Comparing Humanistic-Existential Therapy with Other Approaches

Comparing Humanistic-Existential Therapy with Other Approaches

Psychosocial interventions are vital therapeutic options for a variety of psychiatric illnesses that may be employed alone or in conjunction with pharmacologic agents. Humanistic-existential psychotherapy is a sort of psychosocial intervention that helps patients gain transcendental abilities over their situations. Humanistic-existential therapy promotes comprehension of the human experience rather than symptoms and aims to increase client self-awareness and self-understanding (Schneider, 2019).

The goal of this paper is to present an overview of humanistic-existential therapy, followed by a discussion of its differences from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is also a widespread psychotherapy intervention used in the treatment of mood, anxiety, and psychotic diseases. Furthermore, with reference to a video of a therapy session in progress, the discussion explains why humanistic-existential therapy was chosen as the treatment of choice.

Overview of Humanistic-Existential Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

            Humanistic-existential therapy is based on a compassionate relationship with patients and focuses on the client’s individual experiences rather than the symptoms. The treatment emphasizes unconditional positive regard as a humanistic value, while freedom and responsibility are stressed as existential virtues (Schneider, 2019).

The central constructs of humanistic therapy, of which person-centered therapy is a paragon, include self-actualizing tendency (be all that you can be), self and ideal self, conditions of worth, and relational transparency, in which genuineness, empathy, acceptance, and caring form the therapeutic approach (Grande, 2016). The therapist focuses on the client and provides a comfortable setting for positive growth while conducting treatment.

In addition, the therapist encourages the client to be open and honest while expressing himself/herself. The therapy session is based on the client’s set objectives, thus the name patient-centered therapy, and it also fosters the client’s independence in terms of decision-making (Grande, 2016).

The core constructs of existential therapy are phenomenology, ultimate concerns, and defenses. Phenomenology refers to the client’s direct or immediate experiences, whereas the ultimate concerns are the thoughts that trigger anxiety, such as death, isolation, meaninglessness, and the desperate need to acquire freedom, which creates anxiety and the necessity to act. Defenses are acts that a person does to avoid anxiety. As a result, the treatment embraces worry as a positive force that aids in the achievement of objectives.

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that stresses the significance of thoughts and perception in shaping thoughts and behaviors. People suffering from psychosis, mood, or anxiety disorders may have unpleasant thoughts and perceptions that are harmful to them or others in their immediate surroundings.

As a result, CBT employs a problem-solving approach to educate individuals on how to modify their thinking and control their emotions in stressful circumstances (Chand et al., 2022). CBT is extremely educational and employs assignments, homework, and experimenting with new ways of behaving and responding to identities to transform inaccurate or unrealistic ways of thinking, which in turn influences emotions and actions.

The Differences Between Humanistic-Existential Therapy and CBT

            The first distinction is that, although humanistic-existential treatment emphasizes the relevance of the client’s self-awareness and self-understanding, CBT is based on behavioral traditions. Patient-centered therapy, a type of humanistic-existential therapy, for example, creates an environment in which the therapist forms a therapeutic alliance with the patient, encourages freedom of choice and the potential for meaningful change, and allows therapy to proceed based on the patient’s expectations and goals (Heidenreich et al., 2021).

When dealing with individuals suffering from drug addiction problems, for example, promoting their independence and self-awareness may be the first step toward avoiding substance usage. Conversely, CBT focuses on tactics for changing a person’s negative beliefs, which ultimately influence their actions and behaviors. The second distinction is the length of treatment.

Humanistic-existential therapy may be utilized for short-term treatment of drug misuse problems, but, if a lifetime journey and development are necessary, the therapy may be everlasting. On the other hand, CBT requires a short course of 5-20 sessions lasting 30-60 minutes and taking place once a week or every two weeks (Heidenreich et al., 2021).

The third distinction is that, whereas a therapist’s role in humanistic-existential therapy is to create a positive environment in which a client can develop self-awareness and understanding, a therapist’s role in CBT includes developing client-oriented activities to help shape the client’s thoughts and behaviors (Heidenreich et al., 2021). Understanding the contrasts between the two psychotherapeutic treatments allows a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner to justify therapy selection when treating a variety of mental health disorders.

Why Humanistic-Existential Therapy was the Treatment of Choice in the Video

            Joe is a fictitious name given to the patient being discussed. James Bugental is in a session with a female interviewee, perhaps Joe’s mother. According to the extract, Joe feels “not being alive” and is constricted in his existence. He started treatment two years ago, and his mother believes he needs further help with his illness, which is not indicated in the video excerpt.

Humanistic-existential therapy was selected as the treatment of choice to help the patient comprehend his problem better. The treatment would allow the patient to gain self-awareness and self-understanding, rescuing him from a hazy state of mind that he characterizes as “not being alive” and feeling constrained. If CBT had been available, the patient may have formed a positive attitude about his life, which could have led to actions and behaviors that made him feel better.


            Humanistic-existential therapy shows promise in the treatment of individuals who have a poor understanding of their ailments and situations. The therapy aims to increase patients’ self-awareness and self-understanding, which will eventually improve their recovery. Humanistic-existential therapists, as a result, concentrate on making the setting pleasant for patients, promoting their independence, and tailoring the therapy to the patient’s needs and preferences.

CBT, in addition to humanistic-existential therapy, is widely utilized in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. While the remedies are founded on distinct ideas, when utilized effectively and rationally, they both promote patient recovery from mental health disorders.


Chand, S. P., Kuckel, D. P., & Huecker, M. R. (2022). Cognitive Behavior Therapy. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.

Grande, T. (2016, January 9). Theories of counseling – Existential Therapy.

Heidenreich, T., Noyon, A., Worrell, M., & Menzies, R. (2021). Existential approaches and cognitive behavior therapy: Challenges and potential. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy14(1), 209–234.

Schneider, K. J. (2019). Existential-humanistic and existential-integrative therapy: Philosophy and theory. In The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy (pp. 247–256). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Assignment Description: Comparing Humanistic-Existential Therapy with Other Approaches

Understanding the strengths of each type of therapy and which type of therapy is most appropriate for each patient is an essential skill of the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. In this Assignment, you will compare humanistic-existential therapy to another psychotherapeutic approach. You will identify the strengths and challenges of each approach and describe expected potential outcomes.
To prepare:
Review the humanistic-existential psychotherapy videos in this week’s Learning Resources.
Reflect on humanistic-existential psychotherapeutic approaches.
Then, select another psychotherapeutic approach to compare with humanistic-existential psychotherapy. The approach you choose may be one you previously explored in the course or one you are familiar with and especially interested in. 
The Assignment
In a 2- to 3-page paper, address the following:
Briefly describe humanistic-existential psychotherapy and the second approach you selected. 
Explain at least three differences between these therapies. Include how these differences might impact your practice as a PMHNP.
Focusing on one video you viewed, explain why humanistic-existential psychotherapy was utilized with the patient in the video and why it was the treatment of choice. Describe the expected potential outcome if the second approach had been used with the patient. 
Support your response with specific examples from this week’s media and at least three peer-reviewed, evidence-based sources. Explain why each of your supporting sources is considered scholarly. Attach the PDFs of your sources.
Note: The School of Nursing requires that all papers submitted include a title page, introduction, summary, and references. The Sample Paper provided at the Walden Writing Center provides an example of those required elements (available at ). All papers submitted must use this formatting.

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