Anyone who has gone for therapy knows that the therapist asks the client questions. Logotherapy is a bit different. It requires a special kind of listening, which is to discern meaning. Before we even begin to ask the client questions, as logotherapists we need to silently articulate and answer the questions with which we are addressed.
The logotherapist is addressed by meaning.
We are addressed and questioned about…
• Our presence: Am I fully here and fully listening? Do I appreciate your uniqueness and inherent dignity and worth? Do I genuinely care? Am I here with my entire being? Why were you in particular sent to me?
• Our personal growth: How is this therapeutic encounter inviting me to grow? What particular character trait or issue does it bring to my attention?
• The requirement to get to know the person sitting across from us: What strengths do I see in you (ex. defiant spirit, humor, courage, gratitude)? What are your resources, unique potentials, lessons learned, achievements, unique life situation (unique call)? How are you experiencing life? What is it like to be you? What are your values? What motivates you? What makes your heart sing? What do you feel committed to? What would be for you a “What for?” to live for?
• Keywords: What hints to meaning am I hearing from you? Let us reflect on what you are saying in regard to its ability to hold value, its feasibility and the ability to be accountable. How can I evoke, affirm, and spell out the meaning you are hinting at?
• The meaning crisis: What is your meaning crisis, your unheard cry for meaning? How did you hint to it in the first thing you said in therapy? When and under what circumstances did you lose touch with that meaning?
• Values embedded in reality: How is this life situation addressing/calling/challenging/inviting you to make something valuable out of it? What is the task/opportunity/destined space to fill/mission that perhaps only you can do? How can I assist you in discovering what life expects of you? (ex to give or receive love, right a wrong, take a stand, gain faith, transform suffering into a human achievement, attain a spiritual victory, overcome a challenge?) What possibilities for meaning can be found that are already laid out for fulfillment in reality? What ideas can I bring? How can I assist you to see the full spectrum of possibilities? How can I help you frame your situation in a way that would bring values to light? If a past experience is bothering you, what attitude can you take? What does this attitude say about who you are and what you think about things?
• The client’s need to reflect: What consequences can I consider with you? How can I anchor you in your values and bring your actions before the court of your conscience? What makes sense to you?
• Our responsibility to challenge the client: Are you hearing the voice of your conscience or are other voices drowning it out? What are the voices that are not you and where do they stem from? How can I challenge your fears? How can I help shift your attitude from victim-hood to values perception? Is your perception of reality distorted? What are the lies you tell yourself? What can you still do even if you feel much is out of your control?
• Uniqueness: How can I help you become more aware of your unique destiny and how your life is unfolding to become who you were meant to be? How can I empower you?
• Client hardened in protest: How can I shift you from victim to value perception? What is your assessment of values? What are you enthusiastic about? What energizes you?
• Client out of touch with inner self: Let me listen well…Where is there a crack in your armor? Have I heard an expression that exposes the discord between the gentle internal and the harsh external? ” Is what you’re doing what you really believe and want? Does it reflect on who you are meant to be? How capable are you of saying a clear “Yes!” to life and a clear “No!” to what is destructive?
• Ambivalent client: Which alternative is the more credible and meaningful one? What is more natural, more worthwhile to you? What nuance do I hear in your words? How can I now strengthen these small nuances so that you will decide with a firm yes?
• Low self-esteem client, addictive client, etc, etc. Add your own types of issues…
• Suffering: Can I feel your loss? What does this loss mean to you? What values of human achievement, courage or positive attitude can you take despite the suffering? What still remains intact? What perspective can put your suffering into a context that makes some sense to you (ex. your sadness proves your love, etc.)?
As I said, these are not questions that are verbalized. Some of these questions might be verbalized at one time or another. Other questions should never be verbalized. They are all questions that echo in the therapist’s mind. I phrased them as “you” because this is how the thought forms itself in the therapists mind when facing the client. “How can I help you to discover meaning in your life…?”