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Existential Psychology

  1. Sander L. Koole

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0329

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Koole, S. L. 2010. Existential Psychology. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Existential psychology is a branch of psychology that studies how people come to terms with the basic givens of human existence. The existential perspective has important roots in philosophy, which has long tried to make sense of people's being in the world. The philosophical tradition most associated with existential psychology is existential philosophy, which was pioneered by such thinkers as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. These and other existential philosophers have written about the anxiety that is inherent in human existence, people's need for meaning in a meaningless world, and the importance for people to make their own choices according to their own authentic desires. Existential psychology has also been influenced by artistic expressions of the confusion and alienation that people experience in their confrontation with meaninglessness and absurdity, which can be found in the work of novelists such as Dostoevsky and Kafka and existentialist writers such as Sartre, de Bouvoir, Camus, Ionesco, and Beckett.


  • existential psychology;
  • terror management;
  • experimental existential psychology;
  • meaning;
  • identity;
  • death;
  • freedom;
  • isolation;
  • alienation