Meaning-Focused Therapy

Meaning-Centered Counseling And Therapy Syllabus

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D., C. Psych.


This course provides a comprehensive introduction to meaning-centered counseling (MCC), which integrates Irvin Yalom’s existential therapy, Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy with contemporary cognitive-behavioral and narrative therapies. MCC is a positive therapy, because of its emphasis on the transforming power of personal meaning and spirituality. It adopts the therapeutic strategy of “double vision” by addressing both the presenting problems and the big questions of human existence, such as the meaning of suffering and death. The course will use a variety of teaching methods, including lectures, case studies, role-play and demonstration of counselling skills.

II. COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course will

  • Present a historical overview of existential therapy
  • Introduce Irvin Yalom’s existential therapy and therapeutic techniques
  • Assess the contributions and limitations of Irvin Yalom
  • Explain the key concepts of logotherapy
  • Introduce the primary methods of logotherapeutic interventions
  • Assess the contributions and limitations of logotherapy
  • Introduce the key concepts and principles of MCC
  • Present supporting evidence from positive psychology research
  • Explore the role of spirituality and religion in MCC
  • Apply MCC to psychotherapy and pastoral counselling

In addition to the acquisition of clinical knowledge and skills, the course is also intended to have a positive impact on students in the following areas:

  • Personal development
  • Self-understanding and self-care
  • Leadership development
  • Competency in caring for others


Frankl, V. E. (1986). The doctor and the soul: From psychotherapy to logotherapy. (Revised and Expanded.). New York: Vintage Books

Wong, P. T. P. (2006). A brief manual for meaning-centered counseling. Abbotsford, BC: INPM Press.

Yalom, I. D. (1999). Momma and the meaning of life: Tales of psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.


Wong, P. T. P. (1998d). Meaning-centered counselling. In P. T. P. Wong & P. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 395-435). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

Wong, P. T. P. (2005). Existential and humanistic theories. In J. C. Thomas & D. L. Segal (Eds.), Comprehensive Handbook of Personality and Psychopathology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Wong, P. T. P. (in press). Meaning management theory and death acceptance. In A. Tomer, E. Grafton, & P. T. P. Wong (Eds.), Death attitudes: Existential & spiritual issues. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

(The above papers are downloadable from Tyndale’s Psychology Website)


Graber, A. V. (2004). Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy: Method of choice in ecumenical pastoral psychology.

Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books


Week Required Reading Topics
Week 1 Wong (2005) An overview of existential therapy
Week 2 Yalom (1999) Ch.1-3 Therapeutic relationship
Week 3 Yalom (1999) Ch.4-6 Existential therapeutic approaches
Week 4 Frankl (1986) pp.ix – 23 Spirituality and logotherapy
Week 5 Frankl pp.25- 62 Existential analysis of the meaning of life
Week 6 Frankl pp.63- 104 Existential analysis of the meaning of death
Week 7 Frankl pp.105- 175 The meaning of suffering, work and love
Week 8 Frankl pp.176- 199 Existential analysis of neurosis
Week 9 Frankl pp.200- 216 Melancholia and schizophrenia
Week 10 Frankl pp.217- 301 Logotherapy as medical ministry
Week 11 Wong (1998, 2006) Meaning-centered counselliing
Week 12 Wong (2006, 2007) Meaning-management theory


Batthyany, A., & Guttman, D. (2006). Empirical research on logotherapy and meaning-oriented psychotherapy: An annotated bibliography. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.

Cicirelli, V. G. (2001). Personal meanings of death in older adults and young adults in relation to their fears of death. Death Studies, 25(8), 663-683.

Davis, C.S., Wortman, C. B., Lehman, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2000). Searching for meaning in loss: Are clinical assumptions correct? Death Studies, 24 (6), 497-540.

Feldman, D.B. & Snyder, C.R. (2005). Hope and the meaningful life: Theoretical and empirical associations between goal-directed thinking and life meaning. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24, 3, 401-421.

Frankl, V. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to Logotherapy. Riverside, NJ: Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing Group.

Frankl, V. E. (1986). The doctor and the soul: From psychotherapy to logotherapy. (Revised and Expanded.). New York: Vintage Books

Gesser, G., Wong, P. T. P., & Reker, G. T. (1987-88). Death attitudes across the life-span: The development and validation of the Death Attitude Profile (DAP). Omega, 18, 113-128.

Goodman, L. M. (1981). Death and the creative life: Conversations with eminent artists and scientists as they reflect on life and death. New York: Springer Publishing Company

Greenberg, J., Koole, S. L., & Pyszczynski, T. (Eds.) (2004). Handbook of experimental existential psychology. New York: Guildford Press.

Harding, S. R., Flannelly, K. J., Weaver, A. J., Costa, K. G. (2005). The influence of religion on death anxiety and death acceptance. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 2005, 8, 253-261

Janoff-Bulman, R., & Frantz, C. M. (1997). The impact of trauma on meaning: From meaningless world to meaningful life. In M. Power & C. R. Brewin (Eds.), The transformation of meaning in psychological therapies (pp.91-106). New York: Wiley.

Kastenbaum, R. (2000). The psychology of death (3rd ed.). New York: Springer

Lopez, S. J. et al. (2006). Counseling psychology’s focus on positive aspects of human functioning. The Counseling Psychologist, 34, 2, 205-227.

Martin, L. L., Campbell, W. K., & Henry, C. D. (2004). The roar of awakening: Mortality acknowledgment as a call to authentic living. In J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole, & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.), Handbook of experimental existential psychology (pp. 431-448). New York: The Guildford Press.

Mobley, J. A. (2005). An integrated existential approach to counseling theory and practice. Lampeter, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Neimeyer, R. A. (Ed.) (2001), Meaning reconstruction and the experience of loss. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

Neimeyer, R. A. (2004). Constructions of death and loss: Evolution of a research program. Personal Construction, Theory, and Practice. Available on-line at Volume 1.

Neimeyer, R. A., Moser, R. & Wittkowski, J. (2003). Assessing attitudes toward death: Psychometric considerations. Omega, 47, 45-76.

Park, C. L., & Folkman, S. (1997). The role of meaning in the context of stress and coping. General Review of Psychology, 1, 115-144.

Park, C. L. (1998). Post-traumatic growth and adjustment. In R. Tedeschi, C. L. Park, & L. G. Calhoun (Eds.), Post-traumatic growth: Theory and research on processes of change in the aftermath of crises (pp. 153-178). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Park, C. L. & Blumberg, C. J. (2002). Disclosing trauma through writing: Testing the meaning-making hypothesis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26, 597-616.

Park, C. L. (2005). Religion as a meaning-making framework in coping with life stress. Journal of Social Issues, 61, 707

Schneider, K. J., Bugental, J. F. T., & Pierson, J. F. (Eds.), (2002). The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Research, and Practice. Seven Oaks, CA: Sage.

Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 1, 80-93.

Wong, P. T. P. (1991). Existential vs. causal attributions. In S. Zelen (Ed.), Extensions and new models of attribution theory (pp. 84-125). New York: Springer-Verlag Publishers.

Wong, P. T. P. (1993). Effective management of life stress: The resource-congruence model. Stress Medicine, 9, 51-60.

Wong, P. T. P. (1997). Meaning-centered counselling: A cognitive-behavioral approach to logotherapy. The International Forum for Logotherapy, 20, 85-94.

Wong, P. T. P. (1998). Meaning-centered counseling. In P. T. P. Wong & P. S. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for menaing: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp.395-435). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Wong, P. T. P. (1999). Towards an integrative model of meaning-centered counselling and therapy. The International Forum for Logotherapy, 22, 47-55.

Wong, P. T. P. (2000). Meaning in life and meaning in death in successful aging. In A. Tomer (Ed.), Death attitudes and the older adults: Theories, concepts and applications (pp.23-35). Philadelphia, PA: Bruner-Routledge.

Wong, P. T. P. (2002). Logotherapy. In G. Zimmer (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy (pp.107-113). NY: Academic Press.

Wong, P. T. P. (2005b). The challenges of experimental existential psychology: Terror management or meaning management. A book review of Handbook of experimental existential psychology. PsycCritiques (Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books). Available at

Wong, P. T. P. (2005c). A course on the meaning of life. Part.1. Available at: URL

Wong, P. T. P. (2007). Viktor Frankl: Prophet of hope for the 21st century. In A. Batthyany & J. Levinson (Eds.), Anthology of Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Inc.

Wong, P. T. P., & Weiner, B. (1981). When people ask “Why” questions and the heuristic of attributional search. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40, 650-663.

Wong, P. T. P., & Fry, P. S. (Eds.) (1998). The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.

Wong, P. T., & Stiller, C. (1999). Living with dignity and palliative care. In B. de Vries (Ed.), End of life issues: Interdisciplinary and multidimensional perspectives (pp. 77-94). New York: Springer.

Wong, P. T. P., Reker, G. T., & Gesser, G. (1994). Death Attitude Profile – Revised: A multidimensional measure of attitudes toward death. In R. A. Neimeyer (Ed.), Death anxiety handbook: Research instrumentation and application (pp.121-148). Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.

Wong, P. T. P., Reker, G. T., & Peacock, E. J. (2005). A resource-congruence model of coping and the development of the coping schema inventory. In P. T. P. Wong & L. C. J. Wong (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural perspectives on stress and coping (p. 223-283). New York: Springer

Journal of Humanistic Psychology
Journal of Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy