Existentialism. Now what is that, and how does that apply to therapy? Well…let’s start with the therapy part first. One major reason to see a therapist is to learn what may be the reason you or a loved one are struggling with something, be that called depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiance, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use, an eating disorder, or any of the other numerous categories listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Helping you learn or become more familiar with the so-called triggers to your diagnosis and helping you learn, or hone coping skills tends to be one of the main goals of therapy, and much of the therapeutic encounter involves this psychoeducation. Learning to gain greater insight into yourself and using your learned skills to better manage and even overcome those triggers may be the main goal for you.
Even so, despite whatever we may be dealing with, at our core, we are human beings seeking meaning and purpose in life (and that may even be in the therapy room…): enter Existentialism; the other two schools of thought asserting that we seek sex and power…psychoanalysis and ego psychology…respectively! Obviously, writing this blog, I ascribe to existential thought, as even sex and power would ultimately appear to be where meaning and purpose are found for some! From college students choosing a major; to people picking a career; to adolescents trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives outside (or inside) school; to adults who are wondering what it’s all about; to Why did I end up here?; to Why me?; to Where am I going?; to Who am I?; to What’s this issue of choice and responsibility all about (and how much of it do I have with what I am going through…)? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Finally, therapy, while leading to a diagnosis, always leads to a life situation that is behind the diagnosis: some deeper issue, an existential fact of life, be it interpersonal and/or personal, perhaps a struggle yet unresolved that is potentially a major reason for the diagnosis itself! So, the therapy room is a place where you can do so much more than just learn about what your “problem” is called identify what triggers you may have, and learn what new coping skills may help you. It is a place where you can also spend 30 minutes to an hour a week with a trained therapist who will provide you with a confidential, safe, and supportive therapeutic environment where you may, not only learn what you can do to live a life of wellness but also explore your reason for being, which may also (though perhaps challenging in itself…) lead to a life of wellness!
Steven Coddington, MA, LPC
Steven is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling from the University of Detroit Mercy, working with adolescents and adults, specializing in anxiety, depression, and adjusting to life transitions.