A Brief Overview of Logotherapy

“Every therapy must in some way, no matter how restricted, be Logotherapy.” (Viktor Frankl)

The development of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis dates back to the 1930s. On the basis of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology the psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Emil Frankl (1905-1997) laid down the foundations of a new and original approach which he first published in 1938. Logotherapy/Existential Analysis, sometimes called the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy”, is an internationally acknowledged and empirically based meaning-centered approach to psychotherapy.[1]

Frankl’s insight was that the real human person is more complex than any single psychological or medical approach can encompass. He believed that the greatest desire of every human being was to find meaning in their life and that this could always be found, even in the most difficult circumstances. He regarded his experience in the concentration camps of WWII as a living laboratory that validated his approach.

 

A logotherapy approach complements all other approaches to mental health and hence is as applicable to medical practitioners as it is to social workers, psychologists, counsellors and educators. It has been used by all of these professions in various ways around the world. [2]

 

While accepting the insights of each therapeutic approach, Frankl insisted that each person has uniquely human qualities which enable them to go beyond the norm, to take an attitude to any situation, to choose to respond rather than be driven to do so.

 

Frankl’s’ psychiatric credo is that even behind the tragedy of severe brain damage or mental disability the human being was still there.

 

The task of the Logotherapist is not to present a blueprint for a meaningful life but to realise that each person and each answer is unique. It aims to assist the client in the search for meaning itself, realising that each person’s answer must be their own. Frankl was fond of saying that the major question we should ask is not “what do I want from life?” but “what does life ask of me now?” He was adamant that this question was asked of each individual and that only that person can respond. It is the task of the logotherapist to help clients realise that life task.

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[1] See Batthyany, A & Guttmann, D. (2006) Empirical research on Logotherapy and meaning-oriented psychotherapy : an annotated bibliography in collaboration with Psych-INFO (American Psychological Association.)

[2] For example

Brietbart William S & Poppito Shannon (2014) Meaning centred group psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer: a treatment manual.

Lukas, E. (2015) The therapist and the soul: from fate to freedom.

Hall, Tony (2017) Meaning-oriented pedagogy: Viktor Frankl on education. (In press).