Books and Articles on Existential and Philosophical Counselling

This section includes general philosophical counselling and existential counselling books and articles.

As an Amazon Associate, this site earns a commission from qualifying purchases made through Amazon links on this page.

Theory and Research in Counselling and Psychotherapy

Existential and Philosophical Counselling (General)

Clarke, K.M. (1989) 'Creation of Meaning: An Emotional Processing Task in Psychotherapy', Psychotherapy 26: 139-148.

This paper explores the 'cognition of emotion' (p. 140), whereby a client comes 'to know what he or she feels' (p. 140), a process closely interconnected with Gendlin's work on focusing and centring on the linguistic symbolization of emotional experience. The author outlines the clinical indicator for the event of meaning creation (1. strong emotional arousal, 2. the challenging of cherished beliefs and 3. an indication of confusion or lack of understanding), describes appropriate therapist interventions centring on 'meaning symbolization' (such as use of metaphor or analogy, synthesizing relationships between various thoughts and feelings, verbally symbolizing the challenge to cherished beliefs or the resulting emotional reaction, etc.), and explores the difference between meaning symbolization as a specific variety of empathic reflection and empathic reflection more generally. Her initial empirical results strongly support the hypothesis that meaning symbolization is more effective than general empathic reflection when employed specifically in the context of the clinical indicator for a meaning creation event. Of additional interest to me was the categorization of responses in terms of client vocal quality (CVQ), which indicates that the emotional processing associated with meaning creation correlates with focused rather than emotional vocal quality (where the former describes concentrated, inwardly directed energy and the latter describes vocal quality containing an overflow of energy). The author observes that "This will be of interest to clinicians who believe that high emotional arousal is always of benefit in therapy" (p. 147). Touche.

van Deurzen, E. (2000) 'Existential Counselling and Therapy', in Feltham and Horton (2000), pp. 331-336.

This short introduction to existential counselling is much less detailed than the longer van Deurzen (2002b) but is still worth reading just as a brief taster.

van Deurzen, E. (2002a) Existential Counselling & Psychotherapy in Practice, 2nd Edition. London: Sage. [Amazon UK-hardcover | Amazon UK-paperback | Amazon US-hardcover | Amazon US-paperback]

This is one book I had planned not to like and which I thought I would skim only briefly before setting it aside. After all, van Deurzen comments favourably on certain Continental philosophers which I had thought either impenetrable, obtuse or content-free both while an undergraduate in philosophy and later while completing a PhD in the same field. Much to my amazement, however, van Deurzen's book is outstanding, and I eagerly read every page. She has written an exceptionally accessible introduction to the area without a Heideggerian linguistic contortion in sight, and the leading lights of deconstructionism such as Derrida are, mercifully, altogether absent. For those with an interest in the practical side of existential approaches to counselling and psychotherapy -- emphasizing the challenges of living in the world rather than focusing on personal psychopathology -- I can recommend none better. For a short treatment, see van Deurzen (2002b). There is also a full review of Existential Counselling & Psychotherapy in Practice at

van Deurzen, E. (2002b) 'Existential Therapy', in Dryden (2002a), pp. 179-208.

This relatively brief and highly accessible introduction to the existential approach includes thumbnail sketches of a few of the leading philosophical influences, a discussion of its historical development, and concise summaries of both the underlying theory and practice. A lengthy case study illustrates the approach in action. Like her book-length treatment (van Deurzen 2002a), this article is exceptionally readable and highly recommended.

van Deurzen-Smith, E. (1997) Everyday Mysteries: Existential Dimensions of Psychotherapy. London: Routledge. [Amazon UK-hardcover | Amazon UK-paperback | Amazon US-hardcover | Amazon US-paperback]

While other work by van Deurzen (van Deurzen-Smith at the time this book was published) offers easier entry into the thought of existential counselling, this book stands in as something like the big, slightly daunting, reference volume of the field. Covering many different existential philosophers and many different practitioners, this is definitely the place to start for in-depth coverage of the field.


Bookmark and Share:

This page was last reviewed by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Thursday, 14 October 2021.