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By Danny Pettry II, M.ED, M S., LPC, NCC, CTRS-BHS

As recreational therapists, we strive to empower individuals to live fulfilling lives through meaningful and engaging activities. In our pursuit of enhancing well-being, we can draw inspiration from the teachings of Victor Frankl and the realm of existential psychology. Let’s explore who Victor Frankl was, delve into the concepts of existential psychology, and understand how we, as recreational therapists, can apply existentialism in our practice.

Who is Victor Frankl?

Victor Frankl was a renowned psychiatrist, neurologist, and Holocaust survivor. His experiences in Nazi concentration camps gave birth to his groundbreaking work on existential psychology. Frankl believed that despite circumstances, individuals possess the power to find meaning and purpose in life.

What is Existential Psychology?

Existential psychology focuses on understanding the core aspects of human existence, including freedom, meaning, authenticity, and responsibility. It explores the intense search for meaning, the experience of personal growth, and the development of a unique identity. Existential psychology promotes self-reflection and emphasizes the importance of acknowledging one’s choices and responsibilities.

How can Recreational Therapists Apply Existentialism?

As recreational therapists, we have the potential to integrate existential principles into our practice, allowing individuals to foster personal growth and find meaning in everyday activities. Here are a few ways to apply existentialism:

– Encouraging personal choice: Provide individuals with options and choices during recreational activities to empower them and foster a sense of personal freedom.
– Emphasizing self-reflection: Create opportunities for individuals to reflect on their experiences and explore deeper questions about their own values, beliefs, and purpose in life.
– Promoting engagement with meaningful activities: Help individuals discover and participate in activities that align with their personal interests, passions, and values, facilitating a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
– Cultivating connections and relationships: Encourage meaningful interactions, building a supportive community that fosters belonging and shared experiences.

Discussion Questions for Recreational Therapists:

1. How can we foster personal choice and autonomy within our therapeutic programs?

2. How might incorporating opportunities for self-reflection enhance the therapeutic benefits of recreational activities?

3. In what ways can we assist individuals in finding meaningful activities aligned with their personal interests and values?

4. How can the sense of community and connection be cultivated through recreational therapy?

5. How might existential principles help individuals cope with challenging life circumstances?

By incorporating elements of existential psychology into our practice, we can provide individuals with more than just recreational activities. We can empower them to discover their own unique path, find meaning in their experiences, and ultimately lead more fulfilling lives. Let us embrace Victor Frankl’s profound teachings and apply them to enhance the transformative power of recreational therapy.