Humanistic-existential therapy has features of both humanistic and existential therapy. These approaches focus on how a person is realized in life, assuming their innate best ability to achieve happiness. Existential therapy focuses more on making life meaningful, while humanistic therapy focuses on the client’s strengths and abilities (Georganda, 2021). Therefore, humanistic-existential psychotherapy aims to help patients find the strength to live a better life, find their place in the world and see their unique personal qualities. Noteworthy, the speaker in the video defines existential-humanistic psychotherapy, referring to both described aspects – humanistic and existential.
The Individual in Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy
Humanistic-Existential Therapy is a unique approach where the therapist guides patients on their explorative journey. One of the axioms of this approach is that the patient has free will, can rely on aspects of life that help them, and eliminate factors that create obstacles (Georganda, 2021). According to the approach, the patient primarily seeks to live a fulling life; therefore the therapist is obliged to recognize the client’s ability to self-knowledge and the development of this ability.
Within existential elements, the therapist invites the client to ask the questions “What can I do with myself?” and “Who am I?” These are open-ended questions that do not limit the client’s self-knowledge and self-identification and also do not divide people on any basis, including gender, racial or ethnic differences. Equally important, humanistic-existential therapy views anxiety as a natural feeling and a normal element of the client’s emotional life. Acknowledging anxiety promotes a more optimistic outlook when seeking meaning in life and shaping beliefs and values.
Counseling theory was developed by Dr. Todd L. Grande and differs from the approach described above. The keywords that characterize this theory are the development of identity, self-awareness, the establishment of relationships, freedom, and responsibility, self-actualization, and the search for meanings, values, and fears. Fears can include existential emotions such as guilt, isolation, emptiness, lack of relationship, and death. It is noteworthy that this theory also has some common elements with a humanistic approach, in terms of belief in the client’s strengths and capabilities. However, there are also significant differences between the two discussed therapies.
First, in humanistic-existential therapy, the emphasis is on finding elements for realization in life and finding meaning. At the same time, counseling theory focuses on helping clients live with the fear of the unknown. Then, in humanistic-existential therapy, the client’s goal is acceptance and growth (Georganda, 2021). On the contrary, counseling theory helps clients identify and establish values that help them develop. Finally, counseling theory focuses on the client’s fears, and the therapist seeks to understand the client’s anxieties and experiences and how they survive in the world. This survival or existence can be related to the concepts of eigenwelt, mitwelt, unwelt, and uberwelt. At the same time, humanistic-existential psychotherapy aims to help clients free themselves from ideas and assumptions, including incorrect values that prevent them from living a happy life.
Application of the Humanistic-Existential Approach in Therapeutic Practice
In the video, James Bugental uses humanistic-existential therapy to help an African American woman. This choice of therapy is very effective since eventually, the psychologist helped the patient advance in self-knowledge, and choose favor of her interests. She abandoned the idea of self-sacrifice but also learned to respect the interests of others. The client strived for perfection, and it was difficult for her to accept her imperfections or mistakes. As a result of the therapy, she became aware of her tensions and organized her difficult and traumatic emotions. The therapy helped the client to relate more appropriately to her children by accepting how strongly she tends to form judgments. Through therapy, the patient learned to make an effort to overcome her judgments.
Equally important, thanks to therapy, the patient learned to build relationships with men and choose partners for love or communication, based on her preferences. She also learned to maintain a healthy social network and express her emotions correctly in relationships. Moreover, the patient learned to take responsibility for many tasks and daily activities and find simple ways to solve problems in this context. The client received the therapy favorably, as it usually takes place in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
Counseling Theory: Expected Results
Counseling theory helps clients shape values and identities, achieve self-fulfillment, and live happy lives. In other words, successful therapy helps patients to realize their true needs and feel the meaning of their lives. Equally important, counseling theory, like the humanistic-existential approach, helps patients understand the need for change and how to achieve the desired results of change. Patients learn to develop and use effective behavioral strategies, to express feelings, empathy, and other positive emotions. In the case above, the patient learned to help her children get ready for school and express love and care to them. Moreover, the patient recognized her need to have a relationship with a man by working with her fears, repressed emotions, and dilemmas. As a result, she improved her relationships with friends and acquaintances, especially with men, and found the strength to take responsibility for decisions.
Georganda, E. T. (2021). The therapeutic relationship in the existential-humanistic approach. Psychology: the Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, 26(2), 53-64.