A transpersonal critique of Existential Psychotherapy

yalomA major criticism of an existential approach in counselling and psychotherapy is that it lacks a systematic statement of the principles and practices of therapy. There is an absence of a coherent set of highly developed techniques. The approach can be applied in a haphazard manner since there is no primary theoretical framework. Furthermore, from a transpersonal perspective, there is no acknowledgement of the soul journey. Whilst it would be unfair to view all existential therapists as atheists, since they often have a great depth of training in philosophy and sometimes theology, they do not actively pursue the soul journey in their theoretical approach to counselling and psychotherapy.

existential crisisAn existential crisis, from a transpersonal perspective, can be viewed as loss of soul due to the demands of modernity to stay connected to the technological advances in society. These advances can be seen as creating greater isolation, material possession and resulting in greater secularization. 

Life crisis can emerge when coping strategies fail to support the sense of self. As a result, people lose touch with their inner essence and this has co-incided with a declining sense of community.

Like an existentialist therapist, a transpersonal integrative therapist may seek to address lack of meaning in life directly with clients, and accompany their client on their journey to find meaning in their lives. Being integrative doesn’t mean avoiding anxiety about the unknown by remaining defensively within the security of the supposedly known. In Frankl and May, there is a rich approach to discovering a sense of meaning and responding to the givens of life. Indeed Yalom’s tales of therapy in “Love’s Executioner” are inspirational and insightful.  His reflections on being a therapist in the “Gift of Therapy” is an excellent source of inspiration for integrative therapists.

The existential approach can offer a unique insight into clients and their issues. It is holistic in the sense that it considers the client as a whole and goes beyond merely how the mind functions, to the core issues of existence.  However, the existential approach does not (or at least not in Yalom’s model), consider the spiritual aspects of a client and the soul journey, quite apart from distinguishing between different soul types. Transpersonal psychotherapists would argue that a development of the psycho spiritual model of consciousness could better serve the client by working on archetypes, symbols and images and viewing the therapeutic journey, including dreams, through the lens of alchemy.