ABOUT EXISTENTIAL THERAPY

Irvin Yalom believes that Existential Psychotherapy is not defined by specific techniques, rather it is defined by its attitude. The existential therapist, according to James Bugental, "is present as the client explores her or his deepest life predicaments." These include:

  • Self and Society
  • Love and Transience
  • Freedom and Responsibility
  • Meaning and Absurdity
  • Fear and Transcendence
  • Belief and Faith

Kirk Schneider and Rollo May's "The Psychology of Existence: an Integrative, Clinical Perspective" advocates for a therapy that focuses on experiential "liberation." Focusing on constriction and expansion of "experiential being" Schneider and May postulate strategies for gently challenging the client to "deeper spheres of liberation." A key element of liberation is the ability to be deeply present in our life. As Bugental states, "presence is the quality of being in a situation or relationship in which one intends at a deep level to participate as fully as [one] is able."

The roots of the existential orientation in the United States can be traced to 1958 when May, Angel, and Ellenberger's "Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology" was published. The roots of the humanistic orientation are traced to 1951 when Carl Rogers' "Client-centered Therapy" was published. At the core of both orientations is an emphasis on phenomenology. As a result, the existential-humanistic perspective honors the subjectivity of conscious existence. As part of our subjective nature each individual struggles with self-awareness, basic freedom, social and intra-personal identity, the meaning of our life and death, and the anxiety associated with consciousness. James Bugental, Rollo May, Kirk Schneider, and Irvin Yalom have contemporary publications that reflect both orientations.

Many of the active members of EHI have trained with James F. T. Bugental, Ph.D., Rollo May, Ph.D., and/or Irvin Yalom, M.D. They also took part in a Pacific Institute 1997 project which provided training for a small group of psychotherapist from St. Petersburg and Moscow. Formed as a Non-Profit Corporation in 1997, EHI has provided cutting edge training and public programs to further the understanding of the existential and humanistic orientations. The formation of EHI is an important step in the face of the mainstream movement toward dehumanizing psychotherapy. Your support, feedback and interest will be appreciated.