Category Archives: Existential Therapy

There’s a Therapy That’s Right For You


We have all experienced that relief of freely venting to a trusted friend, feeling listened to with total acceptance, with your experiences fully acknowledged and validated. Navigating the ups and downs of life is not an easy thing, and there are life circumstances that test us in many different ways. Sometimes we may need guidance from a trained professional to provide us with understanding and acceptance, and allow us to develop new skills that can help us navigate these ups and downs more easily.

Many people are hesitant to consider therapy, as there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues. It may seem easier to try and take on your challenges alone or perhaps you are hesitant to reach out for help because you think your problems aren’t “big” enough. But every experience is valid, no matter how big or small, and if you think that having another person to assist you in managing your challenges might be beneficial, therapy may be something to consider to help ease some of your stress. A therapist can provide you with that same feeling that is brought on when you talk to a close friend, but they also have the skills to provide you with ways to overcome your challenges.

There are many different therapy modalities to consider and each of them offers a different style of addressing your experiences and helping you develop new skills to meet those challenges.

1. Client-Centered Therapy

Client centered therapy is a humanistic approach which focuses on the individual. Carl Rogers developed it in the 1950s and he identified 3 core elements that were necessary for the success of the therapy:

– Unconditional Positive Regard

The therapist openly listens to you, without any kind of judgment, and will accept your experience as just that-your experience. This element of the therapy is important, as it allows you to feel comfortable being vulnerable, without fear of being judged or ridiculed.

– Genuineness

The therapist provides genuine, authentic responses to your experiences, which enhances the therapeutic relationship. You are able to trust that your therapist is being honest in how they respond to you, using their education and knowledge base to influence their response.

– Empathy

This is a critical component of this therapeutic approach. Your therapist will do their best to try to understand where you are coming from, to put themselves in your shoes, and understand how you are experiencing your current situation.

The goal of the therapy depends on what you wish to achieve, but ultimately focuses on your personal growth and development. What this means depends entirely on your current situation, and how you define personal growth.

2. Existential Therapy

This approach focuses on increasing self-awareness. Through this sense of strengthened awareness, you are able to understand that you are a free agent in making your decisions and you are responsible for the direction you take your life. It is also concerned with how a person finds meaning out of life. Because of this sense of responsibility and the understanding that we must create our own meaning, anxiety may be the natural response to these realizations, and the existential therapist will help to address this anxiety.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This approach is more focused on structured sessions and often includes homework assignments for completion outside of the therapy sessions. As the approach is focused on meeting goals, these goals are set out within the first couple of sessions, and thus the progression of therapy is very transparent. The therapist may ask you to attend to your automatic thoughts that occur throughout the day in order for you to begin to become more aware of certain thought patterns. Within the session, the therapist will work with you to address these automatic thoughts and whether they are actually supported by your reality. This practice allows you to gain greater awareness of your maladaptive thinking patterns and eventually adapt these to become more in line with reality, which may improve your functioning in day-to-day life.

4. Psychodynamic Therapy

This kind of therapy approach derives from Freudian psychoanalysis. There is an emphasis on unconscious motivations, as well as an individual’s early life experiences, which both influence current problems. Defense mechanisms often operate in the individual to defend against anxiety they may experience. Through therapy, theses defense mechanisms are explored. A key concept of psychodynamic therapy is transference. Transference is the idea that the client unconsciously transfers feelings from an early relationship, typically a parent, onto the therapist. This transference is explored by the therapist, and the reactions that emerge in the sessions often provide useful information about the client.

These different therapy modalities are just a few of many different kinds of therapy that are used to help people deal with issues they may be experiencing. The approach you choose may depend entirely on what it is you need to address and what your goals are. Whatever it is you are struggling with there is someone that can help you, so you don’t have to go through it alone.

By: Talia Main

Talia is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She hopes to continue her education in psychology following graduation. She is passionate about ending the stigma surrounding mental health through her writing and education.