Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Existential Therapists

Existential Therapist EmploymentExistential therapy is a practical, positive and flexible form of psychotherapy that explores and confronts life’s difficult and sometimes tragic concerns, such as death, fate, freedom, responsibility, loneliness, loss, meaninglessness, suffering, and so on.  The existential perspective is concerned with alleviating (without naively denying) symptoms caused by these concerns, such as anxiety, shame, avoidance, addiction, rage and anger, resentment, and depression, while promoting love, will-power, presence, spiritually, individuality, authenticity, caring, and commitment. Existential therapy is all about exploring the value of living authentically.

Therapists who practice existential psychotherapy encourage their clients to explore the choices the lay before them, rather than dwelling on past issues or concerns. Together, they work to understand the implications of past choices, what led to these choices, and how to make better choices in the future through self-awareness.

Mental health issues, such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, rape, sexual abuse, and other life-altering experiences can be successfully treated with existential therapy.

Learn more about how to become an existential therapist.

Important Knowledge, Skills and Abilities

Existential psychotherapy is sometimes used in conjunction with other treatments in order to make the most of its effectiveness and to promote recovery in clients.  This form a therapy usually appeals to students who are interested in a more holistic or non-traditional approach to therapy.

Important Knowledge for an Existential Therapist

  • Psychology – specific knowledge of:
    • Abnormal Psychology–knowledge of human behaviors, unusual patterns of behavior, emotion, and thought
    • Developmental Psychology–how and why humans develop over the course of their lives
    • Experimental Psychology–knowledge of the basic psychological processes, such as memory, learning and cognition.
  • Theories of Personality – Knowledge of psychoanalytic, trait, humanistic and social-cognitive theories in regard to the structure and development of personality
  • Statistics – Knowledge of statistical methods to research, organize, describe, interpret, and analyze data
  • Research Methods – Knowledge of descriptive and correlational research methods through natural and laboratory observations.
  • Counseling Methods – Knowledge of various principles and procedures for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. 
  • Philosophy – Basic understanding of philosophy; the study of knowledge, reality, and human existence. 
  • Holistic Approaches to Therapy – Knowledge of psychosynthesis that focuses on the relationship between mind, body and spirit.

Skills & Abilities for an Existential Therapist

  • Empathy and neutrality – The ability to listen without forming judgments in order to honor the concept of complete individualism and character of the client, and alleviate anxiety over loneliness and isolation.
  • Facilitate rather than lead discussions – The ability to ask questions so that the client can describe reasons for behavior without feeling threatened or embarrassed in order to reach his or her own understanding and resolution.
  • Excellent Communication – The ability to communicate so that client’s can easily understand and comprehend.
  • Problem-Solving Skills –The ability to understand and solve complex, and sometimes very intimate problems with clarity, in order to build client trust.
  • Understanding of Psychotherapy methods – Knowledge and skill in “talk therapy” in order to help clients understand and deal with stress and unhealthy behaviors.
  • Trustworthiness – An existential therapist must continually work to align their behavior with their values, beliefs and personal philosophies.

Job Outlook and Employment Projections for an Existential Therapist

Overall employment is somewhat difficult to determine, as existential therapy is outside the parameters of conventional therapy.  However, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), the projected growth in employment for all therapists, based on data from May 2015, is 4.9-percent, from 2012 – 2022.

Some existential therapists will work as mental health counselors or marriage and family therapists.  They may be employed as a school or career counselor, social worker or substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselor.  They work with people across all ages, cultures and walks of life.

Depending on where an existential therapist finds employment will determine the level of pay and job opportunities.  Existential therapists are employed in wide range of sectors, including:

  • Mental health clinics
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Social welfare offices
  • Substance abuse facilities
  • Veterans hospitals
  • Private practice
  • Women’s shelters
  • Domestic violence agencies
  • Research facilities
  • Teaching and consultation
  • Senior centers and assisted living facilities

Each of these areas provides the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills of existential therapy across all age groups.  In areas such as senior centers and assistive living facilities, existential therapists can expect less competition and increased job growth as the population continues to age.  Veteran’s hospitals, domestic violence agencies/shelters, and social welfare offices are also expected to see increased job opportunities over the next decade.

School and career counselors/therapists will see eight-percent job growth, which is as fast as average for all jobs.   On the other hand, substance abuse and behavioral disorder therapists/counselors will see projected job growth of 22-percent; much faster than average for all jobs.

Employment in the social service sectors is projected to grow by 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, with is also faster than average for all occupations, and the median yearly wage was $42,000 in May 2015, which is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.

The average salary for an existential therapist is around $50,000 per year.  Factors, such as experience, degree level, geographic location, and employer all effect a therapist’s annual compensation.  The BLS lists the top 10-percent of all therapists making just over $93,000 per year, and the lowest 10-percent making just above $32,000.

How To Increase Your Existential Therapy Job Prospects

It is possible to obtain employment as an existential therapist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or a closely related field, like psychotherapy.  However, in order to increase your job prospects and increase your salary, as well as if your intent is to work with patients, you must earn at least a master’s degree.  Your degree can be in general psychology, philosophy, or you can specialize in a specific area, such as substance abuse counseling.  In order to teach at the college or university level or complete research, you must earn a PhD.

Licensing is required if you plan to pursue a career as a licensed psychologist or work face-to-face as a counselor.  Licensing varies from state to state, but it is typical that individuals must earn a graduate degree and complete a set number of hours of supervised fieldwork and internships.

Learning and reading as much as possible about existential therapy is wise to gain a leg up in this field as many philosophers and psychotherapists are embracing more holistic methods to therapy and treatment. Research suggests that holistic techniques used to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression are being utilized by patients and clients more than ever; replacing more common methods and replacing pharmaceutical remedies.