|Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy
logotherapy means 'therapy through meaning'. It's an active-directive
aimed at helping people specifically with meaning crises, which
themselves either ina feeling of aimlessness or indirectly through
alcoholism or depression. Logotherapy also employs techniques useful
phobias, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and medical
ministry. Other applications
include working with juvenile
delinquents, career counselling and helping all of us find more meaning
existentialist becauseit emphasises the freedom of the will
consequent responsibility.It also, of course,
asserts the importance of
the meaning of life. Whilst Freud said human's have
a will to
pleasure and Adler the will to power,
Frankl says we have a will
to meaning. If it is frustrated, spiritual (noogenic)
Frankl argued that the the spiritual (noetic) dimension of man should
to the physical and psychological dimensions. For Frankl, ultimate
exist andis unique to each person and each situation. Each moment
sequence of unrepeatable situations each of which offers a specific
be recognised and fulfilled'. Meaning cannot be invented but must be
because it holds that no matter what the state of the world, our attitude
always help us. The Stoic Epictetus held that 'Men are not moved by
by their interpretations'. Even in facing death and suffering, by
courage we can turn a situation into a supremely meaningful
iii) Frankl's own experiences, in concentration camps and as a psychiatrist
lesson I had to learn in three years spent in Auschwitz and Dachau:
things being equal, those apt to survive the camps were those oriented
the future - toward a task, or a person, waiting for them in the
a meaning to be fulfilled by them in the future" . But Logotherapy was
also the result of Frankl's own ideas and improvisations, not all of
very obviously connected with his experiences in the camps or the
2.Techniques of Logotherapy
encourages the patient to intend or wish for, even if only for a
precisely what they fear.
oUsed for obsessive,
compulsive and phobic
conditions (not for suicidal or schizophrenic
oUseful in cases of
anxiety, often works very quickly.
oMobilises the human
self-detachment, often with a sense of humour
oHans Gerz claims that
is successful in 80-90% of cases
case of the
and Existentialism, p 139)
A young doctor had severe hydrophobia. One day, meeting his chief on the street, as he extended his hand in greeting, he noticed that he was perspiring more than usual. The next time he was in a similar situation he expected to perspire again, and this anticipatory anxiety precipitated excessive sweating. It was a vicious circle … We advised our patient, in the event that his anticipatory anxiety should recur, to resolve deliberately to show the people whom he confronted at the time just how much he could really sweat.A week later he returned to report that whenever he met anyone who triggered his anxiety, he said to himself, "I only sweated out a litre before, but now I'm going to pour out at least ten litres !" What was the result of this paradoxical resolution ? After suffering from his phobia for four years, he was quickly able, after only one session, to free himself of it for good.
You are the
cases, what paradoxical intention, if any, would you recommend ?
man is fearful
that he will die from a heart attack. Physical check-ups reveal him to
obsessive-compulsive comes to you because she is concerned about the
washes her hands each day.
young man comes
to you for help with stuttering. What do you advice ?
schizophrenic is anxious that the people he sees on the tube are out to
diverts the patients away from their problems towards something else
in the world.
oused specifically for
Deflection indicated because (e.g.) the more you think about potency
sex, the less likely you are to achieve it,
oNo use just telling
them to stop thinking
about something – need to substitute something positive (
e.g. insomniac -don’t
just tell them to stop trying to sleep, tell them to count sheep).
logotherapy can be seen as
dereflecting the patient away from their presenting problem towards
for meaning. Patient is dereflected from their disturbance to something
Anna, 19-year old art student who displays severe symptoms of incipient
schizophrenia. She considers herself as being confused and asks for
going on within me ?
brood over yourself. Don't inquire into the source of your trouble.
to us doctors. We will steer and pilot you through the crisis. Well,
there a goal beckoning you – say, an artistic assignment ?
inner turmoil ….
watch your inner turmoil, but turn your gaze to what is waiting for
counts is not what lurks in the depths, but what waits in the future,
be actualised by you….
is the origin of my trouble ?
focus on questions like this. Whatever the pathological process
psychological affliction may be, we will cure you. Therefore, don't be
concerned with the strange feelings haunting you. Ignore them util we
get rid of them. Don't watch them. Don't fight them.
about a dozen great things, works which wait to be created by Anna, and
isno one who could achieve and accomplish it but Anna. No one could
here in this assignment, They will be your creations, and if you don't
them, they will remain uncreated forever…
I believe in what you say. It is a message which makes me happy.
Orientation towards Meaning
tries to enlarge the patient's discernment of meaning – in
the past, present
and future, and creatively, experientially and attitudinally.
Meaning through creative values
"The logotherapist's role consists in widening and broadening the
field of the patient so that the whole spectrum of meaning and values
conscious and visible to him". A major source of meaning is through the
value of all that we create, achieve and accomplish. "
Meaning through experiential values
and the Soul) writes "Let us ask a mountain-climber who has beheld the
alpine sunset and is so moved by the splendour of nature that he feels
shudders running down his spine - let us ask him whether after such an
experience his life can ever again seem wholly meaningless".
Meaning throughattitudinal values
argued that we always have the freedom to find meaning through
attitudes even in apparently meaningless situations. For example, an
depressed patientwho could not overcome the loss of his wife was helped
following conversation with Frankl.
"What would have happened if you had died first, and your wife would
had to survive you".
replied the patient, "for her this would have been terrible; how she
have suffered !
continued "You see such a suffering has been spared her; and it is you
have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by
her and mourning her."The mansaid no word, but shook Frankl's hand and
calmly left his office." (Man's Search for Meaning)
Case study of
middle-aged Australian whose life was rapidly spiralling out of control
as a drinking problem he had financial problems- not helped by the
spent on drink - and was under considerable stress at work. His wife's
was running out - no wonder he was also having trouble sleeping at
went to seeChris Wurm,a GP as well as a logotherapist. Wurm combined a
approach - for example giving information about the damage drink was
with logotherapy. Invery fewsessions Harold's life was turned round,
the clarification the role of alcohol in his life and the alternatives.
says"It was possible to discuss the notion that he could make choices
live his life in a variety of ways " ( there we see
emphasis on responsibility) " some of which would be more
than others. He was then able to reflect on the choices he had been
is the orientation towards meaning and values) , and the
available in the future". "It was dramatic to see how determinedand
effective he became, once he saw how his old strategies were
ØInspiration of Viktor Frankl's life
ØRelatively simple to understand, potentially life-changing and enhancing
ØAddresses dimension of life not addressed by other therapies
ØOptimistic and constructive
ØToo authoritarian ?
ØToo religious and not sufficiently scientific or rigorous?
ØToo dependent on Frankl and his intuitions ?
i) Attempts to focus on values and meanings more systematically.
James Crumbaugh, co-inventor of the Purpose in Life test, has devised a number of exercises he gives to clients to help orientate them towards meaning and values. (see separate handout). The idea is also to work out the underlying values and how you might fulfil them, in order to lead a more meaningful life.
Crumbaugh has also devised 6 lists that are used throughout analysis.
1. Life-long aims, ambitions, goals and interests going back as far as the client can remember, including those s/he no longer considers important.
2. The strong points of personality, physical and environmental circumstances, "good luck".
3. The weak points of personality, failures, "bad luck".
4. Specific problems that cause the client's conflicts.
5. Future hopes (this list may overlap with the first list above but emphasises the future whilst list 1 includes past ambitions).
6. Future plans, immediate and long-range.
In my own work, I have incorporated these into a broader framework (called RSVP) which not only tries to find things that might be meaningful and valuable put also tries to establish whether they really are …
ii)Attempts to put logotherapy on a more scientific footing
& Fry'sThe Human Quest for Meaning (1998)
represents an attempt
by a number of psychologists to create a more testable, rigorous and
meaning-centred therapy.One advance is work on the Life Regards Index
improve on the old Purpose in Life Test, in order to determine which
are good candidates for logotherapy and to measure their improvement.
specifically on Logotherapy include:
V. (1959) Man's
Search for Meaning Hodder & Stoughton
V. (1965) The
Doctor and the SoulAlfred A. Knopf
V. (1967) Psychotherapy
and Existentialism Washington Square Press
V. (1969) The
Will to Meaning World Publishing
V. (1978) The
Unheard Cry for Meaning Simon & Schuster
R (1979) The
Quest for Ultimate Meaning Philosophical Library, New York
J, Bulka, R
& Sahakian, W (ed) (1995) Finding Meaning in Life:
Pursuit of Meaning Mercier
(1973) Everything to Gain Institute of Logotherapy
P and Fry, P
(1998) The Human Quest for Meaning LEA
on Frankl & Logotherapy
(1997) Everyday Mysteries - Existential dimensions of
Plock, S. (ed)
(1997) Case Studies in Existential Psychotherapy &
I. (1980) Existential
Psychotherapy Basic Books
the meaning of life
(1981) The Meaning of Life OUP
does it all Mean? OUP
Counsellors is published by Continuum on June 28th
includes my analysis and development of logotherapeutic ideas.
with Frankl aged 90
Keywords: Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, Logotherapy, London therapy, existential counselling, Purpose, Meaninglessness, Meaning of Life, Meaning in Life, Viktor Frankl