Humanistic therapy grew out of humanistic psychology, a perspective of psychology that focuses on the individual and their inherent ability to actualize themselves in their own way. Prominent figures linked to this approach include Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. According to Roger’s theory, people are inherently good and driven to achieve their potential. By exploring their uniqueness, people are able to solve their own problems by changing their thoughts and taking different actions.
Humanistic therapy is an approach that focuses on individuals as unique individuals, with potential for growth, rather than emphasizing a set of symptoms or a diagnosis. This style of therapy focuses on the individual looking within to find the right choices for themselves.
By seeking answers within, individuals can find wisdom, healing, growth, and fulfillment. This article will discuss the fundamentals of humanistic therapy, types, what to expect, techniques, benefits, and more.
The humanistic approach to therapy emphasizes a collaborative, accepting, and authentic relationship. The essential characteristics, or fundamental principles, include:
- Empathetic understanding of your experience at all times
- Respect for your values and choices
- Exploration of problems and helps to develop insight, courage and responsibility
- Exploration of goals and expectations, including what you hope to gain from treatment
- Clarify the role of the therapist as a helper while respecting your autonomy
- Improve your motivation
- Responsibility for your actions by negotiating a contract (asking “Where do we go from here?”)
These fundamentals place you at the center of your own experiences, encourage you to accept and take responsibility for your actions, and encourage you to find wisdom and insight through awareness of your thoughts and feelings in the present time. A therapist remains in a helping role, offering empathy and unconditional positive regard.
Types of humanistic therapy
There are several types of humanistic therapy. They share common themes in their approach. A therapist is responsible for providing you with a safe and empathetic space to explore your inner world and your worldview in the present. Although they can provide a structure for dialogue, you remain the expert and the guide to exploration.
Gestalt therapy is a style of psychotherapy where the focus is on the present rather than trying to interpret the past or using the past to interpret the present moment.
In Gestalt therapy, a therapist will work with you to help you become more aware of and accept responsibility for your current actions, thoughts, and feelings. This is done through techniques such as role-playing or re-enacting a script to bring out spontaneous thoughts and feelings and become aware of how they can potentially change. This type of therapy also encourages individuals to learn to accept and value themselves.
Client-centered therapy is an approach based on the principle that self-discovery and fulfillment can occur with an empathic therapist who accepts and understands you unconditionally. It was developed by American psychologist Carl Rogers.
The therapist establishes a supportive atmosphere but avoids giving advice or interpretations. Instead, they reflect and clarify your ideas so you can better understand yourself, resolve your own conflicts, and reframe your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Ultimately, this process helps you make changes in your behavior, helping you become your true self.
Existential Therapy is a style of psychotherapy that emphasizes exploring the individual’s search for meaning in life. It focuses on exploring your current big picture, your feelings, and taking responsibility for your own existence. Individuals must constantly ask themselves “how do I exist?” in the face of uncertainty, conflict or death, all of which are part of life.
In existential therapy, you must continually recreate yourself and create meaning through your presence in the physical world, through relationships with others, and your relationship with yourself.
Benefits of Humanistic Therapy
Humanistic therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that focuses on developing an individual’s own unique potential. Although it does not focus on a specific diagnosis, it can be applied as part of a comprehensive treatment for:
However, it is not only used in the context of specific mental health diagnoses. Humanistic therapy can also be beneficial for anyone who wants to:
- Develop a strong and healthy sense of self
- Improve their self-esteem
- Find purpose and meaning in their lives
- Reach their full potential
What to expect
Humanistic therapy is a type of talk therapy that guides you to develop a better understanding of yourself and your worldview.
With this type of therapy, you can expect to take the initiative in the conversation with the therapist. You can also expect the therapist to be an inquisitive and respectful listener and to acknowledge your experiences with empathy.
With a humanistic therapist, you can expect to be treated as an equal, rather than the therapist acting as an authority or expert figure.
In a humanistic approach, you can expect a therapist to use methods including, but not limited to:
- Unstructured interviews
- Observation and reflections
- Open questions
- Role play and re-enactment
These techniques aim to create a supportive environment where you can feel encouraged to explore your inner world without judgment. It also aims to help you take responsibility for your behaviors and feel empowered and active in the decisions you make for yourself in your life.
Research indicates that humanistic therapy is an effective approach that:
- Creates meaningful, long-term change in clients compared to untreated clients
- Is as effective as other psychotherapy approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
- Treats interpersonal and relationship issues and trauma
- Meets criteria for evidence-based treatment for depression and psychotic disorders
- Helps people deal with chronic and difficult health conditions and substance abuse
Humanistic therapy is a positive and effective approach to psychotherapy. It focuses on the whole person, helping you realize your full potential. It is based on humanistic psychology. This theory states that people are inherently good and driven to reach their full potential.
Although there are several styles of humanistic therapy, all approaches include the encouragement and unconditional acceptance of a therapist. They act as a guide to reflect and clarify your own thoughts and beliefs in the present moment to help you find solutions that are right for you.
A word from Verywell
Trying a new type of therapy can be a daunting experience. Know that every therapist is a little different; If you’re meeting with a therapist and you don’t think it’s right for you, another therapist might be a better fit for you. It’s the same with therapy styles.
If you are interested in exploring humanistic therapy, the first step is to speak with your primary care provider for a referral to a licensed mental health professional who has a humanistic approach to therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is humanistic therapy used to treat?
Humanistic therapy can be used as part of a treatment approach for a variety of disorders, such as depression, anxiety, panic disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and relationship issues. Humanistic therapy can also be beneficial for anyone who wants to improve their self-esteem, find purpose and meaning in their life, and reach their full potential.
What are the disadvantages of the humanistic approach to therapy?
A disadvantage of the humanistic approach to therapy is that it is a form of talk therapy that relies on the client to take responsibility for verbally conveying their thoughts, so they may not be more beneficial for those who have communication problems or who are uncomfortable with this approach. . Also, the client should be the one creating their own direction in the session, so the therapist will not be offering expert advice.
Humanistic therapy is an approach that generally does not address specific problems, symptoms, or disorders. Instead, it aims to help a client become more aware of their inner world and worldview.
How long does it take to see results from humanistic therapy?
There is no set length of time to see results from humanistic therapy. However, establishing a positive therapeutic alliance with your therapist is essential to the success of humanistic therapy. For sessions to be effective, there must be trust, rapport and open dialogue between client and therapist.