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Summary Chart: Existential Theory

Human Nature

Existential theory is realistically optimistic about human nature. People can choose and have responsibility for their choices.

Major Constructs

Existentialism addresses several constructs within a culture and context: confronting fears of death, understanding isolation, confronting a meaningless existence, overcoming anxiety, accepting freedom of choice, knowing one's responsibility, and living authentically.


The goals of existential counseling and psychotherapy are to confront anxieties about the givens of existence, be authentic, and gain meaning from the common, everyday endeavors and pain. Clients transform through courageous and subtle encounters with aspects of their humanness and through the interpersonal relationship with the counselor or therapist.

Change Process

Change evolves from a client's willingness to participate in the interpersonal encounter by confronting loneliness, experiencing individuality, encountering true connection, and developing the inner strength to transcend the life situation.


Interventions in existential counseling and psychotherapy include understanding the client's world, sharing existence in the moment, fostering a centered awareness of being, encouraging self-responsibility, working with dreams, confronting existential anxiety, and learning from the counseling relationship.


Existential theory uses a subjective lens through which to understand a world that has been focused on objectivity. Existential theory, which bases healing on the therapeutic encounter, may seem unfocused and lacking any specific treatment plan. Growth occurring from this relationship may seem shallow and unprofound.

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