Existential psychotherapy is based on the principles of psychodynamic therapy, humanistic and existential psychology. The approaches taken in existential psychotherapy are first and foremost practical, concrete, positive, and flexible. The writings of philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger, Husserl, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche were applied to therapy in late 20th century by therapists like Victor Frankl, Irvin Yalom and Rollo May.
Each person experiences life differently and every person may have various concerns they may be ready to bring in discussions. Anxieties and sometimes tragic "existential facts of life" include death, finitude, fate, freedom, responsibility, loneliness, loss, suffering, meaninglessness, and evil. In modern societies, people of all ages encounter at least once in their lives symptoms such as excessive anxiety, apathy, alienation, nihilism, avoidance, shame, addiction, despair, depression, guilt, anger, rage, resentment, embitterment, purposelessness, psychosis and violence.
Existential psychotherapy promotes the quest and search of oneself, and the client is supported to widen the horizon and awareness in a search for meaning. The aim of existential psychotherapy is not to “pathologize” the anxieties and label a person’s behavior and symptoms. The therapy would work in accordance with the client’s needs and expectations in comprehending and alleviating distress. Existential psychotherapy also promotes the meaningful, life-enhancing experiences of relationship, love, caring, commitment, courage, creativity, power, will, presence, spirituality, individuation, self-actualization, authenticity, acceptance, and transcendence.
Existential psychotherapy strives to empower and place the person back at the center of the therapeutic process. To cite Sartre on this subject: "We are our choices."
While the techniques of existential psychotherapy can include Freudian, Jungian, Gestalt, cognitive, behavioral or other methods, the fundamental technique shared by all existential therapists is phenomenology. In Phenomenology, the client is guided to consciously put aside judgements and preconceptions in order to discover genuine subjective experiences. The focus of therapy is the present, here-and-now, rather than childhood and early encounters. The compassionate, professional yet personal human relationship between the therapist and client provides both the structured and supportive container for therapeutic transformation.