The philosophical orientation is strongly influenced by the existential approach, which conceives of counseling as a life changing process. Counseling can be seen as a journey in which the therapist is a guide who facilitates client exploration. There are a number of key themes from the existential approach that seem to this writer to capture the essence of the therapeutic venture. According to the existentialist view, humans are capable of self-awareness, which is the distinctive capacity that allows people to reflect and to decide. With this awareness people become free beings who are responsible for choosing the way they live. The emphasis on freedom and responsibility is central for practice, for this notion allows people to redesign their lives. Making choices gives rise to existential anxiety, which is another basic human characteristic. This anxiety is heightened when individuals reflect on the reality that they will die. Facing the inevitable prospect of eventual death gives the present moment significance. The reality of death is a catalyst that can lead to creating a life that has meaning and purpose. Humans strive toward fashioning purposes and values that give meaning to life, which is developed through freedom and a commitment to make choices in the face of uncertainty.
Both existential therapy and person-centered therapy place central prominence on the person-to-person relationship. It assumes that client growth occurs through this genuine encounter. The emphasis on the human quality of the therapeutic relationship lessens the chances of making counseling a mechanical process. In thinking about therapy from an existential perspective, techniques are always of secondary importance. From the existential perspective, it is not the techniques practitioners use that make a therapeutic difference; rather, it is the quality of the relationship with the client that heals.