What is Logotherapy and Can it Help Me?

If you are a student or fan of psychology, then I am sure you’ve heard of the popular therapies: cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and person-centered therapy to name a few. But what about Logotherapy?

In a world focused on well-being and mental health, I find it interesting that so few people have heard about logotherapy. Admittedly, even with a masters degree in psychology, I’d never heard of logotherapy until very recently (when reading Frankl). And my mother, a psychotherapist, had also never heard of logotherapy.

So, what is logotherapy? And, is psychology’s best kept secret a hidden gem or just a polished stone?

What is Logotherapy

Introduced by Austrian psychotherapist Viktor Frankl, Logotherapy is considered the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, after Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Adler’s Individual Psychology.

Viktor Frankl’s story is truly fascinating. After surviving a holocaust concentration camp, which he documents in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘, Frankl realized that the main driving factor of human behavior is our search for meaning. Frankl firmly believes that life has meaning under all circumstances and that it is our job to find this “meaning”.

Based on his observations during such terrible times at a concentration camp, Frankl introduced logotherapy. Logotherapy focuses on the idea that we will all face some sort of suffering in our lives. But, it is not our suffering that causes despair. Rather, it is the feeling that we have nothing left to live for during our time of suffering.

Thus, logotherapy focuses on searching for the meaning in our life. Once we have found the meaning of the situations we find ourselves in, our quality of life will be greatly improved. Importantly, Frankl believed that when individuals fail to find meaning, they will turn to the pursuit of pleasure or power (per the theories of Freud and Adler) in the hope to fill a void.

How can logotherapy help me?

Frankl believes that we can discover the true meaning of life by:

  1. creating work or doing a deed
  2. experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. by the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering

During logotherapy, both the client and therapist work to find these things.  In a typical session, logotherapists will use three techniques to aid the client in finding their will for meaning:

  1. Dereflection is used when person is overly self-absorbed with an issue or the attainment of a goal. The aim of dereflection is to redirect the clients attention away from themself so they can think about others. This encourages them to spend less time being self-absorbed about a problem.
  2. Paradoxical intention is used in the case of anxiety of phobias. Paradoxical intention involves the client wishing for the thing that they fear the most. For example, a person with a fear of looking stupid might be encouraged to try and look stupid on purpose. Paradoxically, the fear would be removed when the intention involve the thing that was feared most.
  3. Socratic dialog is used to help the client through a process of self-discovery through their own words. The therapist will listen carefully to what the client says and point out specific patterns of words or solutions to the client. This allows the client see new meaning in their own words. The client therefore realizes that the answers to their problem comes from within and are just waiting to be discovered.

But, is logotherapy any good?

Logotherapy is, indeed, quite complicated. And, explaining in a clear way in a short blog post has proved difficult. However, I hope you’ve gathered the general idea.

But, is it any good?

Well, in 2016, Thir and Batthyány conducted systematic assessment of evidence related to logotherapy. They found the following things:

  • Patients with disorders had a tendency to have a lower meaning of life
  • There is a correlation between a persons search for & the presence of meaning, and their satisfaction in life
  • There is a relationship between the search for & the presence of meaning, and our resilience
  • Logotherapy is  effective for depressed children and early adolescents with cancer
  • There is a correlation between the presence of meaning and suicidal thought in individuals suffering from cancer
  • Logotherapy can effectively decrease job burnout

Further research has also found that those with a deeper and broader sense of meaning and purpose in their life enjoy better health and expressed greater life satisfaction, higher levels of psychological and physical well-being and positive mental health.

Wrapping up

Overall, logotherapy appears to be a hidden gem in the world of psychotherapy. Often overlooked, it offers a simply answer to our problems: look for the meaning in them.

What are your experiences of logotherapy? Have you heard of it before? Or, even gone to see a logotherapist? As always, let me know in the comments section!

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