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Existential Therapy: An Introduction

nscience UK

Saturday, 24 March 2018 from 10:00 to 16:00

Existential Therapy: An Introduction

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Event Details

Existential Therapy: An Introduction

A one-day seminar with Prof Mick Cooper

London, 24 March 2018, Saturday

With roots that can be traced back to the existential work of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche; Existential Therapy is a diverse, vibrant, and wonderfully rich tapestry of understandings and methods that has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the work of any counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist.  It is one of the oldest forms of therapy, and yet one of the most innovative and radical in its approach. Existential therapy is orientated around the development of a deep relational bond with clients, which allows clients to explore the most fundamental aspects of their existence.  This includes questions like: ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ ‘What choices can I make?’ and ‘How do I face the limits of my circumstances?

This workshop will introduce the existential approach to therapy, and focus on three particular aspects of existential work:

  • Helping clients acknowledge their fundamental freedom and capacity to make choices
  • Helping clients to face the givens of their lives, like death and the unattainability of perfect happiness
  • Helping clients to find meaning and purpose in life

The workshop will combine a mixture of personal development exercises, skills work, discussion and theoretical input.  By the end of the workshop, participants will have developed a greater understanding of the existential approach, and will have developed ideas about how to incorporate existential understandings and methods into their own practice.


About the speaker

Mick Cooper is a Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton and a chartered counselling psychologist.  Mick is a leading authority in the existential therapy field, and has delivered trainings nationally and internationally on this approach (including Japan, Australia, Denmark and Greece).  He has written widely on existential, person-centred and relational approaches to therapy.  His books include Existential Therapies (Sage, 2003), Working at Relational Depth in Counselling and Psychotherapy (Sage, 2005, with Dave Mearns), the Existential Counselling Primer (PCCS, 2012) and Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy (Sage, 2011, with John McLeod). Mick has also led a range of research studies exploring the process and outcomes of humanistic counselling with young people.  Mick’s latest book is Existential psychotherapy and counselling: Contributions to a pluralistic practice (Sage, 2015). Mick lives in Brighton with his wife and four children.


Seminar Schedule

9:45AM: Registration

10:00AM: Session 1: Introduction to the existential approach

This session invites participants to consider, and discuss, key assumptions underlying the existential approach.  It then reviews the history and development of the existential approach to therapy, including: 

  • Defining existential therapy
  • A brief introduction to existential philosophy
  • Key figures in existential therapy
  • Phenomenological foundations

11:30AM: Coffee Break

11:45AM: Session 2: Working with freedom and choice

This session introduces, and explores, one of the key assumptions underlying existential thought and practice: that clients have the capacity to make choices in their lives, and that through enacting their will they have the potential to find more satisfying, fulfilling and authentic ways of being.  In this session we will:

  • Review existential views on freedom and choice
  • Consider how this can be applied to therapeutic work
  • Explore our own relationship to freedom and choice
  • Understand psychological difficulties in terms of a refusal to accept one’s freedom
  • Practice existential work with client’s choices

1:00PM: Lunch Break (a light lunch is provided as part of the seminar)

1:45PM: Session 3: Facing the limitations of existence

While existential therapy holds that human beings always have choices, it also suggests that there are certain limitations in life that we always face.  This includes death, financial and economic restrictions, and the inevitable paradoxes of being. In this session we will explore these limitations through focusing on:

  • Existential understandings of the ‘givens’ of existence
  • Exploring the tensions in our lives, and how this understanding can be applied to work with clients
  • Examining transcripts of therapeutic work with clients addressing the limitations of existence.

2:45PM: Coffee Break

3:00PM: Session 4: Finding meaning and purpose in life

This final session looks at how clients can be encouraged to address issues of meaning and purpose in life.  It will look at:

  • An existential understanding of human beings as purpose-oriented
  • Personal reflections on our own meanings and goals
  • Understanding the link between meanings and psychopathology
  • Illustrations of client work with meaning

In the final part of this session, we will spend some time drawing our learning together from the day.


4:00PM: Close

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When & Where

Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton
130 Tottenham Court Rd, Fitzrovia
W1T 5AY London
United Kingdom

Saturday, 24 March 2018 from 10:00 to 16:00

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nscience UK

nscience is an independent organisation that seeks to explore the interdisciplinary richness of mental health disciplines. Through a series of seminars, workshops and conferences that are conducted throughout the year, we aim to present the latest advances in theory and research to practitioners; with a view to furthering their continuing professional development.

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