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Theory in Humanistic Psychology


Humanistic psychology acknowledges that an individual's mind is strongly influenced by ongoing determining forces in both their unconscious and in the world around them, specifically the society in which they live.

Humanistic Therapy overlaps considerably with existential approaches and emphasizes the growth and fulfillment of the self (self-actualization) through self-mastery, self-examination and creative expression. Although the influences of the unconscious and society are taken into account, freedom of choice in creating one's experience is at the core, and is often referred to as self determination.

The focus of the humanistic perspective is on the self, which translates into "YOU", and "your" perception of "your" experiences. This veiw argues that you are free to choose your own behavior, rather than reacting to environmental stimuli and reinforcers. Issues dealing with self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and needs are paramount. The major focus is to facilitate personal development. Two major theorists associated with this view are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Humanistic psychology emerged in the 1950s in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. It is concerned with the subjective experience of human beings, and views using quantitative methods in the study of the human mind and behaviour as misguided. This is in direct contrast to cognitivism (which aims to apply the scientific method to the study of psychology), an approach of which humanistic psychology has been strongly critical. Instead, the discipline stresses a phenomenological view of human experience, seeking to understand human beings and their behavior by conducting qualitative research.

The humanistic approach has its roots in existentialist thought. The founding theorists behind this school of thought are Abraham Maslow, who presented a "hierarchy of needs"; Carl Rogers, who created and developed 'Person centred psychotherapy' and Fritz and Laura Perls who helped create and develop Gestalt therapy. Gestalt psychologists claim to consider behaviour holistically—"the whole is greater than the sum of its parts"—although critics such as Karl Popper have presented forceful arguments against the proposition that entities can be apprehended as wholes.

Humanistic therapy holds a hopeful, constructive view of human beings and the individual's substantial capacity to be self-determining. The ideal description of a humanistic therapist is genuine, non-judgemental, and empathic, and uses open-ended responses, reflective listening and tentative interpretations to promote client self-understanding, acceptance and actualization.

Humanism Approach - a variety of approaches that emphasize personal growth, self-esteem, and the achievement of human potential more than the scientific understanding, prediction, and control of behavior.

So when we say that humanistic psychology is concerned with the whole person, we really do mean it in a very particular way. We have developed a number of direct and effective ways of working, most particularly in the ways suggested by the second column. We assume that people are whole, and we treat them as if they are whole, and we encourage them to act as if they are whole. And in the pages which follow, we shall see exactly how this works out in practice.

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