My personal reflections on these existential givens will impact my practice as an existential counselor. Although the influence of my personal views is significant to me, they will not inhibit the progress made by a client. Sharing a sense of commonality with the client, including the questioning of life's significance, will better assist with having insights into their feelings (Geller 2003).
The aim of existential psychotherapy is to reflect upon and understand life as each person experiences it in order to overcome problematic circumstances to achieve resolution (Deurzen & Kenward 2005). Existential therapy considers the views of the person in relation with fundamental and difficult factors of existence. By focusing on the client's struggle with human existence and acceptance of the confines of the human condition, it empowers the individual to better reflect on their situation, cope with their dilemma, face their circumstances, and think for themselves (Deurzen 1997, pp. 236). As an existential counselor, my goal is to assist clients with their lives by helping them discover their own truths, establish clarity, and for them to engage with their sense of personal direction. For example, a client struggling with loss and grief links two of the existential givens, death and isolation, and assisting them with overcoming their loss includes highlighting how the death of another can awake awareness of our own personal mortality, and to provide an interactive view of human existence vs. individual approaches (Madison 2005).
The client-counselor relationship is a unique one as there is an intrinsic boundary that is established -- the client talks, and the counselor listens. Although I have my personal experiences with existentialism and confrontation of the existential givens, they are not to be automatically exploited for every client to know. The counseling sessions with a client are supposed to focus on their struggles and their personal search for identity or meaning to overcome obstacles. Offering my own experiences can be suggestive, and potentially lead the client to believe that my view is the correct view, when in reality it is the client's own achievement of understanding that is critical. Also, by offering my experiences it can blur the boundaries within the client-counselor relationship. There are, however, moments where counselor self-disclosures are appropriate and necessary. Professionals will also agree that moments of therapist self-disclosure are best used, and most effective, when offered sparingly (Geller 2003).
When I engage in moments of self-disclosure with a client, it will be an organic experience that is derived from a natural course of dialogue. I will gauge the situation and provide insights as needed. Entering into an authentic dialogue with the client will help constitute trust and verbal honesty to promote an optimal client-counselor relationship (Geller 2003). My personal experiences with the existential givens will be imperative for the execution of these moments of self-disclosure as I will be able to offer poignant personal insight. My struggle for acceptance with existential givens will provide me with the ability to relate to my client and reflect common feelings that are associated with the confrontation of human existence. Being able to identify with the client will help ask better leading questions, reflective questions, and to detect recurring existential themes.
My struggle with existential givens will impact my experience as an existential counselor as it allows me to identify the individual, the client, in the realm of human existence. The acceptance of the givens allows me to understand the scope of existence, its isolation and its absence of meaning. It enables me to simply define every individual on this Earth as people who are alone, have no meaning in the world, will give rise to the next existing generation, and then cease to exist themselves. I, however, cannot view the world with this seemingly grim definition. The acceptance of the givens lets me understand the inevitable, understand my place in the world, but ultimately find peace within myself. Being able to find the peace despite these realizations will be my greatest tool as a counselor. I will be able to direct clients towards finding their own acceptance, but not discourage them from engaging with the promise of life.
The existentialism philosophy provides insights into the essence of the individual in the context of human existence. Similar to other philosophies and religions, the motives of existentialism are to discover self-identity and meaning. The core of existential conflict is rooted in the acceptance of the four givens of existentialism: death, isolation, freedom, and meaningless. The two most significant of these givens that have evolved to impact my own life are isolation and meaningless. Absolute isolation confirms that we are inherently alone, that we enter this world alone, and we will exit existence alone. I have accepted that absolute isolation is a certainty, relationships will not save me from this, however I will not let isolation devalue my relationships with others. The acceptance of meaningless existence has been my most profound realization. I understand that in the scope of human existence and the world, I am a meaningless individual, however in our meaning-seeking culture I am driven to find an attachment to meaning, and I have accepted this is something I cannot ignore. I fulfill my need for meaning by finding meaning in the context of my life, and in my circle of influence. Working as an existential counselor I will aim to direct clients to their own understanding of human life as they experience it, and assist clients with their dilemmas by helping them discover their own truths, establish clarity, and for them to engage with their sense of personal direction. The greatest impact of accepting the existential givens will have on me as an existential counselor will be identifying with the meaningless nature of existence while simultaneously feeling encouraged to live a fulfilling life, and being able to relay this same construct to my clients. The paradox of existentialism is the finding of meaning in a meaningless world, and it has proven to be a profound and enlightening journey.
Avila, D.T. (1995), 'Existential psychology, logotherapy & the will to meaning', Available at:
Deurzen, E. (1997), Everyday Mysteries A Handbook of Existential Psychotherapy. 2nd ed.
Deurzen, E. & Kenward, R. (2005), Dictionary of Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling.
SAGE Publications Ltd., London.
Geller, J.D. (2003), 'Self-disclosure in psychoanalytic-existential therapy', JCLP/In Session, vol.
59, no. 5, pp. 541-554.
Lucas, M. (2004), 'Existential regret: a crossroads of existential anxiety and existential guilt',
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 58-70.
Madison, G. (2005), 'Bereavement and Loss' in Existential Perspectives on Human Issues, a Handbook for Therapeutic Practice, E. Deurzen and C. Arnold-Baker, Eds. London: Palgrave-MacMillan.