This includes maintaining the confidentiality of the patient, the ability to handle the client professionally, and the ability to strengthening the role in identifying and solving the client’s problems.

Theoretical Interventions

Reflection-this has two basic parts, the primary and secondary reflection. In the case of Launa, the therapist needs to examine her problem by analytically breaking it into constituents, then finding the details of concern with essence, definitions, and technical solutions to her situation.

Socratic questioning –The therapist encourages the process by Socratic questioning verbally and using probing questions about the client’s irrational thoughts. As the clients continue to be questioned about their irrational beliefs, they slowly begin to question their ideas. In Laura’s case, as the therapists continue to ask probing questions, she starts remembering her past until she remembers her name and her past events.

Active Listening-This not only involves actively listening to what the client has to say but also listening in a way that assures the client that their inner world is understood. Whether it might look easy, listening is a skill, and it needs to be mastered.

Spiritual Application, Outcome, and Theoretical Orientation

Luana says that she relies on her faith, and she needs help. The best way is to support her with her faith tradition and help to connect her with her divine if she is willing. Also, demonstrate actions of love and compassion o her. This will help in increasing her faith and confidence.

Treating her with this therapy will help her live an authentic life filled with self-respect, gain self-esteem, and live with the higher-level class. She will also understand herself, her story and learn etiquette and literacy skills that she needs. As part of my counseling style, I would include several concepts of existential therapy, such as having the capacity for self-awareness, searching for the meaning, values, purpose of life, and accepting anxiety as a condition of normal life is inevitable at some point.


Given the situations above, existential therapy is crucial in helping people since it is authentic and less concerned with superficiality. Applying it, people will overcome anxieties of life, take full responsibility of their choices and embrace the freedom of choice.















Corey, G. (2021). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Eliason, G. T., Samide, J. L., Williams, G., & Lepore, M. F. (2010). Existential theory and our search for spirituality. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health12(2), 86-111.

Hoffman, L., Ramey, B., & Silveira, D. (2020). Existential therapy, religion, and mindfulness. In The Science of Religion, Spirituality, and Existentialism (pp. 359-369). Academic Press.

Lybbert, R., Ryland, S., & Bean, R. (2019). Existential interventions for adolescent suicidality: Practical interventions to target the root causes of adolescent distress. Children and Youth Services Review100, 98-104.

Sourelis, D. (2018). Working as an existential oriented counselling psychologist in CBT dominated settings and interdisciplinary teams: contribution, integration and challenges. Journal of Regional & Socio-Economic Issues8.



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