Logotherapy: therapy through meaning

5 min read

Logotherapy, or therapy through meaning, belongs to the family of existential psychotherapies. It is an approach to psychotherapy centered around life's meaning, developed by the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), a globally recognized professor of neurology and psychiatry. This method is founded on the belief that the search for meaning is fundamental in human existence and can guide towards a more fulfilling and significant life. Thus, the absence or loss of a reason to live can lead to noogenic neurosis (malaise, addictions, depression, aggressiveness...).


Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust. He observed that even in extremely difficult circumstances, some individuals still found meaning in their lives, aiding them to persevere and survive psychologically. These observations influenced the development of logotherapy, emphasizing the quest for meaning as an essential driver of mental health.

Logotherapy was conceptualized in the 40s. It draws from various philosophical and psychological currents (Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Max Scheler...).

Since then, thanks to an established network of professionals and research, it has experienced significant growth. It is practiced by psychotherapists specifically trained in this approach. Logotherapy practitioners assist individuals in finding meaning in their lives, overcoming difficulties, and developing a deeper understanding of their personal values.

Application areas.

Logotherapy is a brief therapy. It is recommended for individuals facing existential crises, anxiety disorders (Mohabbat-Bahar and al, 2022), depressive disorders (Sun and al, 2022), grief, challenges regarding meaning, or profound identity questioning. Logotherapy practices aim to encourage individual responsibility, enhance resilience, and help individuals find meaning in the most challenging situations.

Logotherapy also finds application in the professional sphere, notably through the work of Alfried Längle, MD, in general medicine and psychotherapy (Längle, 2003). His research focuses on the evolution of the concept of meaning in work, aiming to enrich the understanding of this essential dimension of professional life. Furthermore, studies such as those conducted by Riethof and colleagues (Riethof and al, 2019) highlight the effectiveness of logotherapy in preventing burnout, offering promising prospects for well-being and fulfillment in the workplace.

Main techniques.

The techniques employed in logotherapy center predominantly on dialogue. They aim primarily to help individuals determine the meaning that can enable their self-construction.  They also aim to value the individual, aid in understanding internal processes, and envision possibilities to find solutions to posed problems.

There are three commonly used practices in logotherapy.

Paradoxical intention: it proposes actively confronting fears or obstacles, sometimes in a paradoxical or ironic manner. Making a situation absurd can enable breaking free from the associated blocking pattern. It aims to evoke awareness in the patient, such as highlighting the futility of the symptom or the absurdity of problematic behavior.

Attitude modulation: this technique, which can take the form of a Socratic dialogue, postulates that a change in inner attitude can lead to a change in behavior. This technique involves a conscious and voluntary shift in how a person perceives and reacts to life events. It aims to adjust one's attitude towards circumstances and promote more constructive and positive responses.

Dereflection: it's a technique of distancing to detach the patient from excessive self-concerns. The individual is encouraged to focus attention on an external event, to turn to values and activities that transcend the ego, and move away from self-absorption. This enables the patient to move beyond their own circle of obsessive thinking and discover deeper meanings in life.


Logotherapy aims to help individuals discover meaning in their existence. By employing these techniques, individuals can find a more significant purpose, gain a better understanding of their values, and thus develop greater resilience in facing life's challenges. It can also provide lasting relief, contribute to stress reduction, enhance self-esteem, and promote psychological and emotional well-being.

Logotherapy is an approach centered on the discovery of meaning and personal growth. It provides tools to face life's challenges and find profound meaning, even in the most difficult situations.