Haddock, Mark (2019) Existential Therapists’ Perspectives on Encouraging Clients’ Exploration of Meaning and Death. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

This research investigates existential therapists’ perspectives on the challenges involved in encouraging clients to engage with the issues of meaning and mortality. While prior literature relating to outcomes and processes of existential therapy is limited, the current project aims to clarify existential therapists’ views on the latter. The challenges therapists feel they face in helping clients explore questions about meaning and death and how they believe these might be met, will hopefully be better understood.

Questionnaires and follow-up interviews, both by email, were carried out with eight existential therapists. Thematic analysis was applied and three key themes decided on: the importance of allowing clients space in therapy to express themselves in their own way, the significance of therapists using themselves with caution in therapy and the relevance of therapists’ assumptions about the relative nature of truth. This analysis highlighted the difficulty existential therapists often felt they had in managing the tension between engaging clients in discussions about meaning and mortality and not directing the process, but also the considerable degree of success they believed they had in achieving clients’ engagement with these issues.

This study produces potentially significant insights into the ways existential therapists feel they engage clients with the issues of meaning and mortality and suggests further research may build on this, especially around the ways in which questions about meaning and death relate to each other.

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