Logotherapy is both a life philosophy and treatment modality.

Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy is both a life philosophy and treatment modality. As a philosophy it focuses on the meaning of human existence and on man’s search for such meaning.  As a therapy it focuses on finding healing through finding meaning. 

The basic principles of Logotherapy

Frankl based Logotherapy on three fundamental beliefs (also called ‘tenets’):

Humans have freedom of will.

We always have freedom of will to find meaning
  • Make choices. Meaningful decisions are guided by our values and conscience.
  • Choose our attitudes. This applies moment-to-moment, but is especially meaningful in times of unavoidable suffering.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances

Viktor Frankl- Man's Search for Meaning

The will to meaning is our primary motivation.

Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • Humans are drawn to find something, or someone, worthwhile to live and work for.

Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.

Viktor Frankl - Man's Search for Meaning

Life has ultimate meaning (meaning of life).

Life has meaning under all circumstances
  • There is a deeper, overarching meaning of our lives.
  • Because there is meaning moment-to-moment, meaning can be found in every situation.
  • Meaning is discovered through a connectedness with something beyond and greater than oneself.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

Viktor Frankl- Man's Search for Meaning


Frankl maintained that meaning exists for us to discover: it cannot be created or rationalized. In other words, we can discover meaning but we can’t make meaning. Because meaning is such a core and irreducible concept it is difficult to define (like love, happiness etc.). Nevertheless, here are some attempts to capture what it represents:

Meaning is the essence of existence

Viktor Frankl

Meaning is finding the most correct answer or response to any situation in which we find ourselves

Viktor Frankl

Meaning is a perception of significance

Park and Folkman

Three avenues to discovering meaning

Frankl determined that there are three ways we connect with meaning: through the things we do, through the things we feel, and through the stance we take toward situations. He called these the creative, experiential and attitudinal avenues to meaning-discovery.

  • Creative actions. Giving of ourselves and contributing to life through meaningful work, deeds, or achieving meaningful goals.
  • Experiences. Receiving from life through meaningful experiences or relationships.
  • Attitudes. Adopting the right attitude to situations, especially those of unavoidable suffering.

Logotherapy’s assumptions about humans

Humans are three-dimensional beings

  • Frankl was passionate about the concept that humans have a body, mind and spirit (also referred to as the soma, psyche and noös). 
  • Frankl used the term ‘spirit’ to refer to the human essence, without any religious connotation. To him, the body and mind are what we have and the spirit is what we are.
  • To focus on only body and mind, therefore, reduces humans in some way.


  • Logotherapy celebrates the uniqueness of every person. 
  • Each of us is irreplaceable. Every person, every moment, is precious and never-to-be-repeated. This is a compelling reason to live in the moment and fully experience life.
  • We each have unique life tasks to perform: we are here on purpose. 
  • Because we are unique, the meaning in each situation is unique to us, in that moment. 


  • With free will comes responsibility. 
  • We have meaningful human experiences when we accept that we are responsible for making the choices that are right for us in every situation.
  • In a different sense, we are ‘response-able’: we choose how we respond to our circumstances.


  • Humans can detach and look at themselves and their circumstances objectively.
  • By distancing we are reminded that we are not our body or mind. Then we can tap into the power of our essence (human spirit).
  • It provides clarity, allows us to see potential solutions and the freedom to choose our attitude.
  • Humor is a uniquely human way to self-distance.


  • Humans can rise above and beyond themselves in regard to circumstances.
  • This is done by focusing on meaningful tasks or the needs of someone else.


  • Conscience is an intuitive ability unique to humans.
  • It allows us to self-transcend and to discover meaning.