By: Moyan Brenn
“Who are you? Should you be doing more with your life, feeling more? Why do other people seem to have more fun than you? What is it that has you feeling so lonely and like you just don’t belong? And what is the real point of this thing called life, anyway?”
Given the vast array of talk therapies available today it can be overwhelming to understand which one is a match for you.
Read on to discover if working with an existential psychotherapist, or an integrative therapist who has studied and pulls from existential psychotherapy, might be the right choice for you.
[You might also find our piece ‘what is existential psychotherapy‘ helpful.]
Do you want to learn more about yourself, but don’t trust psychology or medicine to have all the answers?
Existential therapy is a school of psychotherapeutic thought that is rather different than the others. It doesn’t look to psychology or medicine for answers to psychological wellbeing but to the longstanding world of philosophy. So if you prefer Kierkegaard to Freud, this might be the therapy for you.
Do you suffer low moods because of a nagging feeling your life lacks purpose?
At the heart of existential psychotherapy is the understanding that the meaning and purpose we feel in life is directly connected to our sense of wellbeing.
Existential therapy helps you become crystal clear on what really matters to you, and what you want the rest of your life to be about.
Do your long to contribute to the world, but then just feel anxious as you don’t know how or what?
Existential psychotherapy believes that it is doubting or not knowing our purpose that causes a lot of anxiety and despair in the world.
But we can’t find peace by just focussing on ourselves. We all have a longing to be connected to others. So existential psychotherapy helps you look at your place within the world at large.
Do you often question who you are, or worry you are having an identity crisis?
Existential therapy might be perfect for you. It is all about asking questions that give you a full perspective of yourself and your life at last.
Existential therapy shines light on your own values and beliefs, distinct from those of others around you or even the society you live in. What matters to you, personally?
Are you haunted by thoughts about death and loneliness?
Existential therapy recognises what it calls ‘givens’ – things in life that we all must experience and can’t avoid, such as death, being alone, and the responsibility of freedom.
An existential therapist works to help you accept and find your own comfort level with such givens, so you are no longer overwhelmed by them and can make good decisions when you do end up facing such experiences.
Do you worry you are lacking an appetite for living that others seem to naturally have?
The purpose of existential psychotherapy is to help you figure out who you are and what you actually want from life – what truly matters to you as an individual, outside of what others or society tells you ‘should’ matter.
It is possible to wake up every day feeling excited when we finally choose to be and do that which we feel gives our life meaning.
Do you just wish you had a better perspective on life in general?
Unlike something like cognitive behavioural therapy which is concerned only with your thoughts, feelings, and actions, existential psychotherapy believes it is helpful to you look at a much bigger picture, aiming to help you see your life as a whole.
What are your unique ways of being and seeing? Who are you, what do you really want, where are you going?
Do you find the Western obsession with being ‘happy’ all the time suspicious?
Existential psychotherapy points out that life is not all one thing.
We can sink into despair if we do not learn to accept all of life as meaningful, but instead only try to have ‘good’ experiences. It is better to see life as the complex thing it truly is, then take responsibility to use our freedom of choice to decide on things that work better for us where at all possible.
Are you ready to take responsibility for your life and choices?
If we truly want to move forward, we then have to courageously accept our life comes from our own choices – just as our future will be created more effectively by now making better ones.
Are you opposed to being seen as a ‘patient’ or to being given medication?
Existential psychotherapy is less likely to see you as being ‘dysfunctional’ or having an ‘illness’ than others forms of therapy. Instead it sees us all as living out our unique world view.
Thinking this sounds like you?
If the above resonates, why not try a session with an existential psychotherapist? Or an integrative therapist who blends in existential tools with their work with clients?
Remember, the worst thing that can happen is that you discover it’s not right for you then move on to an approach that is – and that’s better than remaining stuck in patterns and ways of thinking that leave you struggling to cope.
Do you have a question about working with an existential psychotherapist we haven’t answered? Post below.