Existential

This section is about existential issues that counsellors and clients might work with.

The survey question for those who have had counselling was:

Please indicate which of these things you explored and how useful it was?

1 = not useful all   7 = very useful

The survey question for those who want counselling the question was:

Please indicate which of these things you think you would like to explore about yourself in counselling and how useful it would be for you?

1 = not useful   7 = very useful

Existential Graphs

Graph/ Loneliness and isolation – aloneness

Graph/ Choices and responsibility

Graph/ Meaning or meaninglessness of life

The items in this section were highly or quite highly rated by some respondents with M.E. who want counselling indicating that they would like to explore these. Many who received counselling explored these, particularly Choices and Responsibility. How useful they found this work is very varied.

People with M.E. and MS may have confronted fundamental aspects of their life and existence.   Their role as a person – how they perceived themselves to be valuable and valued may no longer be sustainable.   Their illness may have tested some of their relationships to breaking point and challenged some basic assumptions.   Working with such clients who are prepared to address some existential issues may prove valuable, but the conditions need to be right. Emmy van Deurzen (2002 p.3) observes:

Clients can therefore only benefit from an existential approach in so far as they come to the sessions with a fundamental commitment to sorting out vital issues and coming to terms with life.

If such a ‘fundamental commitment’ is necessary for successful existential counselling then it would seem important that working in such a way would require agreement and the commitment of both parties. Van Deurzen (2002 p.2) remarks on ‘basic assumptions’: 

This places great emphasis on the need for the practitioner to be acutely aware of her professional and personal assumptions. Philosophical clarity is the most basic requirement for the existential approach. If the practitioner is to help clients to clarify their attitudes and goals, she must first examine her own with the greatest care.

This relates specifically to the existential approach to counselling, yet existential issues will arise in many counselling relationships and could perhaps be evaded because of mutual or individual discomfort. Such delicacy might deprive a counselling relationship of important work if some potent existential issue has been raised but been left delicately floating with nowhere to go.

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