Existential Treatment of Anxiety Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Existential Treatment of Anxiety Deck (25):

What types of clients would you use Existential Therapy with?

1. Adults experiencing anxiety or depression not attributed to either biochemical influences or single incident traumas.
2. Adults or adolescents without significant outside sources of distress in their lives (spousal abuse, poverty, job loss, illness, divorce)
3. Adults or adolescents with significant verbal skills ( abstract conceptual thinking ability, large vocabulary, good verbal fluency and intellectual curiosity)


After establishing report and doing an assessment, which anxieties are necessary to be distinguished?

1. Realistic (accidents, assaults, disasters)
2. Pathological (repeatedly paralyzed
A. Neurotic (phobias) - Avoidable
B. Personality Disorder (general) - Unavoidable
C. Psychotic (no escape) Unavoidable
3. Existential (death/meaning)


Once the distinction is made the therapist circumlocates the papameters of the anxiety. What are they probing for?

Times, settings and activities in which anxiety occurs and symptoms


Why does existential anxiety occur?

Because the client bases their worth and meaning on something other than solid ground (ultimate purpose). If the individual's sense of significance depends on wealth, power, fame, material possessions or beauty, he/she will likely be plagued with existential anxiety. The disturbance would be expected to continue until the individual adopts a more permanent basis for their sense of worth. This might include such sources as the love and acceptance of God, family members or friends.


What is the primary agent of change in Existentialism?

The relationship between the client and the therapist


How does the change occur?

Empathic support and focusing, and EMDR, Gestalt and Dual Chair Work


What other technique does an Existential Therapist use?

Confrontation with reality (do you believe it could happen that way?)
Cognitive Challenges (would you feel that way?)
Paradoxical Intention (what if you encountered the worst possible situation, what would you do?)


Existential Therapy goes beyond symptom relief? What does it involve?

At the core it involves self healing. The symptom is not to be eradicated, but rather seen as a marker to notify the individual in the therapeutic relationship


Clients manifest existential anxiety in 4 major ways:

1. Flight (avoidance, Drugs)
2. Combat (struggle, anger)
3. Destructive Aggression (hate)
4. Paralyzing/Numbing (dissoc)


What does the therapist seek to do

To induce authentic decisions and bring about responsible ways of dealing with life and the world


What are clients encouraged to do?

Accept insecurity while embracing ultimate security


Existential Therapy sometimes includes role-plays to develop?

Social Skills and art therapy to provide opportunities for creative expression


Existential Psychotherapy
Therapeutic Relationship:

Format: individual or group
Length: long term - not just symptom removal but personal growth
Setting: seated, face to face
Therapeutic Relationship: encounter btw 2 human beings
Therapist: fully present, authentic, must be ready to confront his own ontological fears
Focus: on the individual, not the experience (human rather than the problem)


Existential Psychotherapy Goals

1. To make use of a boundary situation or crisis (existential given or concern such as death, isolation, meaningfulness, freedom) ie) car accident, divorce, death of loved one
2. To bring the client to a point where he can make free choices
3. to understand the clients experiences of being in the world and their unconscious conflict (death-life, isolation-belonging)
4. To identify maladaptive defences (symptoms) against the primary anxiety
5. To diminish secondary anxiety by replacing it with more constructive methods of dealing with the primary anxiety. The goal is to decrease the primary anxiety to tolerable levels and to help the client to use it constructively.


What is a primary anxiety?

anxiety originates in a situation of confrontation with such ontological givens as death, isolation, meaninglessness, and/or freedom. Such anxiety is too overwhelming to handle. People defend themselves against it. Such defenses help to reduce the primary anxiety but prevent people from growth and produce the secondary anxiety (fear of darkness)


What is a secondary anxiety?

Anxiety about some object/situation, onto which the primary anxiety is displaced. It is more tolerable than the primary anxiety as a results of being less frightening, more concrete and simpler to deal with.


What is the process of Existential Psychotherapy?

Attention is dedicated primarily to the here and now. the therapeutic relationship is used to identify defence mechanisms used by the client


What is the application of Existential Psychotherapy?

used with various populations to deal with multiple issues, especially beneficial if short terms beh modification techniques fail.


What are the exceptions to not use Existential Psychotherapy?

Exceptions: clients suffer from trauma, clients who are not highly educated, clients with a sensing personality vs intuitivity (Myers Briggs Personality Inventory


Limitations of Existential Psychotherapy?

not validated empirically (subjective cannot be measured)


What are the Concepts of Existential Psychotherapy?

1. Psychodynamic Conflict
A. Life (possibility) vs Death (absence of possibility)
B. Structure (in control) vs Nothingness
C. Belonging vs Isolation
D. Meaningfullness (need to construct meanings to fit the situation into a recognizable patterns Vs. Meaninglessness (no meaning and we live and die alone)


What are the Concepts of Existential Psychotherapy?

Symptoms reduce anxiety but prevent the client from growth

1. Confrontation with an ultimate given (death) as a result of some critical incident (car accident)
A. Desire to continue living
B. Realization of living into death
- Primary Anxiety
- Universal Defense Mechanisms
- Failure of these mechanisms - need for additional defense mechanisms
- Additional defense mechanism against the primary anxiety (clients symptoms)
- Secondary anxiety


Stages of therapy

1. Beg the development of an alliance
2. Arousing and focusing the client's capacity for self awareness
3. Disclosing and working through resistances
4. Confronting existential anxiety (lets go of defences, experiences anxiety and faces underlying conditions of being human (death destroys us and rescues us simulataneously)
5. Supporting new learning and new ways of being
6. Seperating



It is not a collecting of techniques but an orientation. Techniques are used from various approaches to promote the clients awareness and acceptance of ontological givens, to empower the client and to make free and responsible choices and to redirect energy spent on defences against anxiety towards activities that are more constructive and meaningful for the client.


What are some techniques?

1. Analysis of transference/countertransference
2. confrontation of the clients methods/instances of avoidance of responsibility
3. Dream analysis
4. Interpretation of the clients experiences
owning technique (to own their feelings)
Various exercises to promote the clients awareness of ontological givens