Freedom to and not just freedom from

Some of the phrases used to define the goals of psychotherapy include “relief of distress or disability,” “treatment of mental or emotional problems” and “to improve their ability to cope with difficulties and problems in their lives.”

As a general orientation, psychotherapy aims to free the person from problems and difficulties. Even the most positive sounding goal of “changes in behavior leading to improved social and vocational functioning, and personality growth” – is to remove the barriers so that growth can take place.

Viktor Frankl felt there is more to psychotherapy than “freedom from.” Logotherapy aims to make people free “to” take responsibility. He recognized that by saying this he was introducing the element of values and by so doing was putting psychotherapy at the risk of overstepping its boundaries. By what authority are we delving into the realm of philosophy and values? Doesn’t this rightfully only belong to the domain of religion?

But he saw no other choice. If we want to help bring a person back to his authentic self, and the meaning of being human is being responsible, we have to bring him to an awareness of responsibility.

Assuming therefore that it is essential to talk about values, how can we be sure we are not stepping over the line?

It is not the task of the logotherapist to tell the person which values he should be responsible for, to whom he should be responsible, which personal tasks are his to do or which particular meaning is his – only that he or she is responsible.

Logotherapy considers as an essential part of human living for the person to evaluate and decide. The job of the therapist is to make it possible for the client to reach decisions and become aware of his responsibility.

How do you feel awareness of your responsibility, your tasks and your values has influenced your mental health?

Batya Yaniger

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