The humanistic approach to psychology and therapy cannot be summarised
in one single definition. The humanistic view is one of "many ways
of looking", in that root knowledge of oneself, of others and of
the world is based essentially on inner experience and of experiential
encounter with others and with the world. Hence humanistic theories of
what it is to be a person are of necessity varied, they are different
maps but none is the actual territory. Accordingly this statement of UKAHPP's
beliefs presents a variety of views, divided into two sections. Firstly
fundamental beliefs, the tenets of humanistic psychology, to which all
humanistic practitioners would subscribe in varying degrees. Secondly,
a range of views from which the practitioner can select those they experience
to be true, putting the others aside, rather than rejecting them.
Theory of Human Nature and Theory of Self
The individual is unique, while being part of the environment, including
relationships with others within the larger systems of humankind, incorporating
family, community and society, and with the natural world.
The individual is neither intrinsically good or bad and is motivated
towards self actualisation and to seek security, love, belonging and,
ultimately, truth. A person is greater than the sum of their parts, which
includes their body, behaviours, beliefs (secular and spiritual), thoughts
and feelings (conscious and unconscious).
The person is an integrated and self regulating whole, only when this
balance is disturbed or incomplete do dis-ease and dysfunction arise as
symptoms, rather than as causes. Accordingly each individual has a right
to autonomy and self determination, subject to accepting responsibility
for their own actions. Each individual also has responsibility towards
others, respecting their rights and honouring difference and diversity.
The Aims of Therapy and Growth
The aim of personal growth is self awareness and actualisation This means
1. to bring oneself to a state of wholeness and completion in whatever
way one experiences this;
2. to gain sovereignty over one's life, to be authentic;
3. to be emotionally competent and to further one's creativity and one's
search for truth, meaning, love and relationship with oneself and with
4. to relate to others in ways that demonstrate awareness of and respect
5. to heal past and current wounds and traumas;
6. to achieve integrity and autonomy while acknowledging mutual interdependence
with others and with the environment.
Therapy and other means of personal growth assist in these aims by bearing
witness, promoting self regulation and healing, completion of unfinished
business, acceptance of responsibility and love and acceptance of oneself
and of others.
The Nature of the Therapeutic Relationship
The therapeutic relationship is seen as the primary agent of change in
fulfilling the aims of personal growth. It is founded upon the therapist
being genuine, congruent, empathetic, open, honest, non-judgmental and
accepting of the client. Contact between the core self of the client and
core self of the therapist is the point of healing and growth for both
parties. The relationship is "real" but this does not preclude
the place of appropriate challenge, guided exploration, skilled interventions
or the reality of the contractual arrangements and maintenance of boundaries.
Nor does the therapeutic relationship preclude recognition of transference
and resistance by the client or counter transference issues on the part
of the therapist.
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Views Consistent with Core Beliefs
A Diversity of Humanistic Views
Instead of firm definitions, a range views is here presented, which may
be accepted or put aside, as tolerance of such diversity is itself humanistic.
Theories of Human Nature
The process of living is creative and involves interaction between the
physical world, the intellectual and emotional realm (thoughts, intuitions
and feelings), the spiritual (the nature of the soul), the social world
(relationships, society and institutions) and the environment (politics,
community and nature). We are part of the environment and inseparable
from it. We cannot get outside the environment to look at ourselves and
are therefore objectively un-examinable by ourselves. Hence a person supersedes
the sum of his or her parts, is affected by relationships with others,
is aware, has choice and is intentional. There is no split between mind
Purpose of Therapy and Counselling
People are fundamentally capable of self-actualising, self-regulating
and self-forming. This is the continuous and creative process of living.
A humanistic practitioner enters into this process with another human
being or beings and through the medium of a professional therapeutic relationship
seeks to help them regain sovereignty over their lives. The need for psychotherapeutic
intervention arises when interactions between or within the physical,
intellectual, emotional and spiritual parts of a person are damaged or
distorted, including interaction with the environment in which they live
and with others.
Characteristics of Humanistic Practice
Humanistic practice works creatively with the dynamic between individual
uniqueness and the categorising process that some find necessary to understand
human beings and the world generally. The therapeutic relationship is
the main or even perhaps the only medium of change rather than techniques,
strategies and modalities which are only gateways to the encounter. Theory
is used as metaphor to aid a needed common language. Transference and
counter transference are seen as aspects of communication and are handled
as such, rather than as the mainstay of the relationship.
Some principles of therapeutic practice:-
1. The therapeutic relationship is between two (or more) autonomous human
2. Therapy is a two-way process of relationship.
3. Each therapeutic intervention is purposeful and finely tuned, though
the therapist is not always "right".
4. Confrontation shows the client the maladaptive attitudes, beliefs etc.
that prevent him/her moving on.
5. Therapy with the adult enables regressive issues to be contradicted
in the present.
6. Emotional competence is one goal of therapy so that the client can
"own" their own emotions.
7. Acceptance is a further goal of therapy in that the client comes to
accept his/her true self.
8. One aim of therapy is uncovering and re-educating the real self.
9. Emphasis is on experiential learning, humans learn from experience.
10. Congruence is sought in thought and action.
11.. Diversity is welcomed: different individuals follow different paths.
12. Autonomy is promoted: people are free and act as independent individuals.
13. Authenticity is sought: what is valuable in human relating is realness.
14. Awareness is developed: we are able to become fully aware of both
conscious and unconscious forces.
15. Integrity is sought: the integration of different elements into an
16. A non-judgmental and inclusive attitude is adopted.
17. Trust is adopted. People are assumed to be good rather than bad.
Humanistic Approaches in Relation to Other Modalities
Humanistic psychology developed in the USA within the academic psychology
establishment as a reaction to the behavioural and analytic emphasis of
the time. Humanistic approaches are not complementary to the others but,
coming later and incorporating their lessons, are developments of and
advances over them. Humanistic approaches are a synthesis of analytic,
behavioural, existential models. There is no evidence to support one theory
of psychotherapy over another. Humanistic psychology incorporates psychoanalytic
and behavioural orientations within a broader phenomenological orientation
that emphasises human experience and meaning.
There are several sources of humanistic psychology as it exists today:
the phenomenological tradition, the existential tradition, self-actualisation,
abundance motivation, the person-centred approach, body-oriented approaches,
group dynamics, peak experiences and eastern philosophy. To these might
be added transpersonal influences of a more general kind.