Person-Centered, Existential, and Gestalt Theory Application

Person-Centered, Existential, and Gestalt Theory Application

The existential theory was developed out of the ideas of two most influential philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard (Sharf, 2016). As one of the early existential philosophers, Kierkegaard introduced the theory that we can only overcome human discontent through wisdom. Later, Nietzsche theorized that human beings can further overcome discontent through personal responsibility and free will. In the early 90s, other philosophers led by Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger continued to explore the role of interpretation in the human healing process (Parrish, Stanard, & Cobia, 2008). Since then, other contemporary existentialists began to acknowledge the relevance of experiencing in relation to understanding as a way of attaining psychological balance and wellness. In this essay, I will use the Existential theory to analyze Ana’s case study, a 24-year-old female who is experiencing anxiety due to job loss and financial distress.

Underlying Concepts

The concept of the existential theory is the most suitable for Ana’s case because of the underlying emphasis that human beings are motivated by the pursuit of life’s meaning (Sharf, 2016). This theory outlines key concepts that make it appropriate for the client. They include the indecisive moments in a person such being alone, the assurance of death, creating meaning from the world, and the freedom to choose our life (Parrish, Stanard, & Cobia, 2008). The use of these concepts may give Ana the ability to feel that how she conducts herself in the world determines whether she lives a happy, purposeful life. In this case, purpose is the major ingredient in achieving mental wellbeing. Failure for Ana to fulfill the potential for her authentic self may result in an existential anxiety or dilemma. Currently, Ana is experiencing a lot of stress which have led to anxiety and depression thus with the use of these existential concepts, she is likely to self-actualize by using her self-concept.  

Why Did You Choose This Theory Over The Others?

The existential theory is appropriate in resolving Ana’s current situation. This theory will help develop a positive client-counselor relationship. Then, the client and the therapist will work together to ensure that Ana’s consciousness and unconsciousness achieve a psychological balance. The primary focus will be on Ana’s current issues and help her reflect and change her thought patterns and behaviors hence resolve the current issues troubling her life (Sharf, 2016).

The goals of counseling and intervention strategies

In this case, the primary goal of counseling is to understand Ana’s subjective world and to help her come to new understandings and options. As a counselor, I would use the intervention strategies to achieve my counseling goals; congruence, empathy and positive regard (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016). These approaches serve a counseling role since they are designed to enable the client find her own way with the counselor gently guiding her. In existential therapy, no concrete strategy is followed; instead, I guide the client through the use of self-disclosure, paradoxical intention, guided fantasy and dream analysis (Parrish, Stanard, & Cobia, 2008).

Is The Theory Designed for Short- Or Long-Term Counseling?

The existential theory addresses a client’s spiritual, social, psychological and physical awareness which leads to significant long-term effects. In this regard, the theory is designed for long-term counseling (Parrish, Stanard, & Cobia, 2008).

The Counselor’s Role with This Client

In existential theory, the role of a counselor is to act as a teacher or guide for the client. Here, the counselor establishes a client-counselor relationship that is collaborative and provides an environment which is highly conducive to help the client change. The counselor is also responsible for helping the client overcome the symptoms of depression and become authentic. The counselor achieves this by providing a caring atmosphere to help the client realize that she has the freedom reflect on her existence and to decide her existence (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2016).

The Client’s Role in Counseling

The client’s role is to actively participate in the counseling process (Sousa, 2017). While the counselor acts as the teacher, Ana is expected to act as the student in this relationship. She is supposed to be herself, remain in contact with her experiences and help guide the counselor in some instances. Therefore, both the therapist and the client’s roles are active and mutually respectful.

Additional Information about This Case

Other additional information which may be helpful to know about this case is whether Ana has positive relationships with her family members and friends. It would beneficial for the counselor to investigate whether Ana was always alone when growing up. We might also be interested in knowing whether she has shared her experiences with anyone else. Knowing these things will help the counselor point out why Ana has depression and anxiety and why she is reluctant to seek help from family and friends.

The Risk in Using This Approach

A major risk associated with the existential theory is that the client might shut down completely and fail to be open to the counselor. Moreover, the counseling process might remind her of her past traumas which by extension pushes her into deeper depression and anxiety. It is also possible that Ana may completely stop attending the counseling sessions (Sousa, 2017). Worse still, Ana has so many underlying issues. Therefore, there is the risk that the counselor may choose an inappropriate approach that covers her underlying issues.


Understanding and applying the existential theory is an important part of a counselor’s career. One of the key roles of a counselor is to help clients navigate the numerous things or systems which affect their lives. To achieve this, a counselor must demonstrate a deeper knowledge and understanding of how the existential theory works in real life. This essay offers an introduction to the existential theory and its application. This theory is just one of the many theoretical approaches that counselors can apply in the course of their careers.


Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (2016). Counseling and psychotherapy: theories and interventions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Parrish, M. A. R. K. S., Stanard, R. P., & Cobia, D. C. (2008). Using existential-humanistic approaches in counseling adolescents with inappropriate sexual behaviors. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development, 47(1): 26-41.

Sharf, R. S. (2016). Theories of psychotherapy and counseling: concepts and cases. Boston, MA: Engage Learning

Sousa, D. (2017). Existential psychotherapy: a genetic-phenomenological approach. Berlin: Springer

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