What is Existential Therapy?

Existential Therapy is a philosophical approach to psychotherapy that focuses on exploring the human condition as a whole, emphasizing individual freedom, choice, and responsibility. It is grounded in the belief that psychological distress is often a result of confronting the inherent challenges of existence, such as the inevitability of death, the freedom to make life choices, existential isolation, and the search for meaning. Rather than focusing on symptoms, existential therapy aims to help individuals face these existential challenges and live more authentic and meaningful lives.

Core Principles of Existential Therapy

1. The Four Existential Givens: Existential therapy is structured around the concept of four primary existential givens: death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. These givens are considered universal experiences that all humans must confront.

2. Authenticity: This approach encourages individuals to live authentically, meaning they are aware of their true selves, their values, and their desires, and are living in accordance with them, despite societal pressures or existential fears.

3. Personal Responsibility: Existential therapy emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s choices and the consequences of those choices. This focus on personal agency is central to the therapeutic process, encouraging individuals to take control of their lives.

4. The Search for Meaning: A key goal of existential therapy is to assist individuals in their search for meaning. This involves exploring what is truly meaningful to each person and finding ways to engage with life in a purposeful way.

The Process of Existential Therapy

Existential therapy is a dialogue between therapist and client that aims to explore deep existential questions and concerns. It is a flexible and individualized approach that adapts to the unique needs and existential questions of each person.

1. Exploration of Existential Themes: The therapist and client collaboratively explore the client’s experiences with the existential givens, delving into how these themes manifest in the client’s life and contribute to their current distress.

2. Confrontation with Existential Realities: Individuals are encouraged to confront and accept the realities of the existential givens, rather than avoiding or denying them. This process can lead to greater authenticity and existential courage.

3. Encouragement of Personal Responsibility: The therapist helps the client recognize areas where they have the power to enact change and encourages taking responsibility for making those changes.

4. Pursuit of Meaning: Together, the therapist and client explore what gives the client’s life meaning and how they can pursue a life that aligns with these values and desires.

Effectiveness of Existential Therapy

Existential therapy has been found to be beneficial for individuals facing a wide range of psychological issues, particularly those related to life transitions, existential crises, and questions of identity, meaning, and purpose. Its emphasis on self-exploration and personal growth can lead to profound changes in perspective and well-being.


Existential Therapy offers a profound and nuanced approach to psychotherapy that addresses the fundamental aspects of the human experience. By focusing on existential givens, authenticity, personal responsibility, and the search for meaning, it empowers individuals to navigate life’s challenges with greater awareness and intention. This approach is particularly suited for those grappling with questions of existence, seeking deeper understanding, and aspiring to live a more authentic and meaningful life.