Logotherapy and Existential Analysis

Logotherapy and existential analysis was developed by Viktor E. Frankl, a Viennese neurologist and psychiatrist, at the beginning of the 20th century and is known worldwide as the third Viennese school after the psychotherapy schools of S. Freud and A. Adler. This type of psychotherapy focuses on the human being’s striving for meaning, in contrast to the pure striving for pleasure or power.

In search of meaning

According to logotherapy and existential analysis, discovering and realizing meaning in one’s own life is the most intrinsic human spiritual striving and need, and thus also the most important motivation of human beings. The question of meaning occupies every individual sooner or later. Not finding an answer to this question, especially in certain life situations, can turn life upside down. In such situations, deep crises often occur, which can also be accompanied by anxiety, panic, depression and a strong feeling of being alone or abandoned. Regarding these challenges, logotherapy holds sustainable strategies ready to look at life from new, previously unnoticed perspectives, as well as to activate the “defiant power of the mind” and the “sense-organ conscience”. Also in the context of the “Tragic Triad”: suffering, guilt and death, logotherapy and existential analysis has specific methods to strengthen the human being. Because “He who has a why to live, endures almost every how”.

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What does Logotherapy mean?

The word “Logos” derives from ancient Greek and means something like “sense” or “reason”. Logotherapy is a meaning-centered form of psychotherapy. The aim of the therapy is to help people in their search for meaning and to develop concrete possibilities of meaning that are attractive and beneficial for the patient in the respective situation, so that a responsible and meaningful life becomes possible again. Therapy can offer helpful support here, but as Viktor Frankl wrote: "Sense cannot be given, it must be found." (1977, p. 28)

What is Existentialist Analysis?

Logotherapy and existential analysis are like two sides of the same coin and therefore belong together. Both terms are sometimes used synonymously. Existential analysis deals with the ideal of man and diagnosis, whereas Logotherapy deals with the psychotherapeutic basics and the meaning-centered practice. In addition to body and soul, existential analysis also assumes a spiritual dimension, which makes man specifically human. In doing so, it opposes the modern reductionism that we encounter more and more in psychology, medicine and the neurosciences; because, in contrast to this, the aim of existential analysis is to make people (again) aware of their “responsibility”, so that they can become the Creative shaper of their life again, instead of letting them stay dependent. The extension by the third, the mental, dimension enables an active and responsible lifestyle.

Who was Viktor Frankl?

Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) war ein Professor für Neurologie und Psychiatrie an der Wiener Universitätsklinik. Er ist der Gründer der dritten Wiener Richtung der Psychotherapie, der Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse. Frankl stand schon als Schüler und junger Erwachsener im Austausch mit Siegmund Freud und war Schüler von Alfred Adler, aus dessen Gesellschaft für Individualpsychologie er aber 1927 ausgeschlossen wurde, weil seine Auffassung zur Neurose der dort vorherrschenden Meinung widersprach. Aufgrund seiner jüdischen Abstammung wurde Frankl 1942 mit seiner Familie in das Konzentrationslager Theresienstadt und danach in drei weitere Lager deportiert. Bis zum Kriegsende überlebte nur er und seine Schwester diese Lager. Als Autor verfasste er 31 Bücher die in 24 Sprachen übersetzt wurden. Er erhielt 28 Ehrendoktorate und hielt Vorlesungen und Vorträge bis zu seinem 91 Lebensjahr.

Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) was a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Vienna University Hospital. He is the founder of the third Viennese branch of psychotherapy, logotherapy and existential analysis. Frankl was already in contact with Siegmund Freud as a schoolboy and young adult and was a student of Alfred Adler, but he was expelled from the Society for Individual Psychology in 1927 because his view of neurosis contradicted the prevailing opinion there. Because of his Jewish descent, Frankl was deported with his family to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942 and then to three other camps. Until the end of the war only he and his sister survived these camps. As an author he has written 31 books which have been translated into 24 languages. He received 28 honorary doctorates and gave lectures until he was 91 years old.

What does a typically session of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis look like?

A treatment session usually begins with an anamnestic interview, which achieves its effect through the alternating use of empathy, confrontation and encouragement. Paradoxical intention, de-reflection and other methods are then individually integrated into further therapeutic discussions if necessary.

When does Logotherapy make sense ?

Die Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse kommt vor allem bei verschiedenen psychischen Problemen zum Einsatz. Zu den klassischen Anwendungsgebieten zählen beispielsweise Zwangsstörungen, Psychotraumen, Depressionen, Verhaltensstörungen, Schlafprobleme sowie auch psychosomatische Beschwerden. Die Logotherapie ist für mich aber in meiner Praxis so grundlegend, dass sie in jede therapeutische Interaktion mit einfließt. Ganz besonders wende ich sie an bei Menschen, die an ihrem Leben zu verzweifeln drohen, oder in einer Lebenssituation festsitzen und nicht weiterkommen, was bei allen chronischen Erkrankungen früher oder später der Fall ist. Auch in der Paarberatung und der Behandlung von Trauerenden ist die Logotherapie ein fester Bestandteil in meiner Praxis. Bei Übergängen im Lebensverlauf kann die Unterstützung durch Logotherapie ebenfalls sehr wertvoll sein. Beispiele hierfür sind Trennungen, Jobwechsel, neue Lebensphasen, Schicksalsschläge und viele andere Situationen, die mit einer Anpassung an veränderte Umstände einhergehen. Gerade Krisen bieten oft eine gute Möglichkeit, sich mit der Frage nach dem Sinn des eigenen Lebens auseinanderzusetzen oder wie Frankl sagen würde: “Wie oft sind es erst die Ruinen, die den Blick freigeben auf den Himmel” (Lukas, 2005, S. 193).


Logotherapy and existential analysis are mainly used for various psychological issues including, for example, obsessive-compulsive disorders, psychotraumata, depression, behavioral disorders, sleep problems and psychosomatic complaints. For me, however, logotherapy is so fundamental in my practice that it flows into every therapeutic interaction. I use it especially with people who are despairing of their lives, or who are stuck in a life situation and cannot get any further, which is the case with all chronic illnesses sooner or later. Logotherapy is also an integral part of my practice in couple counseling and the treatment of grieving patients. During transitions in life, the support via logotherapy can also be very valuable. Examples of this are separations, job changes, new phases in life, strokes of fate and many other situations that go hand in hand with the Need to adapt to changed circumstances. Crises in particular often offer a good opportunity to deal with the question of the meaning of one's own life or as Frankl would say: "Often it is only the ruins that reveal a view of heaven" (Lukas, 2005, p. 193 ).

Which goals does Logotherapy aim at?

Logotherapy works from the spiritual towards the spiritual, always focusing on the task character of life and the individual's sense of responsibility. Through the logotherapeutic conversation, the patient gets new impulses and thus also new perspectives in order to deal better with his individual situation or to solve it. Through new possibilities for action and attitudes to life, one's own potential can unfold even more effectively. The aim of logotherapy is for the patient to orientate his life towards meaning and to shape it independently, despite various obstacles on his way. Frankl, V. (1977). Das Leiden am sinnlosen Leben. Psychotherapie für heute. Herder Verlag. Lukas,E. (2005). Der Seele Heimat ist der Sinn. Logotherapie in Gleichnissen von Viktor E. Frankl. Kösel-Verlag.

The treatment methods described here and on further pages originate from empirical medicine. The majority of these established, medical therapy methods have not yet been sufficiently scientifically validated according to the principles of evidence-based medicine (orthodox medicine). In particular, randomized, controlled studies or comprehensive meta-analyses do not yet exist. A success of the empirical medical therapy forms cannot be guaranteed in every treatment case.