Logotherapy: Viktor Frankl’s Theory


Logotherapy is sometimes called the third School of Viennese psychotherapy, while the other two are Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology. Another way to see psychotherapy is as a compliment, not a substitute for psychotherapy (Frankl, 1975a). Logos is a Greek word that has connotations of "meaning” and "soul", the latter being without primary religious connotations. Man is a seeker of meaning and the search for meaning is not pedagogical. 

Existence exposes the person to the need to find meaning in his life. The main purpose of logotherapy is to help the client in the search for meaning.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

Viktor E. Frankl, born March 26, 1905, in Vienna, Austria, was the son of Jewish parents. His mother was descended from an old, well-established Prague noble family. His father was the son of a poor Bookbinder who became a civil servant and later became director of the Youth Welfare Department of the Government of Austria. Among his three siblings, Frank grew up in a secure environment, describing his mother as kind and pious and his father as spartan, stoic, religious, and with a strong sense of duty. 

Frank sees himself as having tension between his father's rationality and his mother's deep emotions. Frank was a very intellectually gifted student at school and more mature than his age, which corresponded with Freud. Young Frankl published his first article at Freud's invitation in the international journal of psychoanalysis.

Frankl coined the term logotherapy in the 1920s and in the 1930s used the word Existenz analyze, existential analysis, as an alternative word to logotherapy. To avoid confusion, he almost never uses the term existential analysis in his English publications. In 1928, Frankl founded the Youth Counseling centers in Vienna and headed them until 1938. 

In 1930, he received his MD from the University of Vienna. Between 1938 and 1942 he was a specialist in Neurology and Psychiatry, and then head of the neurology department at the Jewish Hospital in Vienna. During this period, he wrote the first draft of his first book.

Shortly before America entered the Second World War, Frankl was given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, but he refused. His mother, brother, and first wife, Tilly, died in different concentration camps. But his sister, who had by then immigrated to Australia, survived.

From 1942 to 1945 Frankl had terrible experiences as a prisoner in four concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kaufering 111, and Durkheim. Upon arriving at Auschwitz, Frankl's hair was shaved. The manuscript of his first book was confiscated. 

Over the next three years, he survived the selection of who should live or die, forced labor, brutal Capos (guards), beatings, malnutrition, illness, twists and turns of fate, and the existential challenge of finding meaning in his suffering. For most of his time, he worked digging and preparing railway lines. In just a few weeks during his detention, he worked as a doctor.

During this period, Frankl had the opportunity to observe human nature in extreme conditions. Many prisoners surrendered and some even did nothing. However, some of the other prisoners went deeper spiritually and took the difficulties as a test of their inner strength. 

They rise to the challenge of finding meaning in their lives. Frankl quotes Nietzsche, ' He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how (1963: 121, emphasis original), despite their suffering, these prisoners retain their freedom to choose in their inner lives and in the way they behave towards others. 

They turned their tragedy into victory. When he returned to Vienna after the war, in the midst of his sedation, he dictated the third and final draft of the Doctor and the Soul (1955). After that, for nine days he dictated man's Search for Meaning (1963), he thought that he would publish it anonymously, and the book was published in 2005 and sold nearly 10 million copies.

In 1946, Frankl became head of the Department of Neurology at the Polyclinic Hospital in Vienna where he worked until 1970. In 1946 he also met his second wife, Elly, whom he married the following year. In 1947, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and neurology at the University of Vienna and thereafter in 1955 as University Professor. Frankl is the former president of the Austrian Medical Society of Psychotherapy. 

In addition, he became a Distinguished Professor of Logotherapy at US International University in California and also Visiting Professor at Stanford, Harvard, and Duquesne universities, among others. More than 200 universities around the world have invited him to give lectures. In addition to the United States, he lectured in Europe, Australia, South America, Asia, and Africa.

A. Basic Concepts Of Logotherapy

1.      Freedom Of Will

Frankl used the term existential in three ways. First, the term existential refers to that existence, which is a special mode of existence of the human being. Second, existential refers to the meaning of existence. Third, existential refers to the attempt to find meaning in personal existence or, in other words, the desire for meaning. Humans need to be aware of the various temporary possibilities. They are constantly choosing which temporary potential masses will be actualized and which will be actualized and which will support the non-being.

Man has freedom of will. Humans are free to shape their character and take responsibility for what they create from it. If one transcends the somatic and physical dimensions of existence, one enters a new dimension called the" noological dimension " by Frankl. It is in this dimension of noology that the typical functions of the human being reside, for example, reflection, the capacity to make oneself an object, humor, and prudence.

2.      Will find meaning

The desire for meaning is a fundamental motivational force in humans. Frankl wrote, " Man's search for meaning is the main force in his life. This meaning is unique and specific and can only be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it reach a meaning that will satisfy his will for meaning" (1963: 154).

Logotherapy focuses on the will to meaning while psychoanalysis focuses on the will to pleasure and individual psychology focuses on the will to power. Frankl admits that Freud and Adler did not use the terms "desire for pleasure"and" desire for power". Pleasure and power, however, are byproducts or derivatives of the desire for meaning.

3.      Consciousness and unconsciousness


Human beings are spiritual beings and logotherapy focuses on their spiritual being. Spiritual phenomena in humans can be something grounded or unconscious. Logotherapy aims to increase the client's awareness of his spiritual self. People need to be aware of their responsibility to detect and act in relation to the unique meaning of their lives in the particular situation in which they are involved.

Spiritual Unconsciousness

Every human being has an existential personal spiritual core. Although the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness is 'fluid', Frankl considers the spiritual basis of human existence to be essentially unconscious. Frankl wrote: 'existence in action is not reflection' (1975a: 30)

Word Of Heart

The origin of conscience is found in the spiritual unconscious. Logos is deeper than logic. Frankl wrote,' the duty of the heart is to reveal to man Unum necesse, one necessary thing ' (1975a: 35). Through the heart, the human Trans agent 'sounding through is a personalized in Latin that is related to the concept of 'person human. The word heart has a key position, which is to express human transcendence.

Religious Unconsciousness

 The unconscious religiosity or unconsciousness of religion is within the spiritual unconscious. Man always stands in a deliberate connection with Transcendence, even if only on a subconscious level. This 'unconscious God' is hidden in two ways. First, man's relationship with God is hidden. Second, God is hidden. Even in very non-religiosity people, it exists latently.

The religious unconscious is an agent of being, not an instinctual factor. Frankl called it 'a being that decides unconsciously, and not a being driven by the unconscious' (1975a: 65). Religious existentialism must be spontaneous. True religiosity must unfold with its speed.

4.      The meaning of life and death

Meaning Of Life Frankl wrote that "to be human means to be responsible for fulfilling the potential meaning attached to a given life situation' (1975a: 125). There is not a single stage of life in which man can 'avoid the mandate to choose between different possibilities". (Frankl, 1955: 85).


Nelson, Richard&Jones. 2011. Theory and practice of counseling and therapy.

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