Original Article

Examination of the Philosophical Diversity of Existential Approaches in Social Work Practice

Hideyuki Tajima


The existential approaches in social work practice are thought to help social workers to understand the ‘being’ of humans, especially the ‘suffering’ of humans. The existential approaches understand clients as ‘existence,’ that is to say, their ‘existence’ revolves around a concern for themselves. But the issues each theorist of approach deals with are considerably different from each other. In other words, these approaches are too different to be grouped together, but they have been so far understood as the same category as ‘existential social work.’ This article clarifies the diversity of existential approaches in social work practice by examining the philosophical thoughts on which these are based, through investigating the articles. Among other things, the author of this article focuses on theorists such as Jim Lantz, David Weiss, Neil Thompson, and Donald Krill, who had systematically developed their own existential frameworks. As a result, the author finds that there are considerable differences among the four frameworks. By understanding the diversity of existential social work theories examined in this article, social workers are able to broaden the range of the interpretation of variation of ‘existence (suffering)’ of their clients.

Keywords: existential social work • existence • suffering • philosophical diversity

Japanese Journal of Social Welfare, 54(5), 23-30 2014