Logotherapy is a creation of the famous neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz and authored Man’s Search for Meaning.
Logotherapy is significant among methods in psychiatry for its central focus on Meaning in Life.
We choose to write about logotherapy here, both informatively and as an homage, because this website is all about why meaning in life is so important. Throughout the site, we offer models, tools, and all manner of resources to help you live well.
A New Approach
Frankl is seen as belonging to the first wave of Positive Psychologists.
Rather than taking a diagnostic approach focused on mental disorders, illness, and isolating problems, his work was interested in finding people’s motivational forces and keys to living well, then encouraging them to find, create, and act according to them.
In Vienna, a colleague of Frankl described psychoanalysis as “In psychoanalysis, the patient lies down on a couch and tells you things that are, on occasion, hard to say.” After that, he asked Frankl to describe logotherapy, to which he replied, “Well, in logotherapy the patient sits up straight and has to listen to things that are, on occasion, hard to hear.”
Logotherapy is less about psychoanalysis than it is about existential analysis.
Logotherapy is founded on the idea that “finding” meaning in life is the most powerful force in human lives.
The Principles of Logotherapy
Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
As Frankl notes in his book, having purpose helped him survive the dreadful conditions of a Nazi concentration camp.
And as we note throughout this site, meaning in life shows remarkable effects on health, longevity, and life satisfaction.
Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
We tend to talk about meaning as something that is “found” or “discovered”. While Discovery / Exploration plays a crucial role in meaning, it could also be said that it is something that we create and/or choose. I helpful way of thinking about meaning, semantically, is that it is crafted, re-crafted, and re-crafted until you die. We present meaning as coming from 4 Cornerstones, empowered by enablers of joy such as gratitude and mindfulness.
We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.
Freedom, especially freedom in dealing with suffering, is an important topic on this site as well. Taking radical responsibility and flexing our perspective, together with morality and social comparison, are a few of the skills that promote more freedom in the human experience.
Highlighting Some Differences
This table shows the approaches of different forms of therapy, especially to highlight Logotherapy’s unique approach.
Note that this does not intend to summarize the vast field of psychotherapy. There are many methods out there. Here is a, albeit also non-exhaustive, list. The below table is also a lay-interpretation of each therapy’s goals. It is not meant to be wholly prescriptive.
|Narrative Therapy||Psychoanalysis||Cognitive Behavioral Therapy||Morita Therapy||Logotherapy|
|Re-contextualizes neuroses.||Analyzes neuroses.||Analyzes neuroses.||Focuses on work as therapy.||Does not delve into the patient’s neuroses.|
|Focuses on the past.||Focuses on the past.||Focuses on the past and future.||Focuses on the present.||Focuses on the future.|
|Drive is toward healthy detachment and free identity.||Drive is toward assessment.||Drive is toward assessment and re-training behavior.||Drive is toward simplicity, and having an Ikigai.||Drive is toward meaning and purpose.|
|Centers on psychology.||Centers on psychology.||Centers on psychology and behavior.||Includes natural and ecological consideration.||Includes a ‘spiritual’ dimension.|
|Seeks to redefine experiences as stories, broadening perspective.||Seeks to reconcile conflicts and satisfy impulses.||Seeks to assess and treat painful thoughts and behaviors.||Seeks to train mindfulness and presence, and achieve purpose in the present moment.||Seeks to achieve meaning in the patient’s life aligned with their values.|
A well-organized review of Frankl, Logotherapy, and the central ideas from his book. ~7 min
Finding meaning in difficult times: an interview with Viktor Frankl. ~29min
Favorite ideas from Man’s Search for Meaning. ~8.5min
Groups and Organizations
- Viktor Frankl Institute
- Frankl Institute of Logotherapy, NYC
- List of Global Psychology Organizations – Another List – And Another
- 10 Largest Psychological Associations in the World
- National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists
- Narrative Therapy Centre
- International Committee for Morita Therapy
Other Helpful Links, Articles, etc.
- Logotherapy Wikipedia
- The Doctor and the Soul and The Will to Meaning– Both books of Frankl’s (1986) in which he explains the need for and applications of logotherapy.
- Viktor Frankl – An academic overview of Frankl; his life and his theories. This contains helpful mentions of scientific studies done on Frankl’s methods.
- An Overview of Frankl’s Logotherapy – A more-detailed and easy-to-read overview.
- Another Overview – From PositivePsychology.com
- Burnout Syndrome and Logotherapy – A surprisingly informative case study of applying logotherapy to burnout.