EXISTENTIAL PSYCHOTHERAPY

Life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards. 
Søren Kierkegaard

Existential psychotherapy is a depth approach to psychotherapy that seeks to understand human suffering in terms of the avoidance of natural anxieties, and internal conflicts, that arise from a personal engagement with the givens of existence.  Instead of focusing solely on mental health symptoms and prescribing techniques to alleviate these symptom, existential psychotherapy focuses on the underlying life-difficulties all human beings face, such as the isolation inherent in our freedom to choose; our responsibility for our choices; the struggle with how to meaningfully connect with others and the world around us; and how to live authentically given the inevitability of death.  
 
Existential philosophy teaches that we wake into consciousness embedded in a world that is already shaping who we are, what we think and feel, and the beliefs we carry about that world and ourselves.  The tasks of growing and developing are fraught with natural anxieties, as we risk leaving the security of what we know for the unknown potentials of the future.  We are faced with choices about what to do with our remaining time here in the world, what will make life meaningful, and how to live together with others while remaining true to ourselves as individuals.  Facing into these challenges brings the benefits of strength, resilience, and an inner peace stemming from feeling of the poignant “rightness” of our personal choices.  Avoiding these challenges, by clinging to outmoded ways of living and being, often leads to despair.
 
If we do not have the inner and outer support we need to feel confident and safe, facing into these natural challenges can be difficult. Without the early listening we need to feel felt by another, it can be hard to trust that we know who we are, what we want, and how to make life our own creation.  We can stagnate in situations and relationships where the story of our life rings false to a deeper, truer sense of ourselves. Sometimes, as a result of trauma, or due to an avalanche of challenging life experiences, it is possible to feel that we are not up to the task of steering our lives, and we can retreat into clinging to old worn-out ways of being, avoidant busyness, pleasure seeking, and addictive habits. 
 
Existential psychotherapy is a process of deep listening to the emerging experience within a person.  Through describing the experience of one’s self-in-the-world, and having those experiences witnessed by a therapist, new and personal meanings arise that give one’s life a sense of authenticity.  By accepting our experience as we find it, we become more fully who we are.  By attending to the choices we are making in the present -- understanding how those choices grew out of the past, and examining if the choices are actually leading to the future we sense would be most meaningful -- new freedom for change becomes possible.

I was trained in Existential psychotherapy here in Seattle at Seattle University’s Master of Psychology program.

• Read more: Existential psychotherapy in Seattle


contact: trevor@slocumcounseling.com    (206) 651-5439