Paul Wong

Existential competence (EC) refers to a set of practices that address existential concerns, such as the meaning of life, the meaning of suffering, and the fear of death, within the context of an authentic therapeutic relationship that encourages opening up and exploration of life’s new possibilities. EC involves a wide range of meaning-focused copings, such as re-appraisal, re-framing, restructuring, and re-authoring to deal with adversity and destiny. More importantly, EC encompasses such existential skills as self-distancing, self-reflection, self-transcendence, being aware of the human condition, and exercising responsibility within limited freedom. These skills are needed to help clients gain a deeper self-understanding and manage the dialectical tensions of polarities, contradictions and paradoxes that are inherent in life. Existential therapists have long argued that it is through confronting the unsettling aspects of human existence that people can experience lasting healing and discover authentic happiness. Finally, I make the case that EC be recognized as a core competence in professional psychology by virtue of the prevalence of existential issues and the empirical evidence for the effectiveness of existential therapies.