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Practising Existential Therapy

Practising Existential Therapy
The Relational World

Second Edition

December 2014 | 288 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Drawn from the author’s experience as an internationally-recognised theorist, lecturer and practitioner, this practical book elucidates the notoriously difficult and distinctly different therapeutic approach, existential therapy. Balancing theory and practice, the book provides trainees with an accessible introduction to the author’s own three phase structural model for existential therapy, one which has become widely established and used in training and practice.

Substantially revised and updated throughout, Part One examines the philosophical underpinnings, essential theory and distinctive features of existential therapy while Part Two goes on to present the author's structural model for practice. Both parts are now prefaced by useful schematic overviews which introduce the content and pinpoint key themes in each chapter, helping readers to navigate the text with ease. Practical exercises encourage further engagement with the text and the themes, issues and practices under consideration.

Seen by existential therapists across the world as one of the most influential books on the topic, this new edition is an essential read for all those training, practising or interested in existential therapy.

Introduction To The Second Edition
Existential Therapy: Three Key Principles
Existence Themes And Concerns
Worlding And The Worldview
Existential Phenomenological Critiques of Therapy
Existential Therapy: An Overview
A Structural Model For Practising Existential Therapy: An Introduction
Phase One: Co-Creating The Therapy-World
Phase Two: Co-Habiting The Therapy-World
Phase Three: Closing Down The Therapy-World
Addenda: Existential Therapy With Couples; Existential Therapy With Groups; Time-Limited Existential therapy; Existential Supervision

In a survey of over 1,000 existential therapists worldwide, Practising Existential Psychotherapy was identified as the most influential contemporary text on existential therapeutic practice. In this second edition, Spinelli has deepened and extended his analysis, providing a comprehensive, detailed, and eminently practical guide to existential therapeutic work. This book is now the core text for training and practice in existential counselling and psychotherapy. 

Mick Cooper
Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton and Author of Existential Therapies

Ernesto Spinelli's book provides a clear and coherent proposal about what constitutes existential psychotherapy and how it might be applied. Both experienced existential therapists and those in training will find it to be extremely helpful in clarifying the existential-phenomenological approach without having to renounce their personal ways of working. Thanks to its clear and accessible language, this text is also recommended to clients and therapists from other orientations who are interested in developing their understanding of existential therapy. Reading it was not only thrilling and clarifying for me; it also motivated me to continue to develop my own understanding of existential practice.

Dr Yaqui Andrés Martínez
Founder and Director of the Círculo de Estudios en Psicoterapia Existencial, Mexico

In this second edition of Practicing Existential Therapy, Spinelli offers us not a revision, but a significantly updated and re-written manuscript. In it Spinelli achieves what many existential therapists had thought impossible - A manual that does not manualize. In these pages the reader is presented with a rigorous and practical alternative to the superficial ‘toolkits’ littering the field of psychotherapy.

This book is about much more than how to practice existential therapy; it’s about how to be an existentialist. The text is grounded in concrete examples from therapy and stimulating exercises that invite the reader to experience the lived impact of this approach, preventing it from being reduced to arid conceptualization.

Greg Madison, PhD
Psychologist and Psychotherapist, author of The End of Belonging (2010)

This most recent edition of Ernesto Spinelli’s Practising Existential Therapy solidifies him as the inspiring godfather to those of us who practice in existential phenomenological ways.  His writing discloses his gifted way of addressing seemingly insurmountable abstractions in clear and practical ways without losing an ounce of its transformative power.  This is the definitive text to assign in any class exploring existential therapy.  Each chapter gracefully weaves theory, concrete situations, and suggestions for experiential engagement with central ideas, thus providing us with a quilted heirloom for years to come.  Although focused on therapeutic process, Spinelli’s beautiful writing style makes the text’s wisdom accessible to anyone walking with those who entrust their care to us as we all continue to face both critical and everyday existential events in our daily lives.   

Dr Todd DuBose
Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology, Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Ernesto Spinelli’s new textbook of existential therapy marks a further step in the clarification of just what it is that makes those of us who start out from a phenomenological perspective in attempting to understand what is therapeutic in therapeutic encounters so utterly different from those who represent one of the several hundred other named modalities of psychotherapy. The author has abandoned the term 'psychotherapy' in naming what he does. The change of title from the author’s 2007 text, of which this is the second edition, signals a fundamental clarification. This is really a very different book to its predecessor. In it and in the author’s other work, Spinelli continues to be the best guide for young men and women who, like those of us who have been at it for decades, ponder the essence of the therapeutic stance even while daring to take it with fellow human beings who reach out to us.

Dr Miles Groth
Professor of Psychology, Wagner College, USA

Spinelli adds to the existential tradition a rich conceptual dimension, coupled with clear and compelling therapeutic practices, and the wisdom of experience. This is a truly impressive and valuable work.

Kenneth J. Gergen
Author of Relational Being

I have been waiting for a book like this and here it is! It is not exaggerating to esteem this book a classic of existential therapy. It is clinically based, philosophically grounded, conceptually definitional, methodologically structural, theoretically innovative and culturally reflective.

Dr Xuefu Wang
Founder and Leading Psychotherapist, Zhi Mian Institute for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Nanjing, China

Ernesto Spinelli's book, Practising Existential Psychotherapy: The Relational World, is a classic in the field. This long-awaited revised edition, entitled Practising Existential Therapy (rather than psycho-therapy), clarifies the differences between existential and other approaches. It also provides schematic overviews that aid the reader in navigating the conceptual framework of the book. Spinelli’s unique voice, inviting dialogue with his readers, emerges even more clearly in the new book. For me this has always been the most compelling aspect of his writing: I find myself deeply involved in conversation with him in my head about the various topics he introduces. His writing is direct and personal as well as knowledgeable and intellectually challenging. Case examples beautifully illustrate his points. His willingness to discuss exactly how he practises existential therapy allows readers to readily understand how theory can be converted into practice. Unlike many writers on existential therapy, Spinelli is not content to write only about the various existential "themes" - freedom, meaning, death, aloneness, etc. These, as he rightly points out, are actually common themes and life issues for any therapy. What is different about existential therapy is the way they are approached. Spinelli introduces three organising principles derived from existential phenomenology: relatedness, uncertainty, and existential anxiety. The radical nature of existential therapy, the thing that distinguishes it from other approaches, arises from working according to these principles and their implications. Spinelli's three-phase "Structural Model,” delineating specific ways to work at the beginning, middle, and end of therapy, is one practical way of implementing these principles. It is an excellent approach that has had great influence in the world of existential therapy, especially in Britain. There are others, as he acknowledges, and his openness to dialogue on these matters remains a major strength of the book. I wish that everyone, not just existential therapists, would read this book. It clarifies the questions all therapists should be asking about what it means to do therapy and how we might approach our clients with a combination of humility and openness to the emergence of new possibilities in the client's uniquely personal experiential world. Spinelli's book is a breath of fresh air in a contemporary therapy world where efficiency and technique are often elevated over wisdom.

Betty Cannon, Ph.D
Author of Sartre and Psychoanalysis, Director of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, & Founder of Applied Existential Psychotherapy (AEP)

This is a serious and responsible text, which would be a very useful addition to any course or scheme of study... It is a real and important addition to the existential literature. 

John Rowan
ACPNL Magazine

The many practical exercises make it an ideal handbook, and brief references to work from other notable figures past and present, alongside Spinelli's own explanation of his understanding and practice, make it ideal for reference. It may also be useful for supervisors and practitioners of any approach as it contains prompts for consideration of many elements of practice, such as stages of therapy; considerations of self, other and world concepts; and endings, among others. It also includes addenda on existential therapeutic work with couples, groups and in time-limited set-ups. 

Katharine Cossham, BACP Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Private Practice