Existential Therapy in Intercultural Western-Thai Therapeutic Relationships


  • Chase Victor Conrad Nguyễn Văn Linh, Tân Phong, District 7, Apt. 402, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 700000
  • Donald Arthur Johnson Ph.D., Senior Lecturer in Counseling Psychology, School of Human Sciences, Assumption University, 592 Ram Khamhaeng Rd., Soi 24, Hua Mark, Bangkok 10240, Thailand


Multicultural counseling, existential therapy, Western-Thai differences, therapeutic strategies, holistic healing, self-awareness, building trust


 The purpose of this study was to identify specific challenges that Thai clients may experience in the psychotherapeutic process, and identify ways to overcome those barriers using existentialist therapy. Research questions were: 1. Is existential psychotherapy effective with Thai clients to assist them with mental health issues? 2. What challenges arise in the psychotherapeutic process when a Western therapist works with a Thai client, and what strategies can overcome those challenges? 3. How can the therapist help develop the Thai client’s sense of self-awareness, so the client continues to examine their life on their own, ultimately leading to no longer needing professional therapy? The study was a qualitative, multiple-case, narrative inquiry conducted in Thailand with Thai participants and a U.S. researcher. Participants were three Thai female university students at a liberal arts university. Data collection consisted of recording individual participant psychotherapeutic sessions supplemented with therapist notes of those sessions. Analysis involved a search for categorical themes that united the therapeutic experiences of these individuals. The results of the case studies showed significant themes from the existential therapy in terms of the need to establish trust, work with the initial lack of knowledge about therapy, identify and deal with specific challenges facing Western therapists working with Thai clients, and reveal the depth of existential understanding. It was concluded that existential therapy is useful in assisting Thai clients gain greater holistic healing from traumatic experiences. 


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