• Case Studies in Existential Therapy: translating theory into practice

Case Studies in Existential Therapy: translating theory into practice

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ISBN 9781910919286
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Foreword by Emmy van Deurzen

The ethos of existential therapy is that practitioners seek to co-create a therapeutic alliance with clients that emphasises being with rather than doing to. Trainees and practitioners alike are therefore eager to have access to accounts of what senior practitioners do in their day-to-day practice. Also, it is rare that books both show the reader what the therapist does and explicitly relate this to cutting-edge thinking in theory.

Case Studies in Existential Therapy is designed to address both these gaps by providing, through the medium of the case study, a platform for leading practitioners in the existential therapy community to show how they are applying their own innovations in theory to enrich their practice.  Each of the contributors describes a specific innovation in theory, and then brings this to life in an account of their engagement with a specific client. Every chapter concludes with a ‘Question and Answer’ section in which the author reflects on the significance of their work in dialogue with the editor.

This is a book both for students of therapy and for the experienced practitioner keen to expand their repertoire. It will also be of interest to the psychologically minded general public. 

Foreword - Emmy van Deurzen


1 Creative existential therapy with children: Tom in his therapy world - Verity J Gavin

2 Why me, why now? On discovering that time is passing - Martin Adams

3 Gay sexuality:’ ‘I am what I am; I am my own special creation’ - Helen Acton

4 Existential dream analysis - Darren Langdridge

5 The unfinished self: inclusivity in experiential-existential therapy - Greg Madison

6 ‘Three’s company, two’s a crowd’: working existentially with couples presenting with issues of addiction - Simon du Plock

7 Stoking the flames: coaching towards authentic and impassioned change -Sasha Smith

8 Existential group therapy - Rimantas Kociunas

9 Trans and non-binary genders - Christina Richards

10 Living ME: a case study on the experience of being diagnosed with a chronic ‘psycho-somatic’ illness - Simon du Plock

11 Finding meaning: cross-cultural existential therapy with a young refugee - Zack Eletheriadou

12 Spirite equus: the story of Bella and what she learned from equine-facilitated therapy - Julie Scheiner

13 Out of it: addiction and recovery as lived phenomenon - Ryan Kemp

14 Ontological insecurity and the ‘immense sensibility’ of the Jamesian novel: the case of Henry James  - Simon du Plock

15 Time-limited existential therapy and counselling - Alison Strasser

16 The face of abuse: the responsibility of the psychotherapist as witness - Georgia Feliou

17 Lost for words: using existential experimentation in a GP practice - Mark Rayner

18 An existential perspective on traumatic bereavement and loss: the four worlds model - Chloe Paidoussis-Mitchell

19 Two hats: a discussion of therapy/research interrelations illustrated by extracts from psychology research on male retirement - Prunella Gee

20 Living towards death in a technologically mediated existence - Elaine Kasket

‘Although existential therapists have written widely on the philosophical perspective behind existential therapy, there has been too little in the way of case studies to illustrate how therapy works in practice. This book fills that gap and more. It is a splendid book about both theory and practice. The chapters feature therapists who have offered substantial contributions to contemporary existential therapy – individual, couple and group. There are also several chapters on coaching and research. The book deals with issues across the life span, from childhood to young adulthood to retirement, old age and death. It is an excellent modality for addressing contemporary issues like cultural displacement, torture, abusive relationships, addiction, gender and sexual identity issues, and the digital revolution. Each chapter is followed by questions from the editor (or, in the case of the editor's chapters, from a colleague) of the kind that readers always want to ask, but seldom get the chance to have answered. Hooray for this book! I can now offer my students something concrete, other than session transcripts, demonstrations and a few case studies by well-known existential therapists, that will give them a wider view of how existential therapy works in practice, how theory informs practice – and the other way around.’

Betty Cannon PhD, Founder and President of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute

‘This book collects together an exceptional range of authors who have taken on the challenge of discussing the key themes of existential therapy from the standpoint of their encounters with their clients. In their attempts to highlight the relationally-attuned engagement between therapist and client, the authors succeed in emphasising existential therapy’s key principle of relatedness as it is lived. By doing so, the specific dilemmas under discussion serve to challenge readers to re-view these more as “problems in living”, rather than as some manualised (and de-humanised) psychological disturbance. More than this, and as its editor (and contributor), Simon du Plock, proposes in his Afterword, in adopting a predominantly narrational focus, the authors revitalise the case study tradition such that each presentation serves to inform and inspire fellow practitioners. Reading the accounts, I was stimulated and provoked; whether strongly agreeing or disagreeing with the authors’ views, I was always left with a desire to read more of what they had to say. I suspect that many other readers of this text will experience something all too similar.’
Professor Ernesto Spinelli, author of Tales of Un-Knowing: therapeutic encounters from an existential perspective

‘This is a “must have” for any therapist with an interest in ongoing improvement of practice. The book is a rich treasure of theories and illustrative case studies. It revisits Freud’s original use of case study research and adds fresh new perspectives on both our general “being” and on therapeutic practice. It leaves you feeling enriched, rejuvenated and slightly changed – as only a really good book can.’

Dr Sofie Bager-Charleson, Director of PhD Programme, Metanoia Institute

Simon du Plock

Professor Simon du Plock is Faculty Head for Post-Qualification and Professional Doctorates at the Metanoia Institute, London, UK where he directs counselling psychology and psychotherapy research doctorates jointly with Middlesex University. He is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, an Associate Fellow of the BPS, and a Founding Member of the BPS Register of Psychologists Specialising in Psychotherapy. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for Medicine and a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist. He lectures internationally on aspects of existential therapy and became, in 2006, the first Western therapist to be made an Honorary Member of the East European Association for Existential Therapy, in recognition of his contribution to the development of collaboration between East and West European existential psychotherapy. He has authored over eighty book chapters and papers in peer-reviewed academic journals, and has edited the journal of the British Society for Existential Analysis since 1993.

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Simon du Plock