My Philosophical Approach To Counseling Essay Research

My Philosophical Approach To Counseling Essay, Research Paper

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


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


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 system was used to

evaluate the therapeutic process with 27 sexually abused girls who were enrolled

in individual counseling, the study revealed that when sexual abuse was formally

taught that the girls were more likely to answer with abuse related answers in

response to child abuse questions, regardless of whether the counselor was male

or female.

Summary and Conclusion

One can see from the material provided that there are some recurring

themes in the areas of client-centered and existential psychology: The search

for meaning and value in life, self-awareness, and behavior. While existential

and client-centered roots are planted firmly in philosophical and humanistic

styles of thinking without clear evidence of any scientific model,

existentialism and client-centered therapy offers the science of psychology a

path much different than the other approaches to therapy that seek only a

scientific outcome. Existential and client-centered offer a alternative form of

therapy, a phenomenological approach to the person, not a look at the instincts

of the person, not a separation of the id, the ego, and superego, but a view of

the entire being in the now.

The drawbacks of existential and client-centered therapy have been

stated as a basic lack of pure scientific methodology. These two approaches do

not offer a textbook of ?how to? techniques, but instead they offer a viewpoint,

a lens, a way of picturing the person and the world in which they live. It

offers a way to view oneself, as a therapist, a motivator, and as a helper.

They do not however, offer a fix-all to every problem, rather they seek to help

the client realize responsibility for their actions and thoughts while helping

the client gain a deep sense of awareness and trust in themselves in the

therapeutic relationship.


Cain, D. J. (1993). The uncertain future of client-centered counseling.

Journal of Humanistic Education and Development. 31 (3), 133-138.

Client-Centered Therapy Dictionary Definition. Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, and

Allied Health Dictionary. [CD-ROM] Abstract from: Health Reference Center. File

Number: 00009108.

Corey, G. (1996). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. (Rev.

ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Coleman.

Hacker, D. J. (1994). An Existential View of Adolescence. Journal of Early

Adolescence. 14. (3), 300-327.

Kendall, P., & Southam-Gerow, M.(1996). Long-term follow-up of a Cognitive-

Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety-Disordered Youth. Journal of Consulting and

Clinical Psychology. 64.(4), 724-730.

Porter, R. L., Wagner W., Johnson, J., & Cox, L. M. (1996). Sexually abused

girls’ verbalizations in counseling: an application of the client behavior


[CD-ROM]. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 43. (4), 383-389. Abstract from:

Health Reference Center. File Number: 18987461.

Westman, A. S., (1992). Existential Anxiety as Related to Conceptualization of

Self and of Death, Denial of Death, and Religiosity. Psychological Reports. 71.



This paper examined two philosophical and humanistic approaches I have chosen

as my rationale to counseling and psychotherapy. The paper will define and

explain the objectives and techniques of these two dynamic therapies.

Furthermore, it will illustrate existential and client-centered therapy’s

importance in regards to treating adolescence.



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