|| What is Logotherapy and Existential Analysis?
by Alexander Batthyany
The development of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis dates back to
the 1930s. On the basis of Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalysis and Alfred
Adler's Individual Psychology the psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Emil
Frankl (1905-1997) laid down the foundations of a new and original approach
which he first published in 1938. Logotherapy/Existential Analysis, sometimes
called the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy", is an
internationally acknowledged and empirically based meaning-centered
approach to psychotherapy.
In Logotherapy/Existential Analysis (LTEA) the search for a meaning in life
is identified as the primary motivational force in human beings.
Frankl's approach is based on three philosophical and psychological
Freedom of Will
Will to Meaning, and
Meaning in Life
Freedom of Will
According to LTEA humans are not fully subject to conditions but are
basically free to decide and capable of taking their stance towards
internal (psychological) and external (biological and social) conditions.
Freedom is here defined as the space of shaping one's own life within
the limits of the given possibilities. This freedom derives from the
spiritual dimension of the person, which is understood as the essentially
human realm, over and above the dimensions of body and of psyche.
As spiritual persons, humans are not just reacting organisms but
autonomous beings capable of actively shaping their lives.
The freedom of the human person plays an important role in psychotherapy,
in that it provides clients with room for autonomous action even in
the face of somatic or psychological illness. And it just that
resource which enables clients, in the context of the techniques of
Paradoxical Intention and Dereflection, to cope with their symptoms and
to regain control and self-determination.
Will to Meaning
Human beings are not only free, but most importantly they are free
to something - namely, to achieve goals and puposes. The search
for meaning is seen as the primary motivation of humans. When a person
cannot realize his or her "Will to Meaning" in their lives they will
experience an abysmal sensation of meaninglessness and emptiness.
The frustration of the existential need for meaningful goals will give
rise to aggression, addiction, depression and suicidality, and it may
engender or increase psychosomatic maladies and neurotic disorders.
Logotherapy/Existential Analysis assists clients in perceiving and
removing those factors that hinder them in pursuing meaningful goals
in their lives. Clients are sensitized for the perception of meaning
potentialities; however, they are not offered specific meanings.
Rather, they are guided and assisted in the realization of those
meaning possibilities they have detected themselves.
Meaning in Life
LTEA is based on the idea that meaning is an objective reality, as
opposed to a mere illusion arising within the perceptional apparatus
of the observer. This is in contrast to the so-called "Occupational
and Recreational Therapies" which are primarily concerned with
diverting the clients' attention from disturbed or disturbing modes
According to LTEA humans are called upon, on the grounds of their
freedom and responsibility, to bring forth the possible best
in themselves and in the world, by perceiving and realizing the
meaning of the moment in each and every situation. In this context
it must be stressed that these meaning potentials, although objective
in nature, are linked to the specific situation and person, and are
therefore continually changing. Thus LTEA does not declare or offer
some general meaning of life. Rather, clients are aided in achieving
the openness and flexibility that will enable them to shape their
day-to-day lives in a meaningful manner.
Therapeutic techniques in LTEA (Selection)
Indications: mainly compulsive disorders and anxiety, also
Guided by the physician or therapist, clients learn to overcome
their obsessions or anxieties by self-distancing and humorous
exaggeration, thus breaking the vicious circle of symptom and
Indications: Sexual disorders and sleeplessness, also anxiety
Instinctive, automatic processes are impeded and hindered
by exaggerated self-observation. By the same token,
some mild and well-founded sensations of anxiousness or
sadness will be increased and amplified by self-observation,
making them more noticeable and engendering even more
intense observation. It is the purpose of dereflexion
to break this neuroticizing circle by drawing the client's
attention away from the symptom or the naturally flowing
Socratic dialogue / modification of attitudes
Certain attitudes and expectations may be obstacles
to meaning fulfillment. They can alienate a person from
the meaning potentialities in his or her life, thus accentuating neurotic
disorders, or even producing them via repeated maldecisions
and formation of behavior patterns.
It is important to note that the therapist or physician must refrain
from imposing his or her own values or meaning perceptions.
Rather, clients are guided to perceive their unrealistic and
counterproductive attitudes and to develop a new outlook
that may be a better basis for a fulfilled life.
Socratic dialogue is a conversational method frequently used
by logotherapists. Specific questions are aimed to raise
into consciousness the possibility to find, and the freedom
to fulfill, meaning in one's life. In the philosophical setting
this technique of guiding by questioning was introduced by
Socrates, who characterized it as a sort of "spiritual midwifery".
Dictionary of Logotherapy/Existential Analysis
The greek word "logos" is here used in the sense
of "meaning"; the equally valid translations,
"word" or "rational order" are not
helpful in explaining the tenets of LTEA. In particular, the
logotherapist is not attempting to persuade the client by
logical reasoning; rather, they assist the clients in detecting
their specific and individual meaning.
Logotherapy is applied therapy on the basis of the psychological-anthropological
model developed by Viktor Frankl.
EA may be understood as the philosophical and scientific basis
of logotherapy as well as an essential part of a therapy proper.
Basically, existential analysis means analysis with respect to existence,
or "explication of existence" with consideration of
a self-responsible, self-realized and humane life.
In "general existential analysis" the pursuit of meaning
is discussed and identified as a basic motivation in humans, and
arguments are provided that demonstrate the fundamental possibility
of finding meaning in life. On this basis the therapeutic effects
of a successful search for meaning may be explained.
In "special existential analysis" the specific, individual
life of a person or a group is probed for the possible existential
roots of a mental or psychological disorder. In this context it
provides the basis for a logo-therapy as a specific therapy
proceeding via the "existential core". Thus the
therapeutic value of existential analysis lies in the elucidation
of the concrete existential situation and the preparation for
giving assistance in the - autonomous - search for meaning.
.. To learn more: Books by Viktor E. Frankl
.. To discuss it: Logotherapy Research Platform