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Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl,[1] on a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life.[2] It is considered the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy"[3][4][unreliable source?] along with Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology.[5]

Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis[6] focusing on Kierkegaard's will to meaning as opposed to Adler's Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud's will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.[2] A short introduction to this system is given in Frankl's most famous book, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he outlines how his theories helped him to survive his Holocaust experience and how that experience further developed and reinforced his theories. Presently, there are a number of logotherapy institutes around the world.

Basic principlesEdit

The notion of Logotherapy was created with the Greek word logos ("reason"). Frankl's concept is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. The following list of tenets represents basic principles of logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.[2]

The human spirit is referred to in several of the assumptions of logotherapy, but the use of the term spirit is not "spiritual" or "religious". In Frankl's view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis, therefore, is on the search for meaning, which is not necessarily the search for God or any other supernatural being.[2] Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity's quest for meaning in life. He warns against "...affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism..." in the search for meaning.[7]

Purpose in life and meaning in life constructs appeared in Frankl's logotherapy writings with relation to existential vacuum and will to meaning, as well as others who have theorized about and defined positive psychological functioning. Frankl observed that it may be psychologically damaging when a person's search for meaning is blocked. Positive life purpose and meaning was associated with strong religious beliefs, membership in groups, dedication to a cause, life values, and clear goals. Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept. Maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life's purpose, directedness, and intentionality which contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.[8]

Frankl's ideas were operationalized by Crumbaugh and Maholick's Purpose in Life (PIL) test, which measures an individual's meaning and purpose in life.[8] With the test, investigators found that meaning in life mediated the relationships between religiosity and well-being;[9] uncontrollable stress and substance use; depression and self-derogation.[8][10] Crumbaugh found that the Seeking of Noetic Goals Test (SONG) is a complementary measure of the PIL. While the PIL measures the presence of meaning, the SONG measures orientation towards meaning. A low score in the PIL but a high score in the SONG, would predict a better outcome in the application of Logotherapy.[11]

Discovering meaningEdit

According to Frankl, "We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering" and that "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances".[3] On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

"Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive without you?:" "Oh," he said, "for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her." He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.[3]:178–179

Frankl emphasized that realizing the value of suffering is meaningful only when the first two creative possibilities are not available (for example, in a concentration camp) and only when such suffering is inevitable – he was not proposing that people suffer unnecessarily.[12]:115

Philosophical basis of logotherapyEdit

Frankl described the meta-clinical implications of logotherapy in his book The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy.[13] He believed that there is no psychotherapy apart from the theory of man. As an existential psychologist, he inherently disagreed with the “machine model” or “rat model”, as it undermines the human quality of humans. As a neurologist and psychiatrist, Frankl developed a unique view of determinism to coexist with the three basic pillars of logotherapy (the freedom of will). Though Frankl admitted that man can never be free from every condition, such as, biological, sociological, or psychological determinants, based on his experience during his life in the Nazi concentration camps, he believed that man is “capable of resisting and braving even the worst conditions”. In doing such, man can detach from situations, himself, choose an attitude about himself, determine his own determinants, thus shaping his own character and becoming responsible for himself.[14]

Logotherapeutic views and treatmentEdit

Overcoming anxietyEdit

By recognizing the purpose of our circumstances, one can master anxiety. Anecdotes about this use of logotherapy are given by New York Times writer Tim Sanders, who explained how he uses its concept to relieve the stress of fellow airline travelers by asking them the purpose of their journey. When he does this, no matter how miserable they are, their whole demeanor changes, and they remain happy throughout the flight.[15] Overall, Frankl believed that the anxious individual does not understand that his anxiety is the result of dealing with a sense of “unfulfilled responsibility” and ultimately a lack of meaning.[16]

Treatment of neurosisEdit

Frankl cites two neurotic pathogens: hyper-intention, a forced intention toward some end which makes that end unattainable; and hyper-reflection, an excessive attention to oneself which stifles attempts to avoid the neurosis to which one thinks oneself predisposed. Frankl identified anticipatory anxiety, a fear of a given outcome which makes that outcome more likely. To relieve the anticipatory anxiety and treat the resulting neuroses, logotherapy offers paradoxical intention, wherein the patient intends to do the opposite of their hyper-intended goal.

A person, then, who fears (i.e. experiences anticipatory anxiety over) not getting a good night's sleep may try too hard (that is, hyper-intend) to fall asleep, and this would hinder their ability to do so. A logotherapist would recommend, then, that the person go to bed and intentionally try not to fall asleep. This would relieve the anticipatory anxiety which kept the person awake in the first place, thus allowing them to fall asleep in an acceptable amount of time.[3]


Viktor Frankl believed depression occurred at the psychological, physiological, and spiritual levels.[16] At the psychological level, he believed that feelings of inadequacy stem from undertaking tasks beyond our abilities. At the physiological level, he recognized a “vital low”, which he defined as a “diminishment of physical energy”.[16] Finally, Frankl believed that at the spiritual level, the depressed man faces tension between who he actually is in relation to what he should be. Frankl refers to this as the gaping abyss.[12]:202[16] Finally Frankl suggests that if goals seem unreachable, an individual loses a sense of future and thus meaning resulting in depression.[16] Thus logotherapy aims “to change the patient’s attitude toward their disease as well as toward their life as a task”.[12]:200

Obsessive-compulsive disorderEdit

Frankl believed that those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder lack the sense of completion that most other individuals possess.[16] Instead of fighting the tendencies to repeat thoughts or actions, or focusing on changing the individual symptoms of the disease, the therapist should focus on “transform[ing] the neurotic’s attitude toward their neurosis”.[12]:185 Therefore, it is important to recognize that the patient is “not responsible for his obsessional ideas”, but that “he is certainly responsible for his attitude toward these ideas”.[12]:188 Frankl suggested that it is important for the patient to recognize his inclinations toward perfection as fate, and therefore, must learn to accept some degrees of uncertainty.[16] Ultimately, following the premise of logotherapy, the patient must eventually ignore his obsessional thoughts and find meaning in his life despite such thoughts.[12]


Though logotherapy wasn't intended to deal with severe disorders, Frankl believed that logotherapy could benefit even those suffering from schizophrenia.[16] He recognized the roots of schizophrenia in physiological dysfunction.[16] In this dysfunction, the person with schizophrenia “experiences himself as an object” rather than as a subject.[12]:208 Frankl suggested that a person with schizophrenia could be helped by logotherapy by first being taught to ignore voices and to end persistent self-observation.[16] Then, during this same period, the person with schizophrenia must be led toward meaningful activity, as “even for the schizophrenic there remains that residue of freedom toward fate and toward the disease which man always possesses, no matter how ill he may be, in all situations and at every moment of life, to the very last”.[12]:216

Terminally ill patientsEdit

In 1977, Terry Zuehlke and John Watkins conducted a study analyzing the effectiveness of logotherapy in treating terminally ill patients. The study's design used 20 male Veterans Administration volunteers who were randomly assigned to one of two possible treatments – (1) group that received 8-45 minute sessions over a 2-week period and (2) group used as control that received delayed treatment. Each group was tested on 5 scales – the MMPI K Scale, MMPI L Scale, Death Anxiety Scale, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, and the Purpose of Life Test. The results showed an overall significant difference between the control and treatment groups. While the univariate analyses showed that there were significant group differences in 3/5 of the dependent measures. These results confirm the idea that terminally ill patients can benefit from logotherapy in coping with death.[17]

Forms of TreatmentEdit

ECCE HOMO is a method used in logotherapy. It requires of the therapist to note the innate strengths that people have and how they have dealt with adversity and suffering in life. Despite everything a person may have gone through, they made the best of their suffering! Hence, Ecce Homo - Behold the Man! [18]



In 1969 Rollo May argued that logotherapy is, in essence, authoritarian. He suggested that Frankl's therapy presents a plain solution to all of life's problems, an assertion that would seem to undermine the complexity of human life itself. May contended that if a patient could not find his own meaning, Frankl would provide a goal for his patient. In effect, this would negate the patient's personal responsibility, thus “diminish[ing] the patient as a person”.[19] Frankl explicitly replied to May's arguments through a written dialogue, sparked by Rabbi Reuven Bulka’s article “Is Logotherapy Authoritarian?”.[20] Frankl responded that he combined the prescription of medication, if necessary, with logotherapy, to deal with the person's psychological and emotional reaction to the illness, and highlighted areas of freedom and responsibility, where the person is free to search and to find meaning.[21]


Critical views of the life of logotherapy's founder and his work assume that Frankl's religious background and experience of suffering guided his conception of meaning within the boundaries of the person[22] and therefore that logotherapy is founded on Viktor Frankl's worldview.[23]

Frankl openly spoke and wrote on religion and psychiatry, throughout his life, and specifically in his last book, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (1997). He asserted that every person has a spiritual unconscious, independently of religious views or beliefs, yet Frankl's conception of the spiritual unconscious does not necessarily entail religiosity. In Frankl's words: “It is true, Logotherapy, deals with the Logos; it deals with Meaning. Specifically, I see Logotherapy in helping others to see meaning in life. But we cannot “give” meaning to the life of others. And if this is true of meaning per se, how much does it hold for Ultimate Meaning?”[24] The American Psychiatric Association awarded Viktor Frankl the 1985 Oskar Pfister Award (for important contributions to religion and psychiatry).[24]


On Frankl's doctrine that one must instill meaning in the events in ones life, that work and suffering to find meaning, will ultimately lead to fulfillment and happiness. In 1982 the highly cited scholar and holocaust analyst Lawrence L. Langer, who while also critical of Frankl's distortions on the true experience of those at Auschwitz,[25] and Frankl's amoral focus on "meaning" that could just as equally be applied to Nazis "finding meaning in making the world free from Jews",[26] Langer would go on to write: "If this [logotherapy] doctrine had been more succinctly worded, the Nazis might have substituted it for the cruel mockery of Arbeit Macht Frei [the sign chosen to be placed over the entry to Auschwitz]".[27]

A biographer of Frankl would later remark on the penetrating insight of Langer's reading of Frankl's holocaust testimony, with Langer's criticism published in 1982 before the biographer's research, the former had thus drawn the controversial parallels, or accommodations in ideology without the knowledge that Victor Frankl was an advocate/"embraced"[28] the key ideas of the Nazi psychotherapy movement ("will and responsibility"[29]) as a form of therapy in the late 1930s. When at that time Frankl would submit a paper and contributed to the Göring institute in Vienna 1937 and again in early 1938 connecting the logotherapy focus on "world-view" to the "work of some of the leading Nazi psychotherapists",[30] both at a time before Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938.[31][32]

The origins of logotherapy, as described by Frankl, were therefore a major issue of continuity that Biographer Pytell argues were potentially problematic for Frankl because he had laid out the main elements of logotherapy while working for/contributing to the Nazi-affiliated Göring Institute. Principally Frankl's 1937 paper, that was published by the institute.[32] This association, as a source of controversy, that logotherapy was palatable to National Socialism is the reason Pytell suggests, Frankl took two different stances on how the concentration-camp experience affected the course of his psychotherapy theory. Namely, that within the original English edition of Frankl's most well known book, Man's Search for Meaning, the suggestion is made and still largely held that logotherapy was itself derived from his camp experience, with the claim as it appears in the original edition, that this form of psychotherapy was "not concocted in the philosopher's armchair nor at the analyst's couch; it took shape in the hard school of air-raid shelters and bomb craters; in concentration camps and prisoner of war camps." Frankl's statements however to this effect would be deleted from later editions, though in the 1963 edition, a similar statement again appeared on the back of the book jacket of Man's Search for Meaning.

Frankl over the years would switch between the claim that logotherapy took shape in the camps to the claim that the camps merely justified his already preconceived theories, as the definitive word on the matter, in 1977 Frankl himself began to clarify the controversy stating "People think I came out of Auschwitz with a brand-new psychotherapy. This is not the case."[33]

Recent developmentsEdit

Since the 1990s, logotherapy has evolved into meaning therapy.[34][35] Wong attempted to translate logotherapy into psychological mechanisms in order to make it more relevant to the wider psychology community.[36][37] This extension not only integrates meaning therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychotherapy, but also connects meaning therapy with the positive psychology research on meaning. Another new development is the application of logotherapy to palliative care.[38][39] These recent developments introduce Viktor Frankl's logotherapy to a new generation and extend its impact to new areas of research.[40]


A number of logotherapeutic institutes have opened up in various countries around the world and include:


  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy South Africa[41]


  • The Viktor Frankl Center for Logotherapy in Israel[42]


  • Viktor Frankl Institute - Vienna, Austria[43]
  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Ireland[44]
  • Logotherapy Institute of Finland[45]
  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - Prague, Czech Republic[46]

North AmericaEdit

  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - New York City[47]
  • Institute of Logotherapy, Berkeley, CA[48]
  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - Abilene, Texas[49]
  • Arizona Institute of Logotherapy[50]
  • Canadian Institute of Logotherapy - Ottawa, Canada[51]


  • Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy[52]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Proper palliative care makes assisted dying unnecessary". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  2. ^ a b c d Maria Marshall; Edward Marshall (4 August 2012). Logotherapy Revisited: Review of the Tenets of Viktor E. Frankl's Logotherapy. Ottawa Institute of Logotherapy. ISBN 978-1-4781-9377-7.
  3. ^ a b c d Frankl, Viktor (1 June 2006). Man's Search for Meaning. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1427-1. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  4. ^ Gordon Allport, from the Preface to Man's Search for Meaning, p. xiv
  5. ^ "Logotherapy: The benefits of finding meaning in life". Medical News Today. Retrieved 2018-09-17.
  6. ^ "About Logotherapy". Viktor Frankl Institute Vienna. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  7. ^ "About Logotherapy". Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Adler, Nancy (November 1997). "Purpose in Life". Psychosocial workgroup. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  9. ^ Dufton, Brian (Spring 1986). "The association between religiosity and the Purpose-in-Life test: Does it reflect purpose or satisfaction?". Journal of Psychology and Theology. Biola University. 14 (1): 42–48.
  10. ^ Harlow, Lisa L.; Newcomb, Michael D.; Bentler, P. M (Sep 1987). "Purpose in Life Test assessment using latent variable methods". British Journal of Clinical Psychology. 26 (3): 235–236. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1987.tb01355.x.
  11. ^ Crumbaugh, James C. (July 1977). "The seeking of noetic goals test (SONG): A complementary scale to the purpose in life test (PIL)". Journal of Clinical Psychology. Wiley. 33 (3): 900–907. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(197707)33:3<900::AID-JCLP2270330362>3.0.CO;2-8.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Frankl, Viktor (12 October 1986). The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 978-0-394-74317-2. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  13. ^ 1905-1997,, Frankl, Viktor E. (Viktor Emil),. The will to meaning : foundations and applications of logotherapy (Expanded ed.). New York, New York. ISBN 9781101664025. OCLC 934802526.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  14. ^ Frankl, Viktor (1 September 1988). The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. Meridian. ISBN 978-0-452-01034-5. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  15. ^ Sanders, Tim (27 October 2008). "A Chatterer's Guide to Easing Anxiety". The New York Times.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Boeree, C. George (2006). "Viktor Frankl". Shippensburg University.
  17. ^ Zuehlke, T.E.; Watkins, J.T. (1977). "Psychotherapy with Terminally Ill Patients". Psychotherapy, Therapy, Research, and Practice. 14 (4): 403–410. doi:10.1037/h0087512.
  18. ^ Frankl, Viktor E.. The Will to Meaning (p. 94). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  19. ^ Rollo May (1969). Existential psychology. Random House. p. 42. Retrieved 21 May 2012. (First Edition 1961)
  20. ^ Bulka, Reuven P. (Fall 1978). "Is Logotherapy Authoritarian?". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 18 (4): 45–54. doi:10.1177/002216787801800406.
  21. ^ Frankl, Viktor (Fall 1979). "Reply to Rollo May". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 19 (4): 85–86. doi:10.1177/002216787901900410.
  22. ^ Pytell, T. (2006). "Transcending the Angel Beast: Viktor Frankl and Humanistic Psychology". Psychoanalytic Psychology. 23 (3): 490–503. doi:10.1037/0736-9735.23.3.490.
  23. ^ Pytell, T. (2007). "Extreme Experience, Psychological Insight, and Holocaust Perception: Reflections on Bettelheim and Frankl". Psychoanalytic Psychology. 24 (4): 641–657. doi:10.1037/0736-9735.24.4.641.
  24. ^ a b Frankl, Viktor (10 August 2000). Man's search for ultimate meaning. Perseus Pub. ISBN 978-0-7382-0354-6. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  25. ^ [Suicide Prohibition: The Shame of Medicine By Thomas Szasz. pg 60-62]
  26. ^ [Suicide Prohibition: The Shame of Medicine By Thomas Szasz pg 62]
  27. ^ [Lawrence Langer, Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), p.24. [End Page 107]]
  28. ^ Austrian Lives By Günter Bischof pg 241-242
  29. ^ Viktor Frankl's Search for Meaning: An Emblematic 20th-Century Life By Timothy Pytell pg 70-72, 111
  30. ^ Austrian Lives By Günter Bischof pg 242
  31. ^ Austrian Lives By Günter Bischof p.255
  32. ^ a b "What is perhaps most impressive about Langer's reading is that he was unaware of Frankl's 1937 article promoting a form of psychotherapy palatable to the Nazis".
  33. ^ [" Redeeming the Unredeemable:Auschwitz and Man's Search for Meaning, Timothy E. Pytell, California State University. Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2003 Oxford University Press]
  34. ^ Wong, P. T. P. (1997). Meaning-centered counselling: A cognitive-behavioral approach to logotherapy. The International Forum for Logotherapy, 20(2), 85-94.
  35. ^ Wong, P. T. P. (2012). From logotherapy to meaning-centered counseling and therapy. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 619-647). New York, NY: Routledge.
  36. ^ Wong, P. T. P. (2014). Viktor Frankl’s meaning seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyany & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in existential and positive psychology (pp. 149-184). New York, NY: Springer.
  37. ^ Wong, P. T. P. (2016). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. E. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyany (Eds.). To thrive, to cope, to understand: Meaning in positive and existential psychotherapy (pp. 0-0). New York, NY: Springer.
  38. ^ Breitbart, W. S. & Poppet, S. R. (2014). Meaning-centered group psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer: A treatment manual. New York, NY: Oxford.
  39. ^ Breitbart, W. S. & Poppet, S. R. (2014). Individual meaning-centered psychotherapy for patients with advanced cancer: A treatment manual. New York, NY: Oxford.
  40. ^ Batthyany, A., & Russo-Netzer, P. (2014). Meaning in positive and existential psychology. New York, NY: Springer.
  41. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy South Africa
  42. ^ The Viktor Frankl Center for Logotherapy in Israel
  43. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute - Vienna, Austria
  44. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Ireland
  45. ^ Logotherapy Institute of Finland
  46. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - Prague, Czech Republic
  47. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - New York City
  48. ^ Institute of Logotherapy, Berkeley, CA
  49. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy - Abilene, Texas
  50. ^ Arizona Institute of Logotherapy
  51. ^ Canadian Institute of Logotherapy - Ottawa, Canada
  52. ^ Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy


External linksEdit