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Between freedom and despair: Existential challenges and contributions to person-centered and experiential therapy

Cooper, Mick (2003) Between freedom and despair: Existential challenges and contributions to person-centered and experiential therapy. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, 2 (1). pp. 43-56. ISSN 1477-9757

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Abstract

This article explores a range of contributions that existential thinking may be able to make to the theory and practice of person-centred and experiential therapy. It begins with an overview of existential philosophy and the development of existential therapies, and then goes on to look at four aspects of existential theory and practice that may be of particular value to person-centred and experiential practitioners: a phenomenological exploration of freedom and choice; an appreciation of the challenges and limitations of existence; an understanding of human being as fundamentally with-others; and an understanding of human beings as meaning-seeking creatures in a world where there are no given, ultimate meanings. On this basis, the article argues that existential thinking can provide a counterbalance to some of the implicit biases within the person-centred and experiential worlds, and that it can help person-centred and experiential practitioners develop deeper levels of empathy and acceptance with their clients.