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What Is Existential Therapy?

Dr. Alan Weiner MD

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Alan Weiner, MD

March 19, 2019

Drug addiction doesn’t just affect people physically: it also seriously impacts them emotionally, to the point where many develop a severe existential crisis. This serious condition can cause depression, anxiety, increased addiction dependency, and even suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, existential crises and drug addiction can be addressed with a process called existential therapy.

What Is An Existential Crisis?

An existential crisis occurs when a person lacks understanding about their purpose in life or about the nature of reality. Often, this condition is triggered by a trauma, such as the death of a loved one, that causes an increased focus on death and its finality. A person suffering from an existential crisis often feels directionless, meaningless, and as if they have no structure or base.

Although these types of crises often strike people with gifted or insightful minds, they are by no means limited to them. Anyone who is struggling to get a grasp on their life, what it means, and their essential purpose can be said to be suffering from an existential crisis.

Unfortunately, many people turn to drugs to help alleviate the confusion and mental anguish of an existential crisis. Even worse, drug addiction can actually trigger or exasperate an existential crisis by tearing down a person’s life and leaving them rudderless in the sea of life.

What Is Existential Therapy?

Existential therapy addresses your mental health concerns and your drug addiction by examining your life and your life choices, centering on several different aspects, including:

  • Personal values
  • Deepest desires and dreams
  • Mortality/death
  • Personal isolation
  • The meaning (or meaninglessness) of life
  • Personal responsibility for your life
  • Freedom of choice in sculpting the direction of your life

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Existential therapy focuses on multiple very serious aspects of your life and can be an emotionally difficult and wildly probing treatment method. However, tackling these big questions can help you get a grip on your life, find out what truly matters to you, and help steer you away from an existential crisis and back to a deeper understanding of reality.

How Does The Process Work?

The key goal of existential therapy is to create “personal authenticity” in your life. Essentially, it helps you realize when you are deceiving yourself, why you are deceiving yourself, and why your life keeps falling into a rigid series of unfortunate actions.

You and a therapist will discuss these difficult subjects and identify actions and beliefs which block your true nature and lead to the compulsive actions that have derailed your life. Raising your awareness of your behavior and guiding you away from them is essential to existential therapy.

However, it isn’t enough to simply correct or change these behaviors: you need to start living a life that is more authentically in tune with your beliefs and desires. For example, if your behaviors don’t match your personal desires, you’ll be steered towards finding a way to make them happen.

How Does This Help With Drug Addiction?

People are creatures of habit and often allow for their minds and behaviors to be dictated by whatever feels comfortable and normal, no matter how harmful the result of said behaviors. This is true even of drug addiction: people addicted to drugs often feel more comfortable and “normal” when high.

They are suffering from an existential crisis: they no longer understand reality and cling to any type of comfort they can find. Existential therapy will take the comforting behavioral blanket of addiction, tear it from your hands, and give you the freedom you need to regain control of your life.

Essentially, you’ll understand why your drug addiction is harmful and will be able to identify ways in which to break the cycle. It won’t “cure” you of your addiction, but can help you recover from the psychological concerns and the existential crisis that undoubtedly fed its longevity.

Contact Us For Help & Information

Clearly, existential therapy is a complex process, one that can’t be easily discussed in the context of a single article. If you need more information about this potentially life-saving therapy, please get a hold of us today. Our rehabilitation experts can give you a more in depth explanation and can even help connect you with an existential therapist near you. Contact us today at

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