Humanistic–Existential Therapy

The choice of therapeutic approaches to mental disorders is determined by factors that include but are not limited to Therapy theories, logic, methods, and plans (Locher et al., 2019). Humanistic-existential psychotherapy (HET) is centered on the personal experience of each individual, their potential for self-governance, and their quest to find significance and direction in life. It is a comprehensive methodology that takes into account all facets of an individual, such as their sentiments, thoughts, associations with others, and spiritual convictions. The counselor establishes a secure space that fosters inner growth and enables the person to delve deep into their internal universe with empathy. The purpose of this paper is to describe HET, review a video demonstrating humanistic-existential therapy, and compare HET with another psychotherapeutic technique.

Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy

The therapeutic approach of humanistic-existential therapy encompasses two distinct but interrelated components, namely existential therapy and humanistic psychology. Although attributed to different historical figures, the central principles underlying these approaches are quite similar. This type of therapy operates on the premise that individuals possess an innate goodness that empowers them to make sound decisions for their well-being. As a result, it places great emphasis on fostering self-determination and free will while imbuing clients with a sense of purpose and meaning. Moreover, this form of therapy encourages patients to develop meaningful connections that can aid in effective decision-making while promoting personal autonomy throughout the process (Robbins, 2021). Another key benefit of using the humanistic-existential approach is its ability to cultivate strong patient-therapist relationships founded upon trust and mutual respect. This facilitates optimum outcomes during sessions by providing insight into various areas, such as addiction or mortality issues, albeit not exclusively.

HET and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Humanistic-existential psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) differ in a few key areas. Each approach approaches how to treat mental health issues separately, resulting in significant distinctions between the two. One of the main contrasts between humanistic-existential therapy and CBT is the emphasis on the present. Humanistic-existential therapy centers more on living in the moment, while CBT works to modify negative thought patterns and behaviors. This emphasizes creating a caring and supportive space that will support personal development. A PMHNP’s work might be impacted by the emphasis on understanding a patient’s viewpoint.

Whereas the HET focuses on encouraging self-discovery and personal development, the CBT is more geared towards identifying particular issues and reducing associated symptoms. As a PMHNP, I will have to be aware of the distinction between physical and mental health while treating my patients. This implies that I will need to pay attention to their patient’s overall well-being, getting to the root cause of any symptoms present.

Lastly, humanistic-existential therapy focuses more on the relationship between therapist and patient, as well as their inner feelings and experiences. On the other hand, cognitive behavioral therapy is structured and goal oriented. As a PMHNP, I will have to consider a patient’s values, goals; `and meaning of life, in addition to identifying; addressing their issues. This would potentially result in differences that can affect the practice of PMHNP.

Demonstration of HET

The selected video involved a male patient and a psychotherapist called James Bugental (PsychotherapyNet, 2009). The video showcased humanistic-existential psychotherapy as an ideal option for the patient since they were confronted with existential issues, like seeking purpose, connection and feeling isolated in life. This approach helped them in understanding their problems better. In the video, James Bugental created a warm and understanding atmosphere that allowed the patient to freely express their thoughts and feelings, enabling them to gain valuable insight into the root of their problems.

For the patient featured in the video, Bugental appears to be employing a humanistic-existential approach to assist them in uncovering their feelings and discovering a purpose in life. According to Bugental, the client’s feeling of being stuck is a sign of their inner strength, looking for an outlet. He encourages them to discover and explore their feelings without judgment or trying to figure out the reasons behind them, thus developing a humanistic and positive psychology (Maurer & Daukantaitė, 2020). Had a cognitive-behavioral approach been adopted, the therapist would have centered more around the individual’s symptoms like nervousness and depression, employing methods such as cognitive restructuring or exposure therapy to address them.

Despite providing a quick solution to certain cases, these techniques might not have been effective in helping the patient understand their inner self or guiding them to find purpose and meaning in life. Bugental would have emphasized changing the patient’s response to their emotions. These emphases would have centered around their thinking and behavioral reactions (Hayes & Hofmann, 2021). The difference would have been evident in the goals of therapy and the target of the techniques.


Humanistic-existential therapy looks at how people develop and progress on their own terms. It takes an inclusive approach to help individuals explore their experiences, promote personal growth, and foster self-determination. The video demonstration showed how HET helped a patient in breaking down their core beliefs and values and how this understanding helped them to be more aware of their emotions and reactions to various situations. The patient was then able to use the new understanding of self to understand their needs better, wants and desires in life, allowing them to move forward with purpose and meaning.


Hayes, S. C., & Hofmann, S. G. (2021). “Third-wave” cognitive and behavioral therapies and the emergence of a process-based approach to intervention in psychiatry. World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 20(3), 363–375.

Locher, C., Meier, S., & Gaab, J. (2019). Psychotherapy: A world of meanings. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 460.

Maurer, M. M., & Daukantaitė, D. (2020). Revisiting the organismic valuing process theory of personal growth: A theoretical review of rogers and its connection to positive psychology. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1706.

PsychotherapyNet [@PsychotherapyNet]. (2009, June 29). James Bugental live case consultation psychotherapy video. Youtube.

Robbins, B. D. (2021). The Joyful Life: An existential-humanistic approach to positive psychology in the time of a pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 648600.

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