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“Love’s Executioner” by Irvin Yalom

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    Compare and Contrast Existential and Psychodynamic Principles and Practices with Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy

                Before I move on to the content of the paper, I deemed necessary to research on existential Psychotherapy, Psychodynamic therapy and neuro-linguistic therapy and discuss their approaches and methods.  I would be quite difficult to compare and contrast all these without knowing their practices and approaches to psychotherapy.  Generally, all these three deal with behavioral studies that might differ in their approaches, methodologies and techniques.  Thus, before comparing and contrasting each one, I first have to discuss existential psychodynamic therapy and neuro-linguistic therapy in quite detailed analysis of each approaches, definition and techniques.

                Irvin Yalom in’ Love’s Executioner’ is nonfiction that tries to present existential approach to therapy of ill cancer patients.  According to Windy Dryden, this story Irvin Yalom’s intention for writing this book was primarily to “discover methods deepening an existential approach to therapy” (Dryden, p. 47).  This is because Yalom personally believed that many therapists employ many methods using existential insights. These insights are drawn from coherent, closely controlled and wide-ranging therapeutic approach.  Irvin Yalom in’ Love’s Executioner’ Dryden further explained that “the existential approach is a valuable, effective psychotherapeutic paradigm, as rational, as coherent, and as systematic as any other (Dryden, p. 47).

                The story “Love’s Executioner” is a story that presents a fascinating case of a seventy-year old woman who fell in love with a younger man.  Yalom in his personal counseling with this old lady had also overcome his ageism as part of his experience.  Peggy Papp in his analysis of the story concluded that old people have many tendencies of having deviant behavior because of special needs they foresee ahead of them.  These people according to Papp are more dependent to their loved ones physically and emotionally that in case of separation due to death or marital separation, they long for companion (Papp, p. 26).  This case is particularly mentioned in the study of psychoanalysis and therapeutical approaches for patients with disrupted behavior.

                Psychotherapy is a well known type of counseling which is associated to psychoanalysis popularized by Sigmund Freud and other behavioral theorists whose work focused on behavioral analysis.  Existential Psychotherapy came out in the work of four psychiatrists, they are: Karl Jaspers in Germany (1951, 1964), Ludwig Binswnger (1946, 1963), Medard Boss (1957, 1962, 1979), and Victor Frank.  Emmy Van Deurzen in her article entitled “Existential Psychotherapy” explained that existential psychotherapy can only be truly existential if it involved the cultural, social, political and ideological context of a person’s existence.  Deurzen noted that existential approach is a holistic approach examining the human condition and tries to figure out and investigate the individual’s experienced (Deurzen).

                Hans W. Cohn noted that most of the forms of psychotherapy “keep within a framework derived from psychoanalytic concept” (Cohn, p. 1).  Cohn pointed out that Sigmund Freud’s suggestion that the core of these psychoanalytic assumptions is the ‘instinctual’ wishes “which are experienced as threatening and unacceptable are repressed into an unconscious area of the psyche” (Cohn, p. 1).  Cohn identified these instinctual wishes as various forms of disturbed behavior which attempt to re-enter consciousness that when they do, they appear as dreams and as symptoms, and as various forms of disturbed behavior (Cohn, p. 1).  Cohn’s therapeutic process is an exploration of the client world design in its various dimensions – the physical, social and psychological (Cohn, p. 1).

                Psychodynamic according to Cohn is often used loosely but it supports Walrand Skinner’s definition of psychodynamic as relating to a theory of interacting mental forces, operating within the psyche (p. 1).  Cohn noted that psychodynamic is rooted in the psychoanalysis (p. 1).

                Anthony Bateman, Jonathan Pedder and Dennis Brown noted that psychodynamic is based on the provision of a setting in which a person may begin to reconcile with this disowned aspects of himself, his experience (Bateman, Pedder and Brown, p. 63).  They pointed out that the setting for this process is the relationship with the therapist, which without it, psychodynamic therapy cannot begin.  They confirmed Cohn’s findings that dynamic psychotherapy had begun with Freud and psychoanalysis (p. 96), which utilizes three different meanings and functions.  First, it is technique for investigating unconscious psychic life; second, it refers to theoretical body of knowledge built up on the basis of such observations; and third, it is used to describe an intense method of psychotherapeutic treatment.

                Sylvie Schapira refers dynamic psychotherapy to the unconscious process that takes place between people (Schapira, p. 226).

    Compare and Contrast Existential Psychotherapy and Psychodynamic Practices

    In comparing Existential Psychotherapy and Psychodynamic practice, there is little difference between these two as it only concerns with clinical intervention.  Bateman, Pedder and Brown said, differently named therapies are not distinct with each other, contrary to the popular “yet erroneous belief that they differs from one another” (Bateman, Pedder and Brown, p. 83).

                They point out that the “simplest method to determine their differences is to group psychotherapies according to their theoretical base and the frequencies of clinical intervention.  Both therapies traced their roots in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic which both deals with patient involving theoretical analysis of the patients experiences, and relationships.  Both therapies also deal with the psyche and its aim is to help patient face reality and to immerse themselves in life rather than evading their troubles and to creatively grapple with life’s problem.  Thus, we cannot contrast existential psychotherapy from psychodynamic except probably with the philosophical inclination of existential psychotherapy.  They are relative with each other in terms of their methods.  Not only existential psychotherapy and psychodynamic therapy but all other psychotherapeutic approaches such as cognitive therapy, existential cognitive, and so forth, are all relative therapies and there is little to contrast between these psychotherapies (Bateman, Pedder, and Brown, p. 83).

                Bateman, Pedder and Brown noted that there had some attempts to compare and contrast existential psychotherapy with psychodynamic practice and with other types of psychotherapy, but nothing substantial has come up yet.  Therefore, this paper can only compare these two therapies in the light of their similarities and origin.

                Psychodynamic therapy is less frequent in clinical intervention while existential psychotherapy is more frequent three to five times a week.  These differences according to Bateman, Pedder and Brown are rather blurred (p. 96).

    A Brief Discussion on Neuro-linguistic Psychotherapy (NLP)

                According to Chilley Sterman, NLP (neurolinguistic psychotherapy) is “a system model which is directed to changing behavior by identifying existing patterns and intervening through sensory modes, verbally and non-verbally in working with the conscious and unconscious process of the client” (Sterman, p. 29).  Sterman noted that the task of the therapist in the NLP is to “work with the client in identifying problem behaviors and desired outcomes or goals expanding the repertoire of available choices.

                Sterman also pointed out that NLP framework for changing behavior is based on their basic assumptions as follows:

    1.      An individual has the resources necessary to make a change.

    2.      An individual’s communication is responsible for the response received in a communication.

    3.      Individual’s experience internal and external event through sensory modes including visual, auditory, kinesthetic olfactory and gustatory.

    4.      All behavior serves a purpose behavior that is negative in terms of results is dependent of the value of the individual.

    5.      Behavior is to a great extent function of unconscious motivation.

    6.      Change is made through addressing the ecology of the individual by working with the representational sensory modes.

    Sterman emphasized that NLP assist-therapist to be more effective by identifying the client’s favored representational system as a means to enhance communication and elicit information (p. 29) by establishing rapport through matching and pacing. That is, meeting the client verbally in the sensory mode, and non- verbally using the tone of voice.

    Compare and Contrast Existential and Psychodynamic Principles and Practices with Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy

    Dr. Helmut Jelem and Mag. Peter Schutz in their article about Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy have stated clearly the similarities and difference between the two concepts both theoretically and in practice.            On the other hand, Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar found differences in terms of theory and/or presuppositions.


                Dr. Helmut Jelem and Peter Shutz pointed out some similarities between neuro- linguistic psychotherapy and the psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic theory. According to them, both the existential psychotherapy and psychodynamic and neuro linguistic psychotherapy placed the importance attached to relation. Both the NLP and the existential psychotherapy and psychodynamic could see fundamental power of un- conscious process. Both therapies’ approaches are aimed at self-recovery and for the patient to be able to face his or her problems and not to avoid it by turning to some escape goat habit.  The two therapies engaged in modern technique of dealing with patients.


                Helmet and Shutz said that NLPt is more detailed towards goals and actions.  The NLPt emphasizes on the creative sources, and to the conception of the parts’ metaphor which does not need to use or to have a symbolic logical meaning in order to solve certain behavioral problem.  This therapy unlike the psychoanalysis uses different methodology through which the client or patient has lower resistance to the process.  NLP also emphasize on establishing rapport in dealing with the patient through meeting verbally in the sensory contact during verbal and nonverbal communication.

                Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy is also applicable in case of personality or identity disorder.  According to Dr. Helmut Jelem and Mag. Peter Schutz, for cases like personality or identity disorder, NLPt provides the patient with psychotherapeutical support which will be given over a period of one year and this will be associated with support needed by the patient and his slow adaptation to the new desired behavior.  Although this therapeutic method undergone in one year, yet, it has no fixed schedules since the intention is longer interval between sessions.  This type of psychotherapy though not consistent in terms of schedule yet, every session is adapted to the patient’s situation and intervention and it provides mental and real trial action as part of its enhancement orientated conception of the Future Pace (Jalem and Schutz, par. 15)

                Jalem and Schutz further emphasize that another contrast between the two therapies is that the neurolinguistic psychotherapy uses analogue presentation and externalization of inner realities which are often found in practice (par. 16).

                In view of theoretical concept, Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar explained the differences between the two therapies in terms of presupposition.  According to him, the understanding underlying psychoanalytic theory is that “cure happens through bringing unconscious material into consciousness” (Sharar, par. 2), in which according to the author, unconscious forces are often bad or negative that results or poses danger to the integrity of a person.  On the other hand, in Neuro-linguistic psychotherapy, curing through understanding is possible but not necessary (Sharar, par. 3).  He explained that the legitimate processes in this kind of therapy require insight-based strategies and transference-interpretations and analyses which also serve as the only tools of this therapy.  Thus, he stated that the main concern of psychoanalysis is finding the cause or simply answering the question why, while the nuero-linguistic psychotherapy is finding the right method among choices or simply answering the question how.

    Some Principles and Concepts Translated into NLP Terms and Concepts

                Jo Cooper and Peter Seal in their article in the Sage Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy said that Neuro-linguistic Psychotherapy is “not in itself a therapy but can be used therapeutically and can be remarkably effective” (Cooper and Seal as cited in Feltham and Horton, p. 329), because it has some components and methodology that are proven efficient especially in dealing with patients.  Thus, it is still significant to relate the fundamental concept of existential psychoanalysis in dealing with patients associate with the neuro-linguistic psychotherapy.

                Existential model of psychoanalysis as explained by Ben L. Thomas, Sally Hardy, and Penny Cutting, focuses on the person’s experience in here and now with much less importance of the person’s past (p. 25), and as per existentialists are concerned, they believe that people despite of so many choices to choose, people tend to avoid being real which made them to offer in to other people’s demand.  In the same way, in the rationalization pertaining to psychoanalysis, most of deviant or disrupted behaviours of adults are traced in their childhood as explained in psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud.  Thus, to summarize the concept of existentialism and psychoanalysis, the authors presented a common idea that can help patients.  Psychoanalysis theory believes that “objective observation of human behaviour was a great contribution of the psychoanalyst, as was the identification of a mental structure (Thomas, Hardy and Cutting, p. 21).  On the other hand, existential therapeutic processes “focus on the encounter” (p. 25); this encounter according to the authors is the meeting of two or more persons and appreciation of the total existence of each other, which is a great help to the person concerned to accept and understand his or her experiences in the past and to live fully in the present (p. 25).

                To summarize, the concept of existential and psychoanalysis, to apply in the therapeutic concept, requires the counselling session some amount of time to be given to the patient to ‘communicate him or her self’ including his or her past; by communicating one’s thought, the patient finds some comfort and releases tension caused by irritating circumstances of the past.

                This basic and fundamental concept of existential psychodynamic and psychoanalysis has some significance in the application of Neuro-linguistic psychotherapy.  As what Cooper and Seal have stated, that NLP is not a therapy but a methodology in the counselling of patients with deviant and disrupted behaviour.  We may conclude therefore that neuro-linguistic psychotherapy is a good and effective method of counselling that could be utilized after a thorough study of a particular case has been done using existential and psychoanalysis.

                Psychotherapy is an interpersonal and relational interference exercised by skilled psychotherapist to assist patients in problems related to day to day life and existence.  This frequently contains growing individual sense of comfort and reducing skewed upsetting incidents in life.  In this case, psychotherapist make use of a variety of procedures based on observed relationship building, conversation, communication and behaviour transformation and that are intended to recover the mental wellness of a client to develop relationship.

                Existential psychotherapy, psychodynamic principles and practices and neuro-linguistic are all basically therapeutic approaches which deal with human experiences, human behavioural patterns and verbal and non verbal reactions about the different problems the patients encounter and the impact of these experiences in their lives.

                Principally, their aim is to help patients cope up with these challenges brought about by their everyday experiences which at one time they seemed unable to overcome.  These circumstances in their lives force them to act differently which is quite deviant from the normal reaction which normal people do.

                Existential psychotherapy deals with these people using psychoanalytic techniques with the aim of helping patients recover from these slumps and able to move on.  So as the psychodynamic principles and practices have the same motivation same with the neuro-linguistic psychotherapy.

                Neuro-linguistic psychotherapy on the other hand is more on technique or methodology of therapeutic approach.  While the existential psychotherapy which is derived from psychoanalytic approach deals with analysis of problem of the patients.  It helps a lot to understand better the deeper and rational existence of the problem; its strength is its process of knowing the causes of the problems.  Both therapies are helpful and highly recommended to employ in dealing with individual problems of the patients.

    Work Cited

    Bateman, A. Pedder, J., 2000. Brown, D. Introduction to Psychotherapy: An Outline of Psychodynamic Principles and Practice. Routledge

    Cohn, HansW. 1997. Existential Thought and Therapeutic Practice: An Introduction to Existential Therapy. USA: Sage Publications

    Feltham, Colin & Horton, Ian (compiler) 2006. The Sage Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy. USA: Sage Publications

    Jalem, Helmut & Schutz, Peter. Neuro-Linguistic Psychotherapy (NLPt).

    Papp, Peggy 2000. Couples on the Fault Line: New Directions for Therapist. Guilford Press

    Shahar, Asaf Rolef Ben. “Comparative Evaluation and Criticism of Neuro-Linguistic-Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.” NLP & NLP Psychotherapy,[id]=1914&cookie_lang=en&the_session_id=7d7f5675491c44e75e31936539176ffd&PHPSESSID=8fcc7083ef5faba48a9da317b5f21d8a

    Schapira, Sylvie 2000. Choosing a Counseling or Psychotherapy Training: A Practical Guide. Routledge

    Sterman, Chelly. 1990.  Neuro-Linguistic Programming in Alcoholism. Haworth Press

    Thomas, B., Hardy, S., & Cutting, P. 1997. Stuart and Sundeen’s Mental Health Nursing: Principles and Practice.  Elsevier Limited


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