Humanistic psychotherapy grew out of a general rejection of old values and authoritarian constraints after World War II. It may be described as optimistic in that it assumes the achievability of transformation in behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. It embodies the view that everyone has an innate tendency to goodness and self-realization. But such a positive tendency may be negated if we become over concerned with the evaluations and expectations of others, or if our personal and social needs are not met.
Humanistic thinking emphasizes the subjectivity of our experiences and our continual freedom to choose how our lives should be; it rebuts the notion that we are controlled by our environment or involuntary internal impulses.
Humanist psychotherapy is aimed at the growth of the individual, and there is more emphasis on personal feelings, well-being, and the response to the immediate environment than on science and sociology. Humanistic psychotherapy has few overall principles and its implementation is very personal. Treatment is undertaken through the development of self-knowledge, and this approach discards the philosophy of the behaviorists who made psychology more scientific and based on more inflexible principles. Each “client” is encouraged to discuss their own characteristics interpretation of the world around them, and, through this exchange, learns to communicate and feel better about themselves.
Two American psychologists pioneered the idea of the humanist movement – Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow believed that counseling had to be individual to work and that set ideas and ideologies were irrelevant across the population as a whole. They believed that if clients are encouraged to discuss themselves, they will learn to develop an understanding of situations and how to deal with them. Rogerian therapy grew from this idea, exploring the idea of self-value and teaching people to take charge of their lives. Maslow aimed his theories at self-fulfillment and self-development, based on a list of characteristics that he deemed to be essential to this, which included everything from basic needs food and water, to love and affection. Today, the humanist therapies are widely used for people with emotional problems.
How Can Humanistic Psychotherapy Help?
Therapists aim to be genuine, to offer unconditional positive regard and focused empathetic understanding. They try in addition to create conditions in which clients can perceive their own motives, assume responsibility for themselves, apprehend the possibilities that exist, and set their own goals.
Existential humanistic psychology believes we create our own worlds, and that what matters is not what we have been but what we are now and what we can become. Existentialists are willing to examine such problematic issues as death, meaninglessness, isolation, and responsibility. They believe it is necessary for us all to question basic assumptions, to face up to our limitations, and to look out for and take advantage of all the possibilities, in order to be fully alive.