My Philosophical Approach to Counseling


Definition of Existential Therapy

One survey taken by Corey suggests a definition of Existential Therapy
include two key elements:

Existential Therapy is essentially an approach to counseling and therapy
rather than a firm theoretical model, it stresses core human conditions.
Normally, personality development is based on the uniqueness of each
individual. Sense of self develops from infancy. Self determination and a
tendency toward growth are control ideas. Focus is on the present and on what
one is becoming; that is the approach has a future orientation. It stresses
self-awareness before action. (1996, p.465)

In layman terms, Existential therapy can be described as a philosophical
approach that is not designed to cure people but instead help the client reflect
and search for value and meaning in life. Existential Therapy does not supply a
cookbook of methods like other approaches but instead it provides a framework
that is adaptable to the therapist, in which to view the individual and the
world in which they participate.

Definition of Person-Centered (Client-Centered) Therapy

According to Mosby\'s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary,
client-centered therapy is a non directive method of group or individual
psychotherapy, originated by Carl Rogers, in which the role of the therapist is
to listen to and reflect or restate without judgment or interpretation the words
of the client.

Objectives of Existential Therapy

The objectives of Existential Therapy are quite unique. Existential
counselors are focused on helping the client achieve and expand their self-
awareness. Many Therapist assume once self awareness is achieved, the client
can examine new ways of dealing with problems and except the responsibility of
choosing.

Objectives of Client-centered Therapy

The objective of client-centered therapy is to assist the client to
experience self exploration, so that they can identify problems that are
hindering their growth process. Essentially, the main goal of client-centered
therapy is to have the client achieve a sense of increased awareness and
understanding of his attitudes, feelings, and behaviors.

Professional Opinions

Existential and client-centered therapy have been criticized for not
being “scientific enough”. They have been down played as not being empirical
and not having a therapeutic model that is firmly set in stone with a set of
methods and interventions. A large number of therapist feel that Existential
and client-centered therapy are not sound therapeutic approaches for treating
and diagnosing adolescents. One main reason for this argument is the
existential view toward adolescence. Existentialist view adolescence as a time
when a young person begins to gain a sense of awareness on a surface level.
After achieving this level, the adolescent gradually starts to focus on self
meaning, which takes place through the development of their identity(Hacker,
1994). Existentialist also believe that how the individual conceptilizes death
plays a part in the whole being of the person. A survey of 82 students revealed
people viewed death as cold and denied. This information indicates death is
very influencial in creating anxiety in people (Westman, 1992, p. 1064).

Existential and client-centered therapy have not labeled themselves with
a distinct clinical procedure, instead these techniques and concepts have been
effective in helping patients to recognize and accomplish their goals.
For this reason, I believe existential thought coupled with client-centered
therapy are appropriate in treating clients who confront some type of obstacle
or major event in their life (confronting death, sudden isolation, changing from
childhood to adolescence). David Cain(1993), a person-centered therapist,
believes client-centered therapy is not a wise decision for treating clients in
some cases, he sites that due to the lack of evolution of Client-centered
therapy and the client-centered community\'s unwillingness to change with the
advancements of counseling and psychotherapy has limited the therapeutic
approach.

On the otherhand, therapist Philip Kendall and Michael A. Southam-Gerow,
seem to recognize the importance of client-centered therapy. Kendall and
Southam-Gerow conducted a study which examined the long-term effects of
psychosocial treatment for anxiety disordered youth, which they evaluated the
long term effects and the effective components of the treatment.

The results from the study revealed that children and adolescent clients
treated two to five years earlier with psychotherapy retained their gains over
anxiety related disorders(p 728).

Kendall noted the lack of anxiety related problems could have resulted
from the clients maturation and not the long-term effects of therapy. This
evidence alone exhibits just one aspect of the tremendous effects of client-
centered psychotherapy. The study also demonstrated the variety of techniques
used with the clients, which ranged from relaxation exercises to role playing.


Another ongoing criticism of the two dynamic approaches to therapy is
gender plays a major role in the outcome of therapy. Researchers (Porter, Cox,
Williams, Wagner, & Johnson, 1996.) have provided research to argue this point.

They conducted a study, which a Client-Behavioral