for Advanced Diploma in Existential Psychotherapy



Body, Love and Sexuality

The course differentiates between body, love and sexuality as dimensions of human experience which are comprehended in existential philosophical discourse and apprehended in existential philosophical practice.

The course will consider ethical issues of equity and social justice embedded within understandings and experience of body, love and sexuality. We will draw on existential philosophy to critically consider the notion of self, body, love and sexuality within the prevailing Western (dualist) culture and will play with the idea that existential therapy is about restoring power to those who feel marginalized, vulnerable and fearful and this is inevitably associated with a re-evaluation of truth. We will question the notions of truth and power and what constitutes therapeutic efficacy in a political climate of increasing regulation, surveillance and accountability which requires objective evidence. Love will be reflected upon as a quality in the therapeutic relationship which mobilises radical re-evaluations of truth in relation to body, identity and sexuality.

The aims of the module are to enable students to:

  • deconstruct and critically reflect upon notions of body, love and sexuality as fundamental dimensions of human experience by drawing on existential philosophy
  • differentiate between engagement with such issues at the level of comprehension within the rational/cognitive realm and the level of apprehension within the phenomenal/embodied-experiential realm
  • clarify personal standpoint in relation to existential psychotherapy as a political undertaking within contemporary culture
  • clarify personal ethics in relation body, love and sexuality which has a bearing on power in the therapeutic relationship
  • build and strengthen personal courage to face own vulnerabilities as preparation for working with clients
  • fine-tune and hone phenomenological practice


Existence and Therapy

To enable trainees to engage with a series of philosophical texts which addresses a number of concerns and interests related to the practice of existential psychotherapy rather than a settled body of doctrine. To encourage trainees to explore how a merely finite being can express or understand the infinite, the eternal, the spirit, which seems to haunt mankind. The theme of how in being true to oneself one expresses the ‘spirit’ will be explored in the work of various philosophers.

The essential aim of this course is expressed in the following quotation by Soren

Kierkegaard “Just as his (the existing subject’s) communication must inform essentially conform to his own existence, so his thought must correspond to the form of his existence”. In simpler terms one expresses the ‘spirit’ by being true to one’s experience of being. Relevant sections of the works of various philosophers of existence will be utilised as ways to examine the impact of these themes upon psychotherapy. The thinking and concerns of the various important philosophers presented in the course will be used to show how language is employed by them in order to throw light on central existential themes that are relevant to the practice of psychotherapy.

The trainees will have the opportunity to explore how language as a means of expression is essential to the practice of psychotherapy, given that psychotherapy has been called ‘the talking cure’.


Heidegger and Psychotherapy

This course will provide an opportunity for students to engage with the early thought of Heidegger and the challenges that this brings to our current understanding of the human way of being.

This will encourage students to examine and reconsider the ontological foundations and philosophical commitments that many of today’s psychotherapeutic theories are based upon, allowing them to understand and own – perhaps for the first time – how they understand their own existence and that of their clients.

The aim is that through this engagement with Heidegger’s primary text students will:

  • Gain a sense of what phenomenology means, in that, they will be required to join in a phenomenological exploration of the lived meaning of the text.
  • Be able to relate Heidegger’s thinking both to the therapeutic enterprise in general and their own lives.
  • Develop their ability to understand the ontological basis of current theoretical conceptualizations of psychotherapy.
  • Challenge current understandings of truth as correspondence.


Ethics and Existential Psychotherapy

The enterprise of existential psychotherapy is critically explored through themes chosen by the student group.

The course aims to prepare students to conduct themselves as professionals in line with

UKCP, specifically as members of the Society for Existential Analysis within the Constructivist-Existential College.

Students will work towards a clear articulation of their personal ethical standpoint in relation to working ethically as an existential psychotherapist set within the context of the UKCP Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct.

Students will develop a critically reflective capacity to consider deeply ethical problems and dilemmas and to seek their resolution consistent with UKCP Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct.


Existential Psychotherapy & Critical Psychopathology

The course will consider the relationship between psychiatry and the practice of existential psychotherapy.

This will initially examine the historical relationship between these two approaches and then look at their current relationship in terms of their divergent approaches to extreme emotional states and human behaviour.

We will also consider the professional status of these disciplines, placing more emphasis on the profession of existential psychotherapy within professional institutions, such as the UKCP and its role in the Health Service and private practice.

We shall consider the role of critical perspective on psychopathology throughout the five weeks.

The decades prior to the 1990s were characterised by a rich diversity of polemics within Psychiatry. This resulted in the establishment of a dialogue between the users of psychiatry and its providers.

However, within the past 20 years there has been a return to monologue in psychiatry, with an accompanying ruling ideology of a biological reductionist understanding of human unhappiness and suffering, with an accompanying loss of the personal narrative and experience.

Correspondingly, there appears to be a dearth of counter-discourse to the primacy that psychiatry has, especially within the discipline of psychotherapy.

This course will aim to cultivate a climate of critical engagement with the powerful disciple of psychiatry. Here the dialogue of questioning, arguing, agreeing, disagreeing and so on, produces many questions (with some answers) together with conflict and at times confusion, which are perhaps inevitable features of human experience. Students are encouraged to continue to ask such questions, for hopefully, it will be analogous to a Popperian ‘Open Society’. For as nobody is compelled to confirm to a single dogma, then no final resolution of the uncertainty, conflict and insecurity can be hoped for.


Intersubjectivity and Relatedness

The focus is to produce ethical existential practitioners who recognise their identity via an ongoing dialogue with existential-phenomenological philosophy, and through an acknowledgement of points of interest with other modalities that make up the psychotherapeutic community as a whole.

Through reflexive consideration of the concepts of intersubjectivity and relatedness, the aim is to explore and clarify the possibilities of therapeutic engagement from an existentialphenomenological perspective.

The course will provide trainees with a forum for in-depth engagement with the concepts of intersubjectivity, relatedness and associated ideas.

The aim is to assist trainees in extending their understanding of the above concepts, and a selection of philosophical writings from a wide range of existential/phenomenological thinkers has been brought together for critical reflection e.g. Husserl, Buber, Binswanger, Jaspers, Sartre, and Levinas.

These are intended to compliment the philosophical ideas on intersubjectivity etc. already encountered during the first year of the Advanced Diploma in Existential Psychotherapy (e.g. Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty).

Further, through reflexive consideration of concepts and ideas, and through engagement with published work of contemporary practitioners, the aim is to clarify the possibilities of therapeutic engagement from an existential/phenomenological position.

Throughout the course there is also an objective to identify and critically evaluate both convergences and divergences between an existential/phenomenological position and the positions of other major contemporary approaches (e.g. contemporary psychoanalysis, CBT and person-centred therapy).


Language and Existential Psychotherapy

The aim of the Module will be to present and discuss key ideas in post-modern language theory, with a particular emphasis on the works of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Wittgenstein.

The views of these philosophers will be directed towards their relevance for psychotherapy as a whole, and existential/phenomenological psychotherapy in particular. It will:

  • Provide an overview of the key linguistic concepts and terminology that inform current discussion together with an outline of their central theories.
  • Challenge the Cartesian basis of the standard scientific paradigm with its focus on causality and objectivity which tends to see language as an unproblematic descriptor of phenomena, rather than how language itself sets up the parameters of scientific enquiry as well as informing much of currently accepted assumptions.
  • Demonstrate how the work of Nietzsche first drew attention to this phenomena with his critique of Aristotle’s claims for Truth, his deconstruction of that term when applied to other central issues such as the claim for a discrete Self, and some of the consequences of these ideas for the psychotherapist.
  • Explore how Nietzsche’s thought has been amplified and extended by Heidegger with his return to the Greek concept of Aleathia and the manner in which we are all grounded in pre-existing linguistic concepts, and the implications of this for the practitioner.
  • Examine key ideas in the work of Wittgenstein, focusing on their points of similarity and divergence with Continental philosophy by discussing his concept of Language Games and their applicability to psychotherapy, specifically the arguments he raised against common Western assumptions of cause, reason and motive, and drawing attention to their importance in cross-cultural work.
  • Draw attention to those aspects of Heidegger’s work that has been incorporated into the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, specifically with regard to his theory of the Symbolic Order and the function of language.