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Friday, August 14, 2009

Episode 8: Toward a Meaning-Centered Cognitive Therapy

Today I would like to share with you an essay that I completed last month. It is an attempt to rehumanize Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by using Franklian concepts.

"An ancient parable attributed to Aesop tells of a wager between the sun and the wind to determine which was stronger. A hapless passerby was to be the object of the dispute: whichever of them could make him remove his cloak was to be the winner. The wind began and blew harder and harder. Though flapping in the breeze, the cloak was not blown away as the traveler clutched it ever more tightly around himself. At last, the wind gave up. Then the sun came out and brightly warmed the traveler who immediately removed his cloak. This story demonstrates the relationship between cognitive psychotherapy, such as formulated by Albert Ellis, and the meaning-centered therapy of Viktor Frankl. Frankl considered most psychotherapy to be dehumanizing; the client was at the mercy of drives, conditioning, or biology. Frankl’s therapy was an attempt to rehumanize psychotherapy. I propose that cognitive therapy may be rehumanized by explaining Frankl’s meaning-centered therapy (Logotherapy) in the language of Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)."

Click here to download the full essay in PDF format

Click here to download Episode 8: Toward a Meaning Centered Cognitive Therapy.

Thank you for listening. Please email any questions or comments to the address to the left and may you have a meaningful day.


  1. Thanks Marshall.

    My problem with the cognitive therapies is the lack of values I think.

    Why is rationality good? Because it leads to a more pleasurable life. Which means that the wealthy enough drug addict is the model (OK, maybe this is an exaggeration).

    I have studied Ellis closely but lots of common sense gets smuggled into the cognitive camp under the heading of rationality I think.

    From having a partner who is very intelligent indeed and has struggled for years with feeling suicidal I'm not convinced suicide is necessarily irraational. If someone believes it is the only way to stop intense suffering then it becomes a rational decision.

    Finally, I think the question becomes, "Is it rational to prefer life to death?" If someone asks me, "Why do you prefer life to death?" ultimately my answer amounts to, "Because I'm not an idiot". Put more formally, it is about values (which include but are not limited to rational thought).

    My other big problem with the cognitive approach is that it equates thought with cognitive processing, but thinking also embraces the perception (which is the content of what is processed).

    I really enjoyed your essay, if you've updated it since I hope you have done a podcast about it.

  2. Evan, I couldn't agree with you more! This reminds Max Scheler who believed there were only two fundamental orientations (or attitudes) toward life: despair of life or acceptance and embrace of life. Frankl was strongly influenced by Scheler, but made it practical. I have not updated the essay, yet, because I have been working on some other logotherapy projects. I do have an outline of a revision, however....

    Also, I have taken a look at your blog and I am quite impressed. I am looking forward to having some time to sit down and read some of your posts. They look fascinating.

  3. Hi Marshall, I'm glad you like my blog.

    My perspective is heavily gestalt (of the Perls, Hefferline and Goodman book vintage). Though I think this needs to be expanded to include spirituality/values. (My own view is that social awareness is already in there - and that this has been comprehensively ignored by most gestalt therapists!).

    I haven't read Scheler, those two orientations make good sense.