Logotherapy is a school, or type, of psychotherapy developed by Viennese psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl (1905–97). It is based on the idea that life is a quest for meaning and that the will to find meaning is the main motivating force in all human beings. Many of Frankl's ideas were informed by his experience as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Logotherapy is known as the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, alongside those of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) and Alfred Adler (1870–1937). The name is derived from the Greek word logos, which translates as meaning or spirit. One of the core principles of the philosophy is that life has meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances or conditions. Frankl outlined the basis of logotherapy in his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning, which also details his experiences as a prisoner in four Nazi concentration camps. The book shows how Frankl's Holocaust experiences led to the development of his life-affirming approach to mental health.

The three core paradigms, meaning model or fundamental pattern, which make up the basis of logotherapy are: (1) freedom of will, which states that individuals always retain the freedom to choose how to respond to a situation; (2) will to meaning, which states that every human is motivated by the desire to find meaning; and (3) meaning of life, the core belief that life has meaning no matter the circumstances.

Logotherapy assumes an optimistic view of life. The final chapter in Man's Search for Meaning, entitled “Tragic Optimism,” deals with the idea that even when all other freedoms are taken away, nothing can deprive a human being of the freedom to choose how to respond to a situation and that individuals are free to find meaning under all circumstances.

In a therapeutic setting, logotherapy may empower clients to seek their own meaning even in the midst of suffering and death. It is used by healthcare professionals to help terminally ill patients achieve an optimistic attitude toward life and has also been shown to be successful at alleviating feelings of meaninglessness among paralyzed patients.

See also Cognitivism .



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Victor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. “About Logotherapy.” http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org/About_Logotherapy.html (accessed July 16, 2015).


Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy, PO Box 15211, Abilene, TX, 79698-5211, (325) 692-9597, Fax: (325) 692-9188, http://www.logotherapyinstitute.org .