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  • Writer's pictureHollis Lyman

What is Existential Therapy?

Updated: Feb 28

Existential Therapy: The What and The Why


Existential therapy? Sounds like a fancy cocktail or a philosophy class you accidentally signed up for, right? But it's actually a groundbreaking approach to mental health that asks deep, philosophical questions, such as "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" It's not your everyday chit-chat!


History Lesson Alert! Existential therapy was born in the turmoil of the post-World War II era. Philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre and therapists like Rollo May looked at the human condition and said, "Hey, life's tough, but we can get through this together!" And thus, existential therapy was born.


A sketch of a brain with electron circles around it

Depression and Anxiety: Unpacking the Emotional Suitcase


Picture this: You're carrying a suitcase filled with all your fears, doubts, and anxieties. It's heavy, and you're tired. Existential therapy helps you unpack that emotional baggage and says, "Hey, let's make some sense of this mess!"


An existential therapist may ask questions like:

- "What's most important to you in life?"

- "How can we find meaning in this chaos?"


And voila, it's not just about treating symptoms but finding purpose and living a fulfilled life.


Brain Injuries, Dementia, and Chronic Illness: The Road to Rediscovery


Recovering from a brain injury or battling chronic illness is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. Existential therapy doesn't just hand over the lost pieces but helps you paint a new picture.


For example, if you've had a brain injury, the therapist might say, "Okay, some things have changed, but what's still YOU? Let's find that core and build from there."



A dark skinned woman seated, holding up a hand written sign that says help, while two light skinned people are standing behind her having an argument

PTSD: Turning Nightmares into Dreams


Dealing with PTSD is like having a recurring nightmare, but existential therapy helps turn those nightmares into dreams of a brighter future. By facing fears and finding meaning, it's not about "getting over it" but learning to live with it in a way that's empowering.


Wrapping It Up: You, Existential Therapy, and a Happier Life


Existential therapy isn't a one-size-fits-all; it's tailored just for you, like that favorite sweater you can't part with. It's all about embracing life's uncertainties and saying, "Bring it on!"


Think of an existential therapist as your philosophical buddy, always ready with a thoughtful question or a warm smile, guiding you towards a life that feels authentic and vibrant.


So next time life throws you a curveball, remember, existential therapy is like that quirky friend with wise words and a funny joke, always ready to help you catch it with grace.


As Brene Brown might say, "Daring greatly is not about winning or losing; it's about courage." And with existential therapy, you're never alone in the arena.


A drawn rainbow colored woman holding up the planets
drawing of a dark skinned man with a halo of the sun around his head



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