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At some point in everyone's lives, there will be a need to work through some sort of problem, issue, or circumstance. Sometimes people will easily work through these situations without assistance, but there might be a time or two in life when just a little help is needed. Therapists, counselors, and psychologists are to whom citizens of society go to because they are trained professionals that are there to help us in our time of need. The field of psychology has been steadily growing for some time now and it is no surprise that there are many different types of psychotherapy in existence. When starting to seek out a professional for help, it is important to understand which type of therapy might work best for that particular person or situation in order to get optimal assistance. One type of psychotherapy that has more recently been developed is called logotherapy. Perhaps in order to more easily understand the concepts of logotherapy, learning about the life of the person who founded it, Viktor Frankl, is essential.

Frankl was born March 26, 1905 in Vienna, Austria. When he was a teenager, his interest in psychology developed and he became a neurologist in the 1920s. He was about to hit a turning point in life, however, with the start of the Nazis taking over Austria. Being Jewish, Frankl and his family were in danger of being deported and sent to concentration camps. He had received an approved visa to go to the United States in 1941 to continue his work, but he chose to stay in Vienna to protect his family, which can be seen as the most important decision he ever made because Frankl's life would soon be changed forever. Soon after his decision to stay with his family, all of them were deported to concentration camps. After being in the camps for only one day, Frankl had lost his first unpublished manuscript for logotherapy, which he had put into his pocket during his deportation. This could be seen as a great misfortune, but Frankl used his time in the camps to recreate his manuscript mentally, which ultimately, along with his attitudes and beliefs, helped him to survive such horrible conditions (Längle & Sykes, 2006). He spent about four years of his life in four different Nazi death camps, including the well-known Auschwitz, during which he lost his entire family. Frankl did not give up, however. Being liberated in 1945, Frankl struggled to recover whatever he could find left over from his life in Vienna. Not much could be found, other then some of his early writings and some of his father's pencils and a recipe written by his mother were given to him by remaining relatives and friends (Batthyany, 2006). When the war was finally over, Frankl's creatively could not be grounded any longer. He wrote many articles and books that were published and two of his most famous books, Man's Search for Meaning and The Doctor and the Soul, were spread across the world and published in English in the 1950s. Frankl soon became very well known everywhere and started going on tours to lecture his ideas, such as in 1957 when he toured the United States and lectured at many highly regarded universities. From here until his death in 1997, Frankl spent his life writing, lecturing, and teaching the concepts of logotherapy to everyone who would listen. At the time of his death, he had written 32 books on existentialism and logotherapy, which were translated into 26 languages and he had been a professor of neurology and psychiatry in Austria, as well as in many universities in the United States, such as Harvard and Stanford (Längle & Sykes, 2006). Viktor Frankl devoted his entire life work to developing logotherapy and the biggest test for his ideas was in the concentration camps. His survival of these circumstances can be seen as the best supportive evidence for logotherapy.

Many of logotherapy's ideas are constituted from a variety of psychological concepts, adding a significant spiritual element. In fact, logotherapy is translated literally to mean 'therapy through meaning' (Novak, 2006). When Frankl first started coming up with his theories, he used many ideas from other types of psychotherapy. "Logotherapy finds its philosophical roots in existentialism and phenomenology, its psychological roots in psychoanalysis and individual psychology, and its spiritual roots in a profound commitment to the human being as an irreducibly spiritual creature" (Kimble & Ellor, 2000, p. 9). Beginning with logotherapy's philosophical roots, existential therapy is based on the idea that each individual in existence is completely free to choose as he will and is responsible for himself. Also, existentialism emphasizes the concept that existence cannot be explained and every person is unique and isolated from everyone else. Phenomenology in logotherapy, which is simply the notion that a person's emotions and personal experience of happenings is significantly more important then just what happened from an outsider's view, also developed from the theories of existential therapy. Sometimes logotherapy is referred to as the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy. The first two schools, which Frankl thoroughly studied and used aspects of in his logotherapy, are Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology, respectively (Kimble & Ellor, 2000). While studying psychoanalysis and individual psychology, Frankl realized that there was something about the theories that he did not like, however, which is perhaps the main reason for his development of logotherapy. Frankl firmly believed that Freud and Adler's beliefs of neurosis, that is was mainly caused by underlying factors of pathology, were completely wrong. His opinion of the matter was that people search for meaning in their lives and will continually strive to understand their existence. Eventually, this led Frankl to form a sort of bridge between psychology and religion. He wanted to help others by getting to know them and assisting them in their personal search for meaning (Längle & Sykes, 2006).

The search for meaning is what Frankl claims is everyone's primary motivation in life, which can be seen in every part of his theories. Logotherapy has three main dimensions, which Frankl termed Freedom of Will, Will to Meaning, and Meaning in Life. The first dimension, Freedom of Will, emphasizes that humans are essentially free. People are seen as being completely adept to make their own decisions about the world around them, as well as about their own being. "As spiritual persons, humans are not just reacting organisms but autonomous beings capable of actively shaping their lives" (Vesely, n.d., Freedom of Will section, para. 1). This is important for clients in therapy because it is the mechanism that allows them to have independence and control of their lives. The second main aspect of logotherapy, Will to Meaning, takes freedom a step further in saying that people are free to pursue goals and have purpose. The Will to Meaning is extremely essential for human beings because, without it, people will feel empty and hopeless, which leads to many psychological problems. Meaning in Life, the third primary dimension of logotherapy, is the most important. Frankl's theories ascertain the thought that meaning is an objective reality. This is to say that meaning is always there, whether the person sees it or not, and is not just an illusion of the mind. Being free and completely responsible for the self, which is what logotherapy is based on, brings with it many obstacles. For instance, people cannot just go through life drifting from one place to another and pay no attention to what goes on around them. Humans have to do whatever they can in order to bring out the best in themselves, as well as in their surrounding world. The only way that this can be done is by seeing the world in a very personal way and appreciating the fact that every single moment in life has some meaning, as well as that this meaning is constantly changing and is different for each individual (Vesely, n.d.). How someone copes with daily life situations is important for meaning in life, but it is of greater importance in times of stress, crisis, and drastic life changes.

According to Frankl, all people have a physical, mental, and religious dimension known as the body, mind, and spirit, respectively. All three of these human aspects must have their needs met in order for a person to live a healthy, productive life. "Man is trapped in the physical dimension. In the mental dimension – man is driven by needs while in the spiritual dimension – man is free" (Addad & Himi, n.d., p. 4). In logotherapy, the most important of these elements is the human spiritual component. As can be expected, the spirit is complex, but Frankl's idea of finding meaning in life brings the spiritual dimension into terms of being able to make one's own decisions in such a way that the person can essentially connect with something that is greater than the self (Addad & Himi, n.d.). Frankl believed in, what he called, the spiritual unconscious. Since logotherapy is a person-centered therapy that places much focus on the future, the spiritual unconscious gives each individual the capability to connect to things that have not yet happened, whereas the mental aspect of humans can only connect to things that have already been. Spirituality imparts the fact that every person is unique, however people must also be able to relate to others. Personal meaning in life is important, but meaning must be shared with other individuals because it can be much bigger than any one person can possibly fathom. This gives way to the idea that, not only should individuals seek out personal meaning, but, maybe in order to be most productive, should start by doing something for others. Basically, logotherapy is used to help people find meaning in life and the goal of this type of therapy is a drastic change from the goals of both psychoanalysis and individual psychology. "Logotherapy has as its goal the fulfillment of the individual, a breakthrough into another dimension which allows the individual to transcend the boundaries and constraints of life which prove unchangeable" (Kimble & Ellor, 2000, p. 5).

The ways to reach this goal of meaning and fulfillment is seen in many of the therapeutic techniques used by logotherapists. The first step for therapists using logotherapy, like many other types of therapy, is to establish a good connection with the client. The client-therapist relationship needs to be trusting and empathic. It may take awhile to form this type of relationship, but once it is established, the therapist can then truly begin the process of logotherapy. As the main goal is to assist the client to find meaning in life, most often through day-to-day behavior, it is imperative to figure out what exactly the client finds meaningful because it can differ greatly from person to person (Vesely, n.d.). For instance, if the client believes that kindness is significant, then the therapist can focus on the fact that the client might be able to find meaning in performing kind acts for others. In this case, it would be good for the client to take an active role in life and can, therefore, find meaning in connecting with others in this way. If the client believes of the importance of emotions, kindness, and/or love, then he or she would be more apt to find meaning in life through relationships The therapist can discuss past relationships that the client finds important or can give advice to the client to form new loving relationships, whether in family, friends, or a significant other. Another way to help the client find meaning is through, what Frankl termed, the existential choice. This is to say that the person should experience suffering and deal with it directly. Frankl firmly believed in finding meaning through suffering and it can greatly help people who are either facing death, such as a fatal illness, or who has had someone close to them die. Depending on what the client is dealing with and what they find meaningful to them, there are three main therapeutic techniques that Frankl used. The first of these techniques is paradoxical intention, in which the therapist helps the client to distance themselves from their fixations. This technique is most effectively used for people with anxiety or compulsive disorders, as well as for people in vegetative states (Vesely, n.d.). For example, if a person has an obsession with making sure doors are locked and compulsively lock and unlock a door over and over again, the therapist would assist the client in focusing on something else and in using humor as a vehicle to continually push this obsession further and further away from being a part of the client until it eventually dissipates. The second main technique that is used in logotherapy is called 'dereflexion.' It is based on the fact that many people amplify certain natural processes, such as sadness, and, therefore, make the symptom more intense in a continual neurotic cycle. The therapist uses dereflexion, mainly for people who have anxiety, sleeplessness, or sexual disorders, to move the client's concentration away from the symptom in order to break this unhealthy cycle. The last therapeutic technique for logotherapy is in the modification of attitudes and the use of Socratic dialogue. In using this technique, clients are directed to recognize their impractical attitudes and to form a new, healthier viewpoint of life. Socratic dialogue, first introduced by Socrates, is a method of guiding people by asking them relevant questions. "Specific questions are aimed to raise into consciousness the possibility to find, and the freedom to fulfill, meaning in one's life" (Vesely, n.d., Therapeutic Techniques in LTEA section, para. 5). Using these techniques, a logotherapist can have a greater affect on helping the client to find meaning in life through day-to-day living, which is what logotherapy is all about.

Psychotherapy has come a long way over the course of time. New ideas and theories are continually developed, tested, and criticized. Viktor Frankl used many concepts from other types of psychology, including Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology, in his development of logotherapy. Being a bridge between psychology, philosophy, and spirituality, logotherapy has added a new dimension to how psychotherapy is viewed. The nature of man takes a big role in this, as well as does the ideas of existentialism. Frankl developed logotherapy based on the idea that people need to be able to find meaning in their existence and fulfillment in life. Having gone through much trauma himself, being in concentration camps and dealing with death of family has brought Frankl the greatest experiences and tested logotherapy first-hand. The therapeutic techniques used by logotherapists, such as paradoxical intention, dereflexion, and Socratic dialogue, have been seen to work well in helping clients find meaning in life through relationships, suffering, and dealing with every day life. In general, logotherapy is based on the idea that, as Frankl once said, "being human means relating, and being directed, to something other than oneself" (Kimble & Ellor, 2000, p. 3).


Addad, Moshe & Himi, Hanna. Logotherapy – Theoretical Aspects and Field Studies in Israel. Retrieved March 25, 2008. http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/cr/documents/addad-articles/Logotherapy-eng.doc

Batthyany, Alexander. (2006). Preserving the Legacy: The Viktor Frankl Archives in Vienna. Scientific Board and Written Archives. Viktor Frankl Institute, Vienna, Austria. South African Journal of Logotherapy. Retrieved March 25, 2008. http://www.viktorfrankl.org/e/archivE.html

Kimble, Melvin A. & Ellor, James W. (2000). Logotherapy: An Overview. The Haworth Press, Inc. Journal of Religious Gerontology, Vol. 11, Nos. 3/4.

Längle, Alfried & Sykes, Britt-Mari (2006). Viktor Frankl-Advocate for Humanity: On his 100th Birthday. Sage Publications. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2006; 46; 36. DOI: 10.1177/0022167805281150.

Novak, Dani. (2006, July). Applications of Principles of Logotherapy to Teaching. Retrieved March 25, 2008. http://yad-vashem.org.il/education/conference2006/Novak.%20Dani.pdf

Vesely, Franz. Viktor Frankl-Institut: The Official Website of the Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. Retrieved March 25, 2008. http://www.viktorfrankl.org/e/logotherapy.html



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