Logotherapists: A Special Breed?

Dr Teria Shantall

In answering Alexey Averyanov, an assistant professor at the Moscow Institute of Psychoanalysis, as to whether logotherapists possess (or should have) some special personal qualities in comparison with other therapists and modalities, I wrote the following:

Dear Alexey,

An interesting study indeed! I truly believe that more is required of a logotherapist than of a therapist in any other school of psychotherapy. I say this having been trained as a clinical psychologist, studying psychoanalysis at the Tavistock in London and eventually finding my way in becoming a student of Frankl at the United States International University in California!

Here are just some of my perceptions.

A logotherapist must be:

Someone who has found meaning in his or her own life and who is actively living it with a clear sense of discernment between what is meaningful in life and what is not.

Someone who can take a clear stand for what is meaning-enhancing in life against what is destructive to finding meaning in life, who therefore has great compassion for the suffering and has the courage to call perpetrators of suffering to task.

It is someone, therefore, with a keen sense of responsibility with a strong sense of personal integrity; a secure and strong sense of selfhood in being able to be courageously and authentically and shamelessly (responsibly) themselves!

It follows that this person will live by values he or she is deeply committed to, who sees their life as a task, a call to responsible action in each and every situation of their lives, and whose logotherapy, too, will be regarded as a mission, a calling in life.

In therapy, the attitude of the logotherapist to the client is earmarked by the following:

An unconditional acceptance of the client as a person of inherent dignity and worth with an unshakeable belief in the purpose and unique meaning of the client’s life.

The logotherapist is therefore someone who is free of prejudice, is never judgmental and holds no fanatical point of view.

The logotherapist is non-prescriptive and free of advice-giving or persuasion — the accent is on the client’s freedom of choice to direct his or her own life according to what speaks to the client’s conscience as his or her peculiar responsibility in the concrete situations of their own lives.

The accent in logotherapy will therefore be on the responsibilities facing the client — that is, on the call to action made on the client’s part in actively dealing with the problem situation they find themselves in.

The logotherapist is more active in logotherapy than in other kind of therapy in calling the client out of hiding into living their own lives authentically. That is, fully and with meaning.

The working style of the logotherapist is very questioning and confrontational, strongly invitational and challenging — the client must come up with his or her own answers!

The logotherapist, therefore, does not work according to a “treatment plan” or within a strict theoretical framework but is immensely flexible, open, ready to listen and observe, discern and clarify meaning as it spontaneously emerges from the client’s own life story.

The focus will be on the encounter with the client in the here and now moment with the client. The logotherapist does not delve into the past but sees the past in the light of what must be done about it in the present. The therapy is future-directed — the move is out of the past, into the present, towards the future!

The logotherapist is, therefore, meaning- and not problem-centered.

The following distinguishes the logotherapist from other therapists:

The logotherapist puts the accent on conscientious awareness — the illumination of what addresses the conscience of the client as to what they themselves are to realize they should do or ought to be. Moral awareness, the awareness of right choice and action on the part of the client, is what logotherapists seek to illicit more than in other kinds of therapies.

The focus will therefore be on the meaning of the moment, an analysis of what a present problem situation is requiring of the client in terms of responsible action.

The past is not delved into, only how the past has led the client to where he or she is now or what the past means in terms of the present situation.

The focus is on the call, coming from the future — that is, from what is awaiting the client in terms of meaningful action.

It is the client’s life, the meaning and purpose of it, that is the focus. Logotherapy is therefore spiritual or noetic, rather than psychological. This means that whatever problem the client may be experiencing, whether physical or psychological, the focus will be on the client’s attitude, on the client’s way of dealing with the problem in a spiritually overcoming or triumphant way.

In contrast to other therapies, there is a lot of tension, the tension of direction in logotherapy with more personal and active involvement on the part of the logotherapist; a more in-depth and personal encounter with the client, with an accent on the achievement on the part of the client of full human stature.

The motto and orientation of the logotherapist in therapy is:

What man is, he is not yet, but ought to be and should become. — Frankl


Teria Shantall