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The European Journal of Psychiatry

Print version ISSN 0213-6163


GRIFFITH, James L.. Existential inquiry: Psychotherapy for crises of demoralization. Eur. J. Psychiat. [online]. 2013, vol.27, n.1, pp.42-47. ISSN 0213-6163.

Background and Objectives: Existential inquiry is a focal psychotherapy tailored to address crises of demoralization. Demoralization refers to the helplessness, despair, and subjective incompetence that people feel when perceiving themselves to be failing their own or others´ expectations for coping with adversity. Methods: Existential inquiry revives a demoralized person´s capacity for coping by eliciting accounts for how the person has sustained hope, communion with others, purpose, agency, commitment, courage, and gratitude when threatened by losses, traumas, or insecurities. Existential questions reveal emotional postures of vulnerability and resilience. They ask both how a person has been impacted by adversities and how he or she has prevailed against them. Existential inquiry rebuilds morale by mobilizing emotional postures of resilience that are grounded in core identities: What are my deep desires and commitments? To whom am I accountable? Who do I know myself to be, or wish to be? Results: Clinical vignettes illustrate how these questions can open conversations that rebuild morale. Conclusions: Existential inquiry can serve as an effective brief psychotherapy for countering demoralization.

Keywords : Demoralization; Existential; Existential Posture; Resilience; Hope; Psychotherapy; Coping.

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