The Existential Therapy Approach and Other Interventions

Both the existential and humanistic theories are based on the assumption that the client has the ability to know what is best for them and are capable of making decisions.  Humanist psychologists believe people move in the direction of self-actualization, while existential psychologists believe we have no internal drive or external meaning and we are attempting to find ways to cope with this meaninglessness. This post will cover a variety of treatments based on theory including the existential therapy approach, humanistic interventions, as well as other treatment models are not classified under any other popular theories.  The information is best used in collaboration with your own knowledge and what you have already been taught, your previous notes or textbooks, and research if you need more information on a particular topic. Or you can check out the product reviews page. You can expect for the EPPP to have a variety of questions of different therapeutic interventions and treatment styles, and you will be expected to have a knowledge of a variety of different techniques.  Treatment, Intervention, Prevention, and Supervision covers 14% of the exam.

Reality Therapy

Developed by William Glasser in the 1960’s, and is influenced by both Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and existentialism. It focuses on the 3 R’s: Realism, responsibility, and Right-and Wrong, and treatment focuses on clarifying the clients values and evaluating their current behaviors, and how this behavior supports or disregards the clients values. The therapy focuses on the present and future rather than the past, and the clinicians role is to help the client determine what they really want, perceiving consequences and possible choice of actions, and the social component of the psychological disorders (actually denying the medical model of psychiatric conditions).  This therapy has been effectively utilized with juvenile delinquents.

Person Centered Therapyperson centered

Developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940s, it is based on the assumption that individuals have an innate ability for purposeful behavior  and become self-accepting people.  But faulty learning can cause people to be problematic behavior, they may become self-centered or antagonistic.  He identified 6 conditions necessary for therapeutic change: Therapist-client psychological contact (a client-therapist relationship), Client incongruence (between the individuals experience and awareness), Therapist congruence (the therapist is genuinely involved in the relationship and may even use self-disclosure), Therapist unconditional positive regard (unconditional acceptance of the client without judgement), Therapist empathic understanding (of the clients internal frame of reference), Client Perception (the client perceives the therapists unconditional positive regard and empathy).  The core conditions are congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy.  Through this real relationship the therapist focuses the individual, and the client is free to truly express themselves without fear of judgement.  You can read more about person centered therapy here.

Gestalt Therapy

Developed by Fritz Pearls in the 1950s, and it focuses on the process over the content (what is actually happening over what is being talked about). Personality fragmentation (poor self-regulation) can occur if there is not appropriate flexibility between the persons own needs and the environment.  Therapy focuses on supporting the client to become aware of the whole personality, and exploring the parts of the self that are blocked from consciousness.  gestalt therapy attempts to appreciate the bigger picture, and overall try to help people become free from blocks of unfinished business.

Gestalt therapy focused on affective expression, awareness, and experience as opposed to analysis.  The exercises are meant to support the entire experience of self-expression.  A common tool is the empty chair technique, which is used to help the client think about their emotions or attitudes.  The client switches between 2 chairs, acting out 2 sides of a conversation and is a form of role playing.  It helps the client to open up and express their feelings, helping the client with emotional release  and the ability to move forward with their life.


Utilizes operant conditioning  with the goal of relieving symptoms, such as psychological distress, by conditioning the typically involuntary autonomic nervous system.  Different technological instruments are used to measure biological functioning and this feedback is given to client, and then the client utilizes relaxation strategies to decrease sympathetic arousal. Anxiety, stress, and depression can be managed using relaxation training (such as resonant breathing) and the biofeedback tools are used to measure there effectiveness and help the client become more aware of how these psychological conditions impact them biologically, and likewise how the relaxation techniques calm the stress response. You can read more about biofeedback and learn about the tools used here.

Transtheoretical Model of Change & Motivational Interviewing

Developed by James Prochaska in the 1970’s, based on thestages of change
assumption that change is a process and individuals pass
through different stages as they prepare to change. This model is commonly use to assess and treat individuals with addictive behaviors.  The stages of change are as follows: Precontemplation (Not ready to change, deny there is a problem), Contemplation (Getting ready to change, may acknowledge they have a problem and are gathering information), Preparation (Ready to change, making a plan to change), Action (Change, this phase lasts at least 6 months), Maintenance (Preventing relapse), Termination (zero temptation to return to old habit).  Some recognize relapse as a stage of change which can occur at any stage of the model.  Read more about the Transtheoreticcal model of change here.

The Transtheoretical model of change is often used in conjunction with motivational interviewing, developed by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick in the 1980’s.  The goal is not to make clients change, but to help them resolve ambivalence about changing.  Motivation to change comes from the client, and it is the clients task to resolve the ambivalence, as persuasion by the therapist is not effective.  The therapists role is to gather information from the client and to direct the client to examine and resolve ambivalence. It is believed that readiness to change comes from the clients interpersonal relationships, and the therapist and client enter into a unique therapeutic relationship that resembles a companionship. You can read more about motivational interviewing here.

Transactional Analysis

Developed by Eric Berne in the 1950’s, and based on psychoanalytic theory and anti-deterministic philosophy.  Clients are encouraged to become aware of the intent behind their communication, which can be unconscious and therefore the therapy focuses on increasing awareness of the clients behavior.  There are 3 ego states or compinents of eprsonality, the parent, adult, and child.  These ego states interact with other people ego states which are called transactions, and they can be either over (at the social level) or covert (at the psychological level).  These transactions can be complementary (eg adult to adult), crossed (parent to child), or ulterior (simultaneous overt and covert transactions), and “games” involve a series of ulterior transactions.  Therapeutic intervention involves increasing awareness of communication, and the ego states and transactions between the individuals communicating.  You can read more about this intervention here.

Five-Factor Theory of Personality

Renewed by Costa and McCrae during the 1980’s, and based on what is known as the big five personality traits.  Often grouped together and subject to factor analysis, which is a statistical method to describe correlation and variability.  Listed under the acronym OCEAN there are five continuum’s which are: 1) Openness to experience, on one end curious and imaginative and on the other end conventional with narrow interests. 2) Conscientiousness, on one end organized and achievement orientated and on the other impulsive and unreliable. 3) Extroversion, on one end sociable and outgoing and on the other end withdrawn and passive. 4) Agreeableness, on one end gentle and cooperative and on the other irritable and untrusting. 5) Neuroticism, on one end insecure and moody and on the other end calm and easy going.  You can read more about the five factor theory of personality here.

***There are many other forms of intervention and treatment such as hypnotherapy and feminist therapy.  Comment with any other therapy interventions or treatments you know of that may be helpful to be aware of for the EPPP, or let people know of any study tips or tricks you use for exam preparation.

You may find the information on this site is not enough to help you feel confident about your ability to pass the exam, That is OK and only you can be the judge of what you need. If this information seems overwhelming to you it does NOT mean you will fail the exam, but you may require a little more in depth material than is offered here That is why there is a Product Reviews page which will give you a variety of additional options, as well as practice exam questions which I highly recommend as explained on the Study Tips page.

6 thoughts on “The Existential Therapy Approach and Other Interventions

  1. Well explained, regarding the different therapies. I am not educated in this field of study, however, it seems that you have done research into the areas of intervention and research which will truly benefit those who are in need this information.
    Well done.

    1. Thanks Rebecca, I hope that regardless whether you have studied this material or not that you find it useful. And the research is time consuming, but this is the information every psychologist is expected to know. Thanks and all the best!

  2. This is a very well written post about the variety of different therapies. Although I am not very well educated in this area of work, I believe you’ve done an excellent job introducing this kind of information to newcomers as well as the experts in this field.

    As a newcomer and a total newbie in this field, I find it harder to just absorb the text – I would however find it easier if there were some pics, graphs, videos or any other media that could allow me to visually understand what you’re writing about.

    Overall, it’s a very informative post and I thank you for sharing this kind of information!


  3. A comprehensive guide with tips, and clear explanation.
    You seem to have made learning psychology, in this case interventions much easier to understand.

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