Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

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Overview of the humanistic-existential psychotherapy

Humanistic-existential psychotherapy is an inclusive approach that integrates both humanistic and existential theories to address mental health issues related to human experience. The humanistic aspect of the therapy has been significantly influenced by scholars like Carl Rogers who emphasize the inner worth of an individual while underscoring aspects like personal responsibility and self actualization (Charnofsky & Sayani, 2020). In this perspective, therapy involves the ability to create a supportive environment where patients can explore their thoughts, feelings as well as their general behaviors without undue judgment. The humanistic aspects also require psychiatrists to embrace specific qualities that include unconditional positive regard, empathy and genuineness, which are aspects of Client-Centered Psychotherapy (Onwukwe & Madu, 2020). Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

On the other hand, the existential perspective in this psychotherapeutic approach focuses on existential aspects like freedom, choice, and the search for meaning in life. Existential scholars like Viktor Frankl formally a student of Freud developed his own existential philosophy and therapeutic technique. For instance, Frankl emphasized on the significance of finding meaning in life as well as the free will even when in suffering (Pfeifer, 2021).


Humanistic-existential psychotherapy therefore integrates these two perspectives to form a holistic framework for understanding, identifying and addressing human experiences more especially in cases involving mental health issues. The approach encourages clients to explore their current experiences and take responsibility for their choices. The approach focuses on creating a therapeutic relationship between the client and the psychiatrist while focusing on key aspects of trust and openness.  The aim of the therapy is enhance self-actualization and personal growth which helps clients have an adequate understanding of themselves, therefore finding their purpose and meaning in life (Robbins, 2021).

Overview of CBT therapy

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used and effective form of psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Metzger et al., 2021). The therapy is based on the understanding that our thoughts influence our emotions and actions; therefore, cognitive behavioral therapy aims to identify and modify maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors and hence improve the psychological wellbeing of an individual. This form of therapy is usually structured around specific symptoms or issues and is goal oriented. The main concept of cognitive behavioral therapy is that changing negative thought patterns can help change the behavior and overall wellbeing of an individual. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

In cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist collaborates with patients to identify and modify distorted or irrational thoughts and replace them with realistic ones. Patients are taught behavioral and cognitive skills to help them cope with various challenges and also manage their emotions appropriately to prevent the development of distorted behaviors. To reinforce positive change and address specific maladaptive behaviors, various behavioral techniques are used that include behavioral activation and exposure therapy. The therapy is significantly structured to help reinforce the proposed new skills.

The main benefit of CBT is that it can be applied to a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety disorders, depression, and phobias (Wu et al., 2021). Its evidence-based nature and focus on present concerns make it a preferred choice for many individuals seeking practical and solution-focused approaches to address their psychological challenges and issues. Basically, CBT provides individuals with tools to help them recognize and modify unhelpful thought patterns, leading to positive changes in both their emotional well-being and behavioral responses. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

Differences between humanistic-existential psychotherapy and CBT therapy

Humanistic-existential psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are two distinct therapeutic approaches that differ based on the methods as well as the philosophies. The first difference is reflected on the philosophical foundation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is rooted in behaviorism and cognitive psychology. Its major focus is on identifying and changing maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors. CBT is more structured and goal-oriented and emphasizes on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Humanistic-existential psychotherapy on the other hand emphasizes the individual’s unique subjective experience of self-awareness, personal responsibility, and the search for meaning in life. It combines existential aspects such as choices and finding meaning in life as well as humanistic aspects that include the potential for growth in all people.

The second difference between the two approaches emanates from time orientation. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often a shorter-term, time-limited approach. It typically involves a specific number of sessions focused on addressing targeted issues and achieving predefined therapeutic objectives. The therapeutic session may be designed to take a specific period such as one, two or three months. Humanistic-existential psychotherapy on the contrary tends to be more open-ended and flexible regarding the duration of therapy. It acknowledges that personal growth and self-discovery may take time, and therapy may continue as long as it benefits the client. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

The last difference is based on the specific approach to change. Change in CBT is often achieved through identifying and modifying maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors. It involves practical interventions, homework assignments, and skill-building to promote positive change. On the contrary, change in Humanistic-existential psychotherapy is viewed as a natural part of the individual’s self-discovery and personal growth. The therapist facilitates the exploration of the client’s values, choices, and the development of a more authentic self.

Impact on PMHNP Practice

The differences in these approaches can impact on my practice as a PMHNP in that understanding trhe differences can help me tailor interventions to the individual needs and preferences of their patients. For instance, in cases where the patients prefer self and existential exploration, I will recommend the humanistic existential approach while those seeking practical strategies and structured interventions; I will use cognitive behavioral therapy. Further, as a PMHNP, I might integrate elements from both approaches for a more comprehensive and patient-centered treatment approach. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

Analysis of the video provided

In the video featuring James Bugental, humanistic-existential therapy was utilized because it aligns with the patient’s needs and the philosophical underpinnings of the approach. Bugental emphasized fostering self-awareness, personal growth, and the exploration of one’s identity, which resonated with the patient’s desire for a deeper understanding of self. The patient, who was seemingly grappling with existential concerns and a sense of self-loathing, benefited from the open-ended and empathetic dialogue facilitated by humanistic-existential psychotherapy. The approach allowed the patient to delve into the complexities of the inner world and confront deep-seated resistance, fostering a more profound self-awareness.

On the contrary, if CBT had been chosen for this patient, the expected outcome might have been different. CBT, with its structured and goal-oriented nature, could have focused on identifying and modifying specific negative thought patterns and behaviors to alleviate immediate symptoms. While CBT is effective for many individuals, it may not have addressed the patient’s existential concerns and the underlying issues contributing to their self-loathing in the same depth as humanistic-existential psychotherapy. Therefore, the choice of humanistic-existential psychotherapy was likely due to the recognition of the patient’s unique needs for self-exploration and the pursuit of meaning in their therapeutic journey. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay


Top of Form


Charnofsky, S., & Sayani, C. (2020). Clinical Applications of Humanistic Theory of Personality. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Clinical, Applied, and Cross‐Cultural Research, 27-36.

Metzger, I. W., Anderson, R. E., Are, F., & Ritchwood, T. (2021). Healing interpersonal and racial trauma: Integrating racial socialization into trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for African American youth. Child maltreatment26(1), 17-27.

Onwukwe, L. C., & Madu, S. N. (2020). The Usefulness Of The Core Qualities Of A Client-Centered Psychotherapist To African Clients. International Journal For Psychotherapy In Africa4(1).

Pfeifer, E. (2021). Logotherapy, existential analysis, music therapy: Theory and practice of meaning-oriented music therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy72, 101730.

Robbins, B. D. (2021). The joyful life: An existential-humanistic approach to positive psychology in the time of a pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology12, 648600.

Wu, J., Sun, Y., Zhang, G., Zhou, Z., & Ren, Z. (2021). Virtual reality-assisted cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychiatry12, 575094. Comparing Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy Essay

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