Existential Therapy


Across times and cultures, people have asked questions about the nature of human existence: for instance, ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ ‘How do I cope with my mortality?’ ‘How do I make decisions in life?’ ‘How can I lead a satisfying life?’ Such questions are often in the background of our daily lives, but in certain life situations they can push themselves forward and evoke so much anxiety and uncertainty that individuals stagnate in their development. Existential therapies are a broad family of psychological interventions that can address such questions about existence; and they assume that, by overcoming existential problems, distress and psychopathology may be decreased or prevented. Members of CREST have been leading the evaluation of existential therapies, via books, literature reviews and innovative trials. For instance, our meta-analyses of all published articles on existential therapies demonstrate the effectiveness of structured interventions that directly address questions about meaning in life in individuals with physical health problems. In line with these findings, we develop and evaluate psychological interventions that for instance focus on meaning in life for individuals with cancer or chronic pain. We investigate which existential themes are important to address in therapy with which clients, what are efficient ways to address these, and what this implies for the therapeutic-relationship. We conduct cutting-edge research on the development of psychometric instruments to measure existential themes in vulnerable populations, such as existential anxiety and uncertainty. The work of CREST members has a continued significant impact on the training of counsellors and therapists world-wide, the care for cancer patients, and the development of mental health care guidelines.


Current projects

  • Systematic literature review and meta-analyses of existential therapies.
  • Development and evaluation of existential interventions for chronic pain patients.
  • Development and evaluation of meaning-centred interventions for cancer patients.
  • Development and evaluation of psychometric instruments measuring existential anxiety.
  • A systematic literature review of life satisfaction as mediator and outcome in therapies

Selection of publications

Cooper, M. (2012). The Existential Counselling Primer: a Concise, Accessible and Comprehensive Introduction

Cooper, M. (2003). Existential therapies. London: SAGE Publications.

Cooper, M. (2009). Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy: the facts are friendly. London: SAGE.

Correia, E., Cooper, M., & Berdondini, L. . (In press). The practices of existential counsellors and psychotherapists.

Correia, E., Cooper, M., Berdondini, L. , & Correia, K. (Submitted). The worldwide distribution and characteristics of existential counsellors and psychotherapists.

Van Bruggen, V, Vos, J, Glas, G. (2014). Existentiele angst. In: Handboek voor Transdiagnostische Factoren.

Craig, M., Vos, J., Cooper, M. (2014). Existential therapies. (chapter) In: Handbook for Humanistic Psychotherapies.

Vos, J, Cooper, M, Craig, M, Correia, E. (2014). Existential therapies: A review of their scientific foundations and efficacy. International Journal of Psychotherapy.

Vos, J. Craig, M., Cooper, M. (2014). A systematic literature review and meta-analyses of existential therapies. (2014). Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology.

Van Bruggen, V., Vos, J, Bohlmeijer, E Th, Glas, G. (2014). Psychometric instruments on existential anxiety: a systematic literature review. Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

Van der Spek, N, Vos, J, Van Uden-Kraan, CF, Breitbart, W, Cuijpers, P, Knipscheer-Kuipers, K, Willemsen, V, Tollenaar, RAEM, Van Asperen CJ, Verdonck-de Leeuw, IM. (2014). Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of meaning-centered group psychotherapy in cancer survivors: protocol of a randomized controlled trial BMC Psychiatry. I=2.2, Q=1.

Van der Spek, N, Van Uden-Kraan, CF, Vos, J, Breitbart, W, Tollenaar RAEM, Van Asperen CJ, Cuijpers, P, Verdonck-de Leeuw, IM. (2014). Meaning-centered group psychotherapy in cancer survivors: a feasibility study. Psycho-oncology.

Van der Spek, N, Vos, J, Van Uden-kraan, CF, Breitbart, W, Tollenaar, RAEM, Cuijpers, P, Verdonck-de Leeuw, IM. (2014). Meaning-making in Dutch cancer survivors: a focus group study. PLOS One.

Vos, J. (2014). Meaning and existential givens in the lives of cancer patients: a philosophical perspective on psycho-oncology. Palliative and supportive care.

Vos, J., Asperen, C. J., Oosterwijk, J. C., Menko, F. H., Collee, M. J., Garcia, E. G., & Tibben, A. (2013). The counselees' self‐reported request for psychological help in genetic counseling for hereditary breast/ovarian cancer: not only psychopathology matters. PsychoOncology, 22(4), 902-910.