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Existential considerations

Irvin Yalom

Stephen's interest in psychotherapy, and his development as a therapist, has been strongly influenced by the thinking and writing of one of the leading proponents of the existential approach to psychotherapy, Dr Irvin Yalom.

Dr Yalom's work highlights various existential considerations that lie below the surface of our lives and which, he argues, can contribute to psychological and emotional difficulties. Specifically he observes that the human condition is associated with the following four existential "givens":

  • the inevitability, for every one of us, of aging and death;

  • the freedom to make of our lives as we will;

  • our ultimate aloneness or isolation;

  • the lack of any obvious meaning or sense to life.


Dr Yalom argues that while these givens seem grim indeed, they also contain the seeds of wisdom and redemption and that for this reason psychotherapy is best approached with an existential sensibility on the part of the therapist.

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