Meaning in Life as the Aim of Psychotherapy: A Hypothesis

In Joshua Hicks & Clay Routledge (eds.), The Experience of Meaning in Life: Classical Perspectives, Emerging Themes, and Controversies. Springer. pp. 405-17 (2013)
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The point of psychotherapy has occasionally been associated with talk of ‘life’s meaning’. However, the literature on meaning in life written by contemporary philosophers has yet to be systematically applied to literature on the point of psychotherapy. My broad aim in this chapter is to indicate some plausible ways to merge these two tracks of material that have run in parallel up to now. More specifically, my hunch is that the connection between meaning as philosophers understand it and therapy as psychotherapists ought to practice it is much closer than is suggested by the field of existential psychotherapy, which expressly addresses the topic of life’s meaning and appeals to ideas from classic philosophers such Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and the like. I instead proffer the claim that psychodynamic and humanistic therapy, clinical psychology, and counselling psychology as such, not a particular branch of them, are best understood as enterprises in search of meaning in life, in the way many present-day philosophers understand this phrase. In this chapter, I spell out what I mean by this bold hypothesis and provide some good reason to take it seriously.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria


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