Process of Defining My Integrative Approach
The way I define my integrative approach starts with my philosophy of life. I believe in the genuineness, truthfulness, and kindness in humankind. The “big issues”, such as death, freedom, and meaning of life, are the final goals each person pursues for life. This puts me towards the existentialism. I also believe in diathesis theory, which stipulates that both nature (biology, genetics, personality, brain chemicals, etc.) and nurture (experiences, learning, etc.) have influence on a person, which means that by altering the nature and/or nurture, people can change. Pathology is created in the hands of both nature and nurture. For example, depression develops due to nature, such as dysfunction in neurotransmission, and nurture, such as adverse situations. By taking on this perspective, I agree on treatment with medication. I believe people’s thoughts can greatly influence behavior— when people think positively, they behave positively, e.g., feeling happier. This puts me towards a cognitive direction.
Existentialism, the “Big Issues”
Compared to those big issues, such as death, responsibilities, freedom, isolation, etc., the dilemma caused by day-by-day living seems insignificant, although the client in confusion might be believing that she was in an unconquerable situation. By helping client find the true meaning of life and promoting awareness in client, the therapist brought client up to a higher level of “living”, and gave hope for an optimal solution. Therefore, I believe that discussing the “big issues” in therapy is practical, promotes awareness, and facilitates internal growth in clients.
Emphasis on the “Big Issues”
The emphasis on the “big issues”, on the surface, seems to take away the focus of therapy. However, it is very effective in engaging clients in critical thinking and examining self. Existential therapy is more of a philosophical system than a solution-focused approach, and existentialism is a branch of philosophical thought that began in Europe (Corey, 2004). By emphasizing on the meanings of life, freedom, responsibility, isolation, these big issues, existential therapy promotes self-growth in individuals on another level. It believes that before individuals can find their own strength within themselves, they cannot have meaningful and healthy relationships with others. Therefore, the “big issues” seem to help individuals grow selves first, and with the strength they have they can resolve dilemmas in an optimal way.
Roles of Therapist and Client & Comparison
Corsini and Wedding (2008) stated that the existentialists functioned “as guide, accompanist, and symbol” (p. 312). It means that they guide clients on the path of searching meanings, accompany them through pains and dilemmas, and present themselves as a therapeutic tool for clients’ growth. Clients in existential therapy are like students and children who need guidance and help. They brainstorm with the therapist. The power of therapist and client in this approach appears unequal. The therapist seems to have more power; the client has less. This pattern is similar to cognitive approaches, such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), and behavioral therapy, where therapist leads and client follows. The unbalanced power is one of the limitations of approaches like these. Comparatively, humanistic approaches, such as person-centered therapy, have a better position in this aspect.
Outcomes and Goals
The goals of existential therapy can be set as to engage clients in self-exploration, which include being truthful with selves, widening perspectives on selves and the world around them, and clarifying what gives meaning to present and future life (Corey, 2004), to increase of responsibility and self-determination, and to challenge clients to discover alternatives and widen choices. The outcomes are expected to be that clients take control of their lives, grow with awareness of self and surroundings, are able to make free choices wisely, take responsibility for the consequences of actions, and are no more the victims of circumstances,
Corey, G. (2004). Theory and practice of group counseling (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning. ISBN: 0534596975.
Corsini, R. J., & Wedding, D. (2008). Current psychotherapies (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning. ISBN: 9780495097143.