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Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

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Psychotherapy Research

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doi: 10.1080/10503307.2015.1110636; PubMed Central, PMID: 26572086



Our goal was to explore the meaning experienced psychotherapists derive from providing psychotherapy, their beliefs about the role of meaning in life (MIL) in psychotherapy, how they worked with MIL with a client who explicitly presented concerns about MIL, and how they worked with a different client for whom MIL was a secondary and more implicit concern.


Thirteen experienced psychotherapists were interviewed and data were analyzed using consensual qualitative research.


Therapists derived self-oriented meaning (e.g., feeling gratified, fulfilled, connected) and other-oriented meaning (helping others, making the world a better place) from providing psychotherapy. They believed that MIL is fundamental and underlies all human concerns, including those brought to therapy. In contrast to the clients who had implicit MIL concerns, clients who explicitly presented MIL concerns were reported to have more interpersonal problems and physical problems, but about the same amount of psychological distress and loss/grief. Therapists used insight-oriented interventions, support, action-oriented interventions, and exploratory interventions to work with MIL with both types of clients, but used more exploratory interventions with implicit than explicit MIL clients.


MIL is a salient topic for experienced, existentially oriented psychotherapists; they work with MIL extensively with some clients in psychotherapy. We recommend that therapists receive training to work with MIL in therapy, and that they pay attention to MIL concerns when they conduct psychotherapy. We also recommend additional research on MIL in psychotherapy.


Accepted version. Psychotherapy Research, Vol. 27, No. 4 (July 2017): 381–396. DOI. © 2017 Routledge Taylor & Francis. Used with permission.

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