Existential psychotherapy originally arose out of Existential Philosophy, in particular, the work of Soren Kierkegaard in the 1800s. It is best described as an approach that influences a counsellor’s style of therapy, as it does not have clearly defined techniques or statements of principles. Some of the earliest influences in this field were Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Ernesto Spinelli and more recently, Irvin Yalom.
This approach is dynamic, intuitive and concerned with exploring the dilemma of one’s existence. It moves away from seeing the therapist as the expert, or therapy as a system of techniques, but examines the ultimate concerns in everyone’s life, e.g. death, existential isolation, meaninglessness and desire for freedom without responsibility. Confrontation with these concerns produces anxiety and the installation of defense mechanisms.
Its basic aims are to enable clients to see that they are free to choose how they live, to become aware of what they are capable of becoming and to recognise any blocks in the way to achieving that freedom. The relationship with the therapist is the agent of change, with an emphasis upon understanding the client’s world, where they are challenged to find deeper meanings to their presented problems.
Cognitive behaviour / rational emotive:
Both Cognitive Behaviour and Rational Emotive Therapies (REBT) are part of the family of Cognitive Behaviour Therapies (CBT).
Albert Ellis has been known as the grandfather of CBT and the founder of REBT. He comes from a psychoanalytical background but combined humanistic, philosophical and behavioural therapies to form REBT. This is an extremely didactic and directive model of therapy, believing that pathology arises through irrational beliefs arising in childhood that have been retained by auto suggestion and self talk. The therapist is quite confrontational and functions mainly as a teacher.