The role of life meaning in psychotherapy
This study investigates the association between meaning in life and outcome in therapy. Most current studies examining meaning and mental health have not examined these variables in the context of the therapeutic relationship. As well as examining how meaning in life relates to level of functioning and well-being, this study collected data from clients undergoing therapy at two time periods to assess the association between clients' perceptions of their meaning in life and outcome in therapy. It was hypothesized that the presence of meaning in life would be positively related to well-being variables and negatively related to problems or psychological symptoms. Alternatively, it was hypothesized that the search for meaning in life would be negatively related to well-being variables and positively related to problems or psychological symptoms. In addition, the presence of meaning in life was expected to increase as therapy progressed, while the search for meaning would decrease. It was also hypothesized that the presence of meaning in life at the beginning of counseling would predict therapeutic outcome while controlling for pre-test outcome scores, that the therapeutic bond would partially mediate the association between meaning and outcome, and that the presence of meaning would serve as a protective factor against high levels of psychological problems or low levels of functioning. Results indicated that although the presence of and search for meaning were related to outcome variables in the hypothesized directions, these associations were only moderate. In addition, the presence of meaning did significantly increase over the course of 2-3 sessions of therapy but the search for meaning did not decrease during this time. All other hypotheses were not supported, likely in part due to a small sample size (N = 73) and thus low power to find small effects. Exploratory analyses indicated that the relationship between meaning in life and life satisfaction was partially mediated by psychological functioning. These results along with limitations and future directions of the study are discussed.