Comparing existential-humanistic | NURS 6640 – Psychotherapy With Individuals | Walden University


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Comparing Existential-Humanistic Therapy to Other Types of Therapy

        Psychotherapy is designed to explore the client’s thoughts and beliefs and to assist the client in understanding where the unresolved issues lie. There are many types of psychotherapeutic approaches and in one form or another, they all work effectively to help the client. However, knowing which one to utilize to best help the client lies in understanding his or her personality and whether he or she will be receptive to the style of psychotherapy. Along with this, it is also important to understand what the client is going through and to utilize evidence based practices to apply the right type of psychotherapy.

        I myself enjoy cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); it has been widely researched and proven effective for different types of disorders. Cognitive therapy “is a collaborative process of empirical investigation, reality testing, and problem solving between the therapist and the patient” (Wheeler, 2014). I like the fact that this type of therapy involves the patient and his or her involvement is crucial in order to get to the source of the problem. As a therapist, my role is to be a partner in helping the client resolve his or her issues. Much like a coach guides players in a team. This helps clients feel like they are a part of therapy which of course is client centered care. In CBT, typical cognitive techniques include problem-solving and cognitive restructuring of irrational beliefs, and typical behavioral techniques include contingency management and exposure to feared stimuli (Bohman, 2017). According to a cognitive model, treatment effects are mediated by change in cognitive content, whereas according to a behavioral model, treatment effects are mediated by change in reinforcement contingencies, including change in cognitive function (Bohman, 2017).

        CBT is similar to the existential-humanistic therapeutic approach in that both therapies seek to clarify and change the way a client views experiences. The difference in the existential-humanistic approach is that in this case the focus is only on the client’s thoughts and emotions, there is no cognition involved. Humanistic–existential therapists have an implicit optimism in clients’ capacity for growth and change, while not denying the existence of dark, destructive aspects of self and the extremes of emotional pain (Wheeler, 2014). In most psychotherapeutic approaches, the therapist conceptualizes the client’s narrative using preconceptions removed from the direct, unfiltered experience of the client (Wheeler, 2014). In a phenomenological perspective, the client’s lived experience is paramount (Wheeler, 2014). In this therapy there is a belief that clients have the capacity to make their own decisions and that they are self-aware; sometimes they need guidance due to external or environmental issues that blind them to the correct actions. As a therapist; one does not make choices for them, one only encourages them to look inside themselves for answers. The challenges with this therapy are that clients might not truly have the capacity or are unable to make the correct choices; the strengths are that this elevates and motivates the client to have the courage and empowerment to act on their own. It  falls  under  the  umbrella  of  recent  humanistic psychotherapies that valorizes (a) con-fronting  life’s  uncertainties  and  dilemmas,  (b)the  patient’s  in-the-moment  experiencing,  (c)the importance of emotional processing, (d) the dialectic of acceptance and change, and (e) an emphasis on positive mental health and growth as  well  as  repairing  psychopathology (Wolfe, 2016).

        A fictional client that would best be suited for CBT would be a female in her 30’s with panic disorder. In this case I would utilize exposure therapy to slowly change the way this client views feared situations. For this client, behavior and cognition can make a big difference in her life. A fictional client that would be best suited for existential-humanistic therapy would be a veteran who has PTSD and lost a friend in active duty just like the video shows. This therapy would be effective for this type of client because in this case I am attempting to make him aware that the answers or solutions to his problem lie with him. I am encouraging him to look within.


Bohman, B. S. (2017). Cognitive behavioral therapy in practice: Therapist perceptions of techniques, outcome measures, practitioner qualifications, and relation to research. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 46(5), 391–403.

Wheeler, K. (. (2014). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: A how-to guide for evidence-based practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Wolfe, B. E. (2016). Existential-humanistic therapy and psychotherapy integration: A commentary. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 26(1), 56–60.

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