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Existential Therapy for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Existential therapy is a powerful approach to addressing the underlying issues that often contribute to addiction and mental health disorders. Existential therapy helps individuals confront life’s challenges and find a sense of direction and authenticity in their recovery journey by focusing on the search for meaning, purpose, and values.

Finding meaning in life can be an important part of the treatment process for those who are struggling with addiction, as it can help to give them a sense of purpose and direction.

"Psychological problems (including substance abuse disorders) are viewed as the result of inhibited ability to make authentic, meaningful, and self-directed choices about how to live. Consequently, [existential] interventions are aimed at increasing client self-awareness and self-understanding."

Existential Therapy at Burning Tree Ranch

Burning Tree Ranch is a specialty program dedicated to the treatment of chronic addiction and mental health. Our program is long-term, progress-based, and highly intensive.

Existential therapy is just one of several addiction treatment therapies to help our clients seek out and define meaning in their lives.

This increased sense of self-efficacy can then motivate them to make positive changes in their lives, including accepting an individualized treatment plan for their substance abuse problems.

Burning Tree Ranch Logo in White

What is Existential Therapy?

Existential therapy is a philosophical approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes finding meaning and purpose in life.

Existential therapy explores several key themes that are central to the human experience. These include freedom and responsibility, the search for meaning, the awareness of death and finitude, and the experience of isolation and alienation.

By confronting these themes head-on, individuals can develop a greater self-awareness, authenticity, and personal growth.

Grain Silos at Burning Tree Ranch
By confronting existential themes head-on, individuals can develop a greater self-awareness, authenticity, and personal growth.

How is Existential Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?

The search for meaning, purpose, and values is a principal tenet of existential psychology. The principles of spiritual emptiness, alienation, and self-estrangement lie behind many of the most common underlying problems people with substance abuse face.

  • Spiritual emptiness manifests as meaninglessness.
  • Alienation occurs when someone doesn’t like themselves or their actions.
  • Self-estrangement results from a lack of connection.

These experiences create intolerable pain and a sense of hopelessness in addicts, which can drive them to seek relief through substance abuse. An existential approach can help individuals clarify their values and connect with their authentic selves, leading to greater self-worth and empowerment.

Clients confront issues such as their death, the isolation that everyone experiences, and the meaning of life. While examining these topics might be tough, it is through self-reflection that clients begin to find meaning.

Peter Piraino

“We use existential therapy to help our clients seek out and define meaning in their life.”

Peter Piraino, LMSW, LCDC, CEO

Why Self-Reflection is Necessary for Recovery

Addiction is a disease that is daunting to treat by oneself. We’ve never seen it done.

When someone is addicted to drugs or has alcoholic behavior, they do not live by a code of values that are beneficial to those around them. Most alcoholics and drug addicts are not honest with their loved ones about their addiction. The way they live is harmful to those around them and to themselves. They are rarely honest about where their addiction has taken them and how they feel about what they have done to themselves and others.

Addicts and alcoholics also tend to assign very little meaning to their lives. And the meaning they do have, be it trying to stay sober for their child or to stay employed, has very little power over their ability to get and stay sober.

Existential therapy aims to help clients see how and where their choices lead them astray. They begin to see how and where their choices take them away from living according to their values and desires.

Burning Tree Ranch offers its clients an accountable and structured environment where they can explore their behavior honestly and determine what is and isn’t working.

Combining Existential Therapy with Other Therapies

Although the treatment team uses many types of therapy to help a client wake up from the addictive fog, much of the Ranch’s therapeutic approach is existential in nature.

Existential therapy is often combined with other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), to address each client’s unique needs. By integrating existential therapy with other therapies, we create a powerful synergy that enhances the overall effectiveness of treatment.

Taking the Next Step

Incorporating Existential Therapy in Long-Term Treatment

Through our long-term treatment program’s unique combination of existential therapy and addiction medicine, our clients can develop a greater sense of self-efficacy, which motivates them to make positive changes in their lives.

We understand the complex, multi-faceted issues many of our families face when it comes to addiction. The circumstances of long-term residential treatment allow us to create a treatment program unlike anything else in the world.

Our promise to families is to deliver life-changing clinical interventions to those who have been unable to find freedom from the unending cycle of relapse.