Personal Qualities of an Existential Psychotherapist: International Experience



This article views the psychotherapist’s personality as an essential efficiency defining a factor of the therapy process. The psychologist’s personal qualities manifest themselves through the choice of profession and continue to play a significant part throughout his or her career. Each psychotherapy approach has specific requirements to the personal qualities of the therapist. This article aims at studying the international experience of research into the specific personal qualities the existential therapists should possess in order to perform their work professionally. The existential therapy’s characteristic property is that the therapist uses phenomenological methods to work in the space of the client’s mindset and assumptions. An existential psychotherapist is not merely a professional role; most notably it is a way of existence, which implies specific worldview and personal qualities. Besides, the psychotherapist is to some extent a role model for the person in need of help. What makes this article particularly interesting is that the author not only considers the classical works (by R. May, J. Bugental, I. Yalom), but also the experience of contemporary leading foreign practicing existential psychotherapists, such as K. Schneider, E. van Deurzen, E. Spinelli, M. Cooper, R. Kočiūnas, A. Längle, and E. Lukas. Although these authors belong to different schools and practice different approaches, an attempt is made by means of theoretical analysis and expert commentary analysis to distinguish most common personal qualities of an existential therapist, such as life experience and maturity, authenticity, openness, engagement and passion for life, curiosity and aspiration for understanding others, oneself, and the world, ability for self-transcendence, belief in implicit meaning of human existence, high level of self-understanding and ability for self-reflection, flexibility, realism and commitment to truth, ability to build trust-based relations with the client, interest in philosophy, ethics, and religion.

General Information

Keywords: the role of the psychotherapist’s personality in the therapy process, existential therapy and psychology, personal qualities of an existential psychotherapist

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology of Psychology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Aver’yanov A.I. Personal Qualities of an Existential Psychotherapist: International Experience. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2018. Vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 139–151. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Alexey I. Aver’yanov, PhD in Education, Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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