COUN5931 Existential Therapy

Graduate Diploma Level Unit

COUN5931 Existential Therapy

Level: Higher

Credit points: 3

Prerequisites: Counselling Skills 2 and Counselling Methods 1

Unit description

This unit is a comprehensive introduction to the theoretical and practical implications of working as a Counsellor from the perspective of the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology. Through this highly practical course, students gain a thorough understanding of the theory and the philosophy that underpins counselling and how this relates to personal beliefs about oneself, others and the world. Students practice the skill of counselling extensively through role-play and debriefing activities and are able to situate existentialism within the overall picture of psychotherapy and counselling. Students also explore the notion of time in relation to time-limited and open-ended existential counselling and the importance of the counselling relationship per se. The unit is a unique combination of didactic teaching, self-understanding and experiential learning.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit students should be able to: 

  • discuss the philosophical basis of existential therapy and how this relates to personal beliefs about oneself, others and the world
  • apply existential theory and concepts in working with a range of clients and issues
  • assess the contribution of existential therapy to psychotherapy
  • analyse ethical and professional practices related to existential therapy
  • demonstrate self-awareness in relation to existential concepts and therapy skills
  • assess the significance of time in relation to existential therapy
  • discuss and evaluate the importance of the therapeutic relationship 

Unit content

  • The Development of Existential Therapy
  • Existential Therapy and Phenomenology
  • Freedom, Choice and Authentic Living
  • Anxiety and Other Emotions
  • Finding Meaning and Working with Meaninglessness
  • Isolation, Aloneness and Being with Others
  • The Four Dimensions of Experience
  • Beliefs and Behaviour Patterns
  • The Therapeutic Relationship
  • Existential Dream Work
  • Time and Time-Limited Existential Therapy
  • Working Existentially

Unit workload

The workload for this unit is 9.75 hours per week.

Assignment summary

Regular Term



Word count


Reflective Essay




Case Study




Summer School (2014)



Word count


Completion of five Section Activities:

Activity 2.5

Activity 3.1

Activity 3.5

Activity 4.4

Activity 6.2


300 words each

Total: 1,500 words

End of on campus week

Case Study



10 Days after Assignment 1

Graduate attributes

The following graduate attributes will be developed in this unit:

  • Creative self-expression
  • Reasoned criticism
  • Multiple research methodologies
  • Complex data acquisition techniques and analysis
  • Written expression and reasoned argument from empirical data
  • Evaluating possible outcomes of alternative courses of action

Recommended text

van Deurzen, E., & Adams, M. (2011). Skills in existential counselling and psychotherapy. London, Sage.

Relevant journals

American Journal of Psychotherapy
Counselling and Values
Counselling Psychology Quarterly
Existential Analysis
Journal of Analytical Psychology
Journal of Humanistic Psychology
Journal of Individual Psychology
Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
Therapy Today

Academic misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. Please refer to for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it again at the beginning of the semester.