SEA / Existential Analysis Writing Award – Kierkegaardian Contributions to Existential Therapy

Phenomenology, as a discipline, is concerned with returning to the ways that things are given in experience getting “back to the ‘things themselves.”1

“Existential phenomenology seeks to get at the meaning of lived experience through the careful and systematic analysis of lived experience itself.”2

“Existential phenomenology describes subjective human experience as it reflects people’s values, purposes, ideals, intentions, emotions, and relationships. It concerns itself with the experiences and actions of the individual, rather than conformity or behaviour.”3

Existential therapy is recognized as a phenomenological practice. Yet, not every activity claiming to be phenomenological is necessarily therapeutic. For existential therapists to be phenomenological, and for phenomenologists to be therapeutic, they must remain grounded in their own as well as their clients’ affective self-understanding.

This is in contrast with the ‘neutral observer’ stance of the positivist researcher who first abstracts the lived experience out of the existential context of a person, and then breaks down the abstracted experience into the so called objective categories.  This gives rise to a Kierkegaardian worry that psychology and philosophy can be scientific and scholarly but lacking in transformative potency. 4


From a Kierkegaardian perspective, existential therapists are faced with a number of questions, for example:

  • How does the existential therapist reconcile the phenomenological principle of getting ‘back to the things themselves’ with the therapeutic task in Kierkegaardian terms of helping a person to stand alone as a work of love?
  • How can Kierkegaard’s ‘single individual’ attain ethical sensibility and maintain ethical obligations to others from the perspective of existential therapy?
  • Under what conditions can any ‘careful and systematic analysis’ in existential phenomenology be regarded as having genuine therapeutic worth?


This writing initiative responds to the prevailing positivist bias in psychotherapy that excludes phenomenological narratives which do not conform to the methods and categories of evidence-based research and psychopathology.

The submissions will ground and clarify under-represented phenomenological dimensions of experience in Kierkegaardian terms that are relevant to existential therapy. Examples of these are accounts that have ecological, political, somatic, psychological, feminist, and religious dimensions.

Submission and Award

The closing date for submissions will be August 31st 2022. Enquiries and submissions should be sent by email attachment to the Editors, Existential Analysis, c/o Richard Swann to

In addition to these guidelines, please also refer to the ‘Information for Contributors’ webpage on

Up to ten selected entries will each receive an award of £200. The selected entries will be announced at the SEA Annual Conference in November and the articles published in a special issue of Existential Analysis in the Spring of 2023.

Submissions will be evaluated for granting awards on the basis of the following core criteria: a) proper appropriation of Kierkegaardian concepts b) relevance to existential therapy c) critique of the positivistic bias d) argumentative rigour e) standard of writing.

Entries will be adjudicated by a panel drawn from the Editorial Board and the Peer Review Panel of Existential Analysis. Final decisions will be made by the EA Editors and the Guest Editor.

Devang Vaidya will be the Guest Editor of this special issue. He will be running two seminars on Kierkegaard-related topics in the spring (February 25th and April 8th) via SEA Events to encourage more people to participate.

Prof Simon du Plock
Dr Martin Adams
Co-editors Existential Analysis


1 Husserl, E. (2001: 168) Logical Investigations. In Ed. Dermot Moran. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

2 APA Dictionary:

3 The SAGE Dictionary of Qualitative Management Research, Eds. Richard Thorpe and Robin Holt. London: Sage

4 Kierkegaard, S. (1849/1980) Sickness unto Death. Trans. Hong H. V. and Hong E. H. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press