“He who has a why to live for can deal with almost any how.”
(Victor Frankl citing Friedrich Nietzsche)
Across different ages and cultures, people have asked questions about the meaning of life, such as ‘What makes my life meaningful?’, ‘What is the purpose of my life?’, ‘How do I cope with my mortality?’, ‘How can I make sense of my life?’, ‘How can I lead a satisfying life?’ Such questions are often in the background of our daily lives, but certain life situations can bring them painfully to the fore, for example when we experience the loss of a relationship, career, or home, the onset of a life-threatening illness, the death of a loved one or some other life-changing, traumatic or deeply challenging event. Such a ‘crisis in meaning’ can lead to increased psychological distress and reduced functioning in day-to-day living. Meaning-centred therapies are psychological interventions that address questions about meaning in life, explore how we experience meaning in adversity, support individuals to make sense of their experiences and to find (new) meaning in order to lead a meaningful and satisfying life whatever the circumstances they find themselves in. Our systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses of 79 clinical trials have shown that meaning-centered therapy improves the quality of life, reduces the level of psychological stress and improves physical well-being with large effect sizes compared to alternative psychological interventions. Particularly in case of a chronic or life-threatening disease, individuals can benefit very much from systematically exploring questions about meaning.
Members of CREST have been leading in the development, adaptation and evaluation of meaning-centred therapies focusing on meaning in life for individuals with cancer, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease and of meaning-centred grief therapy interventions focusing on making sense of the death as well as on accessing and developing the continuing bond with the deceased loved one to rebuild a life of meaning that has been challenged by the loss. CREST members collaborate internationally and nationally with other leading researchers in the field and are significant impact on the training of counsellors and therapists world-wide, the care for cancer patients, and the development of mental health care guidelines.