Existentialism is the language my brain uses to heal and understand the world. I don’t need someone to tell me to just breathe and say affirmations. I am not saying those don’t help people, I’m sure they do. But my brain needs information first. I need to put everything into context and have a working understanding of what life is made of on the most fundamental level. Then, after I have thoroughly analyzed the deep stuff, my brain can entertain ideas like affirmations and deep breathing (but only if my brain came to those conclusions itself, thanks PDA!).
The problem with traditional Euro-Western therapy for my brain is this: the therapist is the “knower” who then pre-digests a modality and feeds the “for the client” part to the client. My brain wants to be the expert too, I want the teacher edition and the client edition together. Becoming a therapist was more therapeutic for me than being a client ever was. I feel the same about when I went to yoga teacher training vs when I was a yoga student. I need to know how things work in order for them to “work.”
I always filter all therapeutic interventions through myself in order to understand how they work and if they are useful. My brain rejects most manualized therapy because it feels too standardized, impersonal and again, positions the therapist as the “expert”. Existential therapy seems like the opposite of manualized therapies. It is a blend of philosophical and mindful awareness (aka showing up fully to life) with authentic relationship. No one is the expert, we are both just live forms on a spinning planet trying to figure stuff out. It feels REAL. As an autistic person, what’s not to love about that?
It was only after learning I was autistic and working exclusively with other autistics that I embraced existential therapy 100% as my modality. Existential therapy is on the fringes in the therapy world, I hardly ever hear of it. Yet, it is the therapy that helps my brain the most. I ponder my death and the deeper questions all day every day and this process is what actually helps me show up to my life and ultimately, what makes my life better. And as a therapist, helping other people do this is where I truly shine.