Comparing Existential-Humanistic Therapy to Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

The treatment modalities in psychotherapy have been found to overlap at times in approach, but also found to have distinctive qualities that maintain their uniqueness in practice (Wheeler, 2014). This discussion post centers on comparing two different types of psychotherapy approach and examining their strengths and challenges.

Selected Therapy and Why Chosen

Rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, is a psychotherapy modality that I find particularly interesting because it focuses on emotional outcomes. REBT focuses on the evolution of beliefs. It has been found to be effective in the treatment of such disorders as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), social phobia, and depression (David et al., 2018). REBT teaches that emotional distress such as depression and anxiety are caused by unhealthy thoughts and beliefs. The goal of therapy, therefore, becomes understanding and identifying the negative thoughts and correcting them with positive behavior and positive emotions (David et al., 2018).

REBT Compared with Existential-Humanistic Therapy

When compared to REBT, existential-humanistic therapy allows a more empathetic approach to therapy. This is because in the existential-humanistic approach, the therapist has to convey their understanding of the client’s self-awareness back to the client (Wong, 2017). Existential-humanistic therapy encourages the client to address their emotional issues by facing their fears through action, letting go of their anguish and living life to the fullest (Wong, 2017).

Strengths of Both Therapies

Besides the evidence-based high efficacy of REBT, one of its bases are that it allows and encourages people to accept who they are despite their mistakes and shortcomings. This allows for unconditional self-esteem to become the focus for the client instead of just highlighting the client’s strengths (Farideh & Farshid, 2016). This approach does not only promote behavior changes but also includes a more comprehensive and lasting personality change. Consequently, the client is less likely to be depressed or anxious about the aspects of their lives that they feel they do not excel in (Al-Roubaiy, 2020).

A strength of existential-behavioral therapy is that it tasks the therapist with listening for what the client finds important, thus, structuring the goals of therapy to be truly client-oriented (Wong, 2017). Through existential-humanistic therapy, the client focuses on discovering and understanding outside of the limits placed on them by themselves, others, or their situations (Schneider & Orah, 2017).

Challenges of Both Therapies

As a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, REBT requires homework. This means that the client must be willing to complete the homework in between sessions. This could become a burden to the client, thereby leading to failed therapy (Wheeler, 2014). REBT’s focus on self and doing away with negative thoughts has been considered to be a harsh approach to therapy by its critics (Al-Roubaiy, 2020).

A challenge that is often associated with existential-humanistic therapy is that it can be viewed as difficult to comprehend, making it in-effective for individuals with low intellect (Wolfe, 2016). Additionally, it is argued that existential-humanistic behavioral therapy often requires to be used in combination with other treatment modalities because it focuses on the behavioral and health concerns while neglecting the primary issues the person in treatment is experiencing such as anxiety or depression (Wolfe, 2016).

A Fictional Client Best Suited for REBT

R.B is a 16-year-old high school cheerleader that enjoys school. She is a straight-A student, very physically active, and considers herself a perfectionist. R.B has a very thin stature, and can at times be considered to be underweight for her height. R. B’s mother becomes concerned and takes R. B. to be evaluated by a psychologist after her mother notices that she R.B has been skipping meals and exercising several hours per day. R.B also confides in her mother that she has been taking diet pills to lose weight as she considers herself to be fat. R.B was later diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and is willing to undergo treatment.

REBT will be an effective therapy for a client like R.B. This is because REBT helps clients examine their irrational thoughts and perceptions and the origin of those thoughts. Behavioral changes can then be targeted when the cause of the negative or irrational behavior has been identified (Farideh & Farshid, 2016). REBT can help this client manage her negative self-image and irrational thoughts of being fat. REBT, through its focus on changing perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors, will lead to enhanced self-esteem and self-acceptance, resulting in a positive client outcome (Farideh & Farshid, 2016).

A Fictional Client Best Suited for Existential-Humanistic Therapy

Consider the case of H. B., a 50-year-old male who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The client had teenage and young adult children at the time of diagnosis. During therapy, the client reveals that continuing to create memories with his family is his goal even while faced with a terminal diagnosis. Existential-humanistic therapy will be effective for this client because it will allow the client to focus on the meaning of life even when faced with the limitations posed by a terminal cancer diagnosis. This therapy modality will offer the client an opportunity to experience a genuine and spontaneous way of living outside the limits of his health limitations (Schneider & Orah, 2017).


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