The humanistic approach to therapy is popular with many mental health experts. Its positive outlook and emphasis on free will can be ideal for treating addiction, anxiety, depression, and a wide variety of other mental health problems. If you’re considering counseling, you should understand the foundations and benefits of humanistic therapy so that you can decide if it’s the right option for you.
What Is the Humanistic Approach?
The humanistic approach emerged in the 1950s in response to behaviorism and psychoanalysis, which were the two main theories of psychology at the time. Some psychologists believed that psychoanalysis was too focused on the unconscious mind and that behaviorism was too deterministic. These theories were also criticized because they’re mostly concerned with people’s flaws, behavioral issues, or other deficits. Instead of focusing on dysfunction or what a person may be lacking, humanistic psychology focuses on their positive traits and on finding ways for them to reach their full potential.
Today, most experts use elements of all three schools of thought to understand the human mind. The humanistic approach allows psychologists to take a holistic view of their clients and see all of their positive traits.
Humanistic psychology is built on several key ideas. An article from the Journal of Humanistic Psychology narrows the theory down to the following five principles:
- 1. Humans are more than the sum of their parts and can’t be reduced down to components.
- 2. Humans exist in a uniquely human context and in a “cosmic ecology.”
- 3. Humans are conscious of themselves and others, and they are aware of their consciousness.
- 4. Humans have free will, but the ability to make choices comes with great responsibilities.
- 5. Humans act intentionally, set goals, express creativity, and seek meaning in life.
Humanistic therapists work with people who have depression, anxiety, personality disorders, addictions, family issues, and a number of other struggles.
Humanistic Therapy Techniques
Humanistic therapy is a broad field, and several specific approaches have been developed over the last few decades. One of the main humanistic therapies used today is client-centered therapy, which regards the client as the expert on their own thoughts and emotions. Client-centered therapists try to understand how the world looks from the client’s perspective, and they allow the client to share their thoughts without judgment or direction.
Another humanistic approach is Gestalt therapy, which is all about self-awareness. Gestalt therapists focus on the present moment, and this mindfulness can help clients gain insight into how they think, feel, and behave.
The third major humanistic technique is existential therapy, which focuses on free will and the search for meaning. The goal of existential therapy is to increase self-awareness in order to give meaning and purpose to life.
Benefits of Humanistic Therapy
Focuses on Free Will
One of the foundations of humanistic psychology is the idea that people make their own choices. While other psychological theories may use learned behaviors or your unconscious mind to explain your behavior, the humanistic approach emphasizes free will. When you’re in therapy to improve your mental health and well-being, it’s motivational to hear that you’re in control of your own decisions.
Sees the Whole Individual
Humanistic therapy does not reduce a person down to a set of neurons. To truly understand a person, humanistic therapists would look at the context of their whole life. Your environment can have a big impact on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and humanistic psychology takes this into consideration.
Highlights the Good
Humanistic psychology is a very optimistic field. The theory involves the belief that humans are good at heart and can make the right decisions to reach their own potential and make the world better. Humanistic therapists show their clients unconditional positive regard, which is acceptance and support regardless of what the individual says, does, or believes.
Addresses Life Goals
Humanistic therapy is not just about working through a mental health problem or difficult life event. While this type of therapy can be a great option for people with a wide range of mental health disorders, it can also help them work toward their life goals. Humanistic psychologists believe that people naturally set goals and try to make an impact on the world, and they help clients discover their path in life.
Mental health problems are more common than many people realize. Countless individuals have used therapy to understand themselves, process difficult emotions, and improve their overall well-being. If you’re struggling with your mental health, contact Dr. Howard Samuels today for help. Dr. Samuels is an experienced, successful therapist who can help you regain control of your life and health.