Return to:  The Humanistic Approach

The humanistic approach, aka Third Force psychology, explains us as individuals in terms of our subjective interpretation of past experience. Or life as it has affected our personality. It is an approach in psychology that is interested in what it means to be human. It came about as a reaction to the behaviourist approach, and the psychoanalytic approach. It believes we have an inbuilt biological drive that motivates us towards personal growth, and the healthy psychological state of self-actualisation. It emphasises the importance of ‘self’, which is who we think we are as a person. The self is your personality. Influential figures in the development of the approach include Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Maslow gave the humanistic approach his theory of self-actualisation as illustrated by his hierarchy of needs. Rogers extended Maslow’s work into the field of humanistic person-centred psychotherapy with his emphasis on empathy; unconditional positive regard and genuineness. Creating these conditions for growth in therapy facilitate an environment that helps the client become a more fully functioning person. This application of theory in clinical practice moves the person from incongruence to congruence, or from a poor perceived self to a more psychologically healthy ideal self. The ultimate in personal growth is the fully functioning person who has achieved self-actualisation. The notion of self-actualisation lacks empirical support, but correlations have been generated to help validate the effectiveness of the approach in practice. The humanistic approach has had a global impact within and outwith psychology, especially in the areas of humanistic psychotherapy and person centred counselling. Its immense popularity with clients would appear to suggest that they do not view the approaches lack of scientific support as problematic!

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