Counselling and psychotherapy have become increasingly recognised as the best intervention to help people encountering problems in living, with a sound body of evidence supporting their effectiveness. We all struggle to deal with the challenges of life from time to time and these are the moments when it can help to talk through our difficulties with an independent professional, who is able to offer a safe space and their own knowledge, skills and experience to enable you to better face your problems.
Many people do not realise that there are many different forms of counselling and psychotherapy, which draw on different ideas to inform the way the therapist works. Existential counselling and psychotherapy focuses on helping clients to learn to live well in the face of the inevitable adversity and uncertainty of life. As an existential therapist I draw on the work of the existential and phenomenological philosophers (such as Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre and De Beavoir) and early existential therapists (such as Binswanger and Boss) to inform the way I work. This way of working has a long history and provides an alternative to more traditional medically based forms of therapy. The heart of the approach is to attempt to see the world as it appears to the client, putting to one side the therapist's own assumptions and preconceptions as much as possible. The therapist then draws on a range of ideas from existential philosophy to inform their responses, the questions they ask and even the challenges they may make. We do not work with medical notions of illness or pathology but instead recognise that clients are responsible for their own lives and how they live them, with any problems they encounter being problems in living that we all have to face.
What does this mean in practice? Well, the experience will be one of a conversation in which the therapist will mostly seek to listen, especially early on in the work, so they can better understand what is going on for the client. As the work progresses the therapist is likely to ask more questions and engage with the client in a more conversational manner. The experience is akin to talking to an interested friend, though in the therapeutic relationship the therapist will not offer their ideas about what a person should do but rather work to enable the client to find their own solutions. None of the technicalities of the method need concern the client (unless they want to know about it, of course) as they will be gently guided through a simple process of conversation, which is designed to focus on their presenting concerns, highlighting limitations in their way of living such that they can gain new insight and formulate their own way of living their life in a better, more satisfying way.
Society for Existential Analysis
United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)