Existential therapy is a type of psychotherapy that derives from the works of the original existential philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard. Existential therapy is considered to be a positive approach that extols the patient to take personal responsibility but still recognizes that there are limits to what can be controlled by the individual.

While existential therapy does not ignore the patient’s past, it believes that the patient is not defined by it. It is a present-based therapy that focuses on helping a patient understand that they are in control of their life, and they can make new choices to move their life in a new direction.

Existential therapists believe that there are four “givens of existence” or “ultimate concerns” that create problems in an individual’s life:

  1. The inevitability of death; the fact that we are all mortal beings
  2. Our free will and personal responsibility for the choices we make
  3. The knowledge that we are all solitary beings and the feelings of isolation that creates
  4. The meaninglessness of life

Existential therapy provides a means to address these givens to allow patients to move forward.

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