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Emotion, Relationship, and Meaning as Core Existential Practice: Evidence-Based Foundations

Abstract

Existential therapy’s solid evidence-based foundation has not been adequately articulated to date. One challenge to this task is the lack of a singular or unified existential approach. Despite this, there remain shared themes that are common across the approaches to existential therapy. A second challenge is that many existential therapists resist Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology (EBPP), viewing it as excessively restrictive. However, EBPP is more inclusive than previous approaches to evaluating therapeutic effectiveness, such as the empirically supported treatment movement. We maintain that EBPP fits well with existential therapy and supports its practice. This paper identifies three pillars of existential psychology as its (1) relational focus, (2) emphasis on working with emotions and experience, and (3) meaning-centered approach. Each of these pillars have a strong foundation in empirical research, clinical competencies, and ability to be adapted to individual and cultural differences, which have been identified as the core of EBPP (American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology 2006). While few outcome studies specifically on existential psychotherapy exist, there is extensive research supporting the core practices that comprise existential therapy practice.

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Hoffman, L., Vallejos, L., Cleare-Hoffman, H.P. et al. Emotion, Relationship, and Meaning as Core Existential Practice: Evidence-Based Foundations. J Contemp Psychother 45, 11–20 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-014-9277-9

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Keywords

  • Existential therapy
  • Evidence-based practice in psychology
  • Therapeutic relationship
  • Meaning
  • Emotions