Meaning Therapy

Meaning therapy is a pluralistic approach to counselling and therapy that focuses on the fundamental human needs for meaning and relationship. It is a comprehensive way to address all aspects of meaning in life concerns in a supportive therapeutic relationship. Thus, the motto for meaning therapy is, “Meaning is all we have; relationship is all we need.” Meaning therapy assumes that when these two essential human needs are met, individuals are more likely to cope better with their predicaments and live a more rewarding life. When there is deficiency in these two areas, people will more likely experience difficulties in life.

Meaning therapy favours a psycho-educational approach that recognizes the vital role of meaning and purpose in healing and well-being. It appeals to the client’s sense of responsibility to make full use of their freedom to pursue what really matters and what constitutes a rewarding future. Within this conceptual framework, the therapist provides a safe and trusting environment that facilitates collaborative effort and shared decision making in terms of preferred interventions, plans, and goals.

Summary of Meaning therapy

An integrative, comprehensive, and evidence-based approach to therapy, counselling, and social work:

  1. One conceptual framework — Existential positive psychology (PP2.0)
  2. Two visions simultaneously (double-vision) — One on the present, one on the big picture
  3. Three mental disciplines — Mindful observation, Meaning mindset and Dialectical thinking.
  4. Four treasures of life (PURE) — Purpose, Understanding, Responsibility and Enjoying life
  5. Five steps of resilience (ABCDE) — Acceptance, Belief, Commitment, Discovery and Evaluation
  6. Six helping angels — Faith, Love, Meaning (Positive triad), Courage, Acceptance, Transformation (Iron triangle)
  7. Seven sources of meaning — Acceptance, achievement, intimacy, relationship, self-transcendence, religion, fairness
  8. Eight coping skills — Resource cultivation, Appropriate action, Problem-focused coping, Emotion-focused coping, Meaning-focused coping, Religious coping, Existential coping, Self-restructuring,
  9. Outcomes — Tragic optimism, Mature happiness, True grit, Humility, Authenticity,Compassion, Gratitude, Social responsibility, Self-transcendence.

Come and learn these innovative meaning-focused interventions at the Summer Institute.

Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions

Wong, P. T. P. (2016). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. E. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyány (Eds.). Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy (pp. 323-342). New York, NY: Springer.

This chapter first argues the need for second wave positive psychology (PP2.0), which is informed by Frankl’s logotherapy as well as existential psychology. The main thesis of PP2.0 is that in order to attain healing and authentic happiness, one needs to confront the dark side of human existence and pursue self-transcendence—going beyond oneself to serve something greater. The chapter then introduces integrative meaning therapy and its existential positive interventions, representing the applications of PP2.0. The main contributions of this chapter are that it brings out the positive aspects of existential therapy and adds a new dimension of existential concerns to positive psychology as usual.

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Meaning therapy: Assessments and interventions

Wong, P. T. P. (2015). Meaning therapy: Assessments and interventions. Existential Analysis, 26(1), 154-167.

This paper introduces meaning therapy (MT) as a recent extension of Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy with several important new features, such as being integrative, empirical, and positive. With meaning as a holistic, central construct, MT is inherently integrative. With its emphasis on contemporary meaning research, MT has firm empirical support. With respect to its positive orientation, MT distinguishes itself from most existential therapies by virtue of its focus on meaning-seeking and meaning-making as a positive value for a worthwhile life. This paper also introduces several instruments and meaning-based interventions developed by Wong.

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Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychology

Wong, P. T. P. (2010). Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychology. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 40(2), 85-99.

Meaning Therapy, also known as meaning-centered counseling and therapy, is an integrative, positive existential approach to counseling and psychotherapy. Originated from logotherapy, Meaning Therapy employs personal meaning as its central organizing construct and assimilates various schools of psychotherapy to achieve its therapeutic goal. Meaning Therapy focuses on the positive psychology of making life worth living in spite of sufferings and limitations. It advocates a psycho-educational approach to equip clients with the tools to navigate the inevitable negatives in human existence and create a preferred future. The paper first introduces the defining characteristics and assumptions of Meaning Therapy. It then briefly describes the conceptual frameworks and the major intervention strategies. In view of Meaning Therapy’s open, flexible and integrative approach, it can be adopted either as a comprehensive method in its own right or as an adjunct to any system of psychotherapy.

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Meaning Therapy Q & A

You can turn shame into pride & well-being through meaning therapy

Shame is a huge but ignored factor in well-being research. In an increasing impersonal digital society, the problem with shame becomes even greater.  A wide range of disorders and self-sabotaging behaviors, from addiction to aggression, can all be traced back of the soul-eating emotion of shame.  This paper focuses on ways to transform shame to wellbeing and resilience.

Different types of shame

There are four major types of shame with different causes, requiring different treatments. All four types of shame can become toxic and severely affect our wellbeing, if left untreated.

1) Guilt-based shame for some moral transgression.

2) Social-comparison-based shame for not as good as others or being different from others.

3) Self-image based shame for one’s own deficiency/inadequacy, real or imagined.

4) Trauma-based shame because of physical or emotional abuses, such as sexual assault, or verbal abuse that we are not good enough,

Different meaning-focused interventions

The good news is that there is effective cure for shame and we can become more resilient and happier by overcoming shame (Wong, 2019 .…/ )

I propose that these different types require different meaning-focused interventions. For example, for the first type, self-compassion and forgiveness are important considerations in therapy.

For for second type of shame, one needs to switch from comparing with others to comparing with oneself yesterday. The focus should be on daily self-improvement and striving to fulfill one’s potentials.

For the third type, the focus in knowing and accepting one’s true self and one’s own limitations. The key to strip away all the false assumptions and distorted self-perceptions so that one can discover one’s true value.

For the last type, penetrating the subconscious memory and re-writing the narrative surrounding the trauma are paramount. However, in all cases, a trusted relationship and a focus on meaning remain the key to transforming shame to wellbeing.

You can learn all about how to integrate healing with flourishing in provide a meaning-focused cure for shame ( )