Humanistic Approach

WHAT IS THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH?

Humanistic Therapy is the process by which an individual is influenced and gains their knowledge. Humanism is specifically positive in regards to the therapeutic process, and tries to eliminate those occurrences and attitudes that do not produce a positive being. This therapeutic process is specifically beneficial to individuals looking to deal with the present, rather than past issues and problems.

Humanistic approaches to individual treatment usually follow the same format as other forms of outpatient counseling. Humanistic group treatment formats are flexible, and a wide range of treatment methods are used, ranging from encounter groups and therapy groups to assertiveness training and consciousness-raising groups. In addition, the humanistic tradition has fostered the publication of self-help books for people interested in psychological self-improvement.

WHAT DOES THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH MEAN AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

The human-potential movement is a term used for humanistic psychotherapies that first became popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. The movement emphasized the development of individuals through such techniques as encounter groups, sensitivity training, and primal therapy. Although the human-potential movement and humanistic therapy are sometimes used as synonyms, in reality, humanistic therapy preceded the human-potential movement and provided the movement’s theoretical base. Humanistic therapy flourished in the 1940s and 1950s. Its theorists were mostly psychologists, who included Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow, Everett Shostrom, Carl Rogers, and Fritz Perls.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH?

The purpose of humanistic therapy is to allow a person to make full use of his or her personal capacities leading to self-actualization. Self-actualization requires the integration of all the components of one’s unique personality. These elements or components of personality include the physical, emotional, intellectual, behavioral, and spiritual. The marks of a self-actualized person are maturity, self-awareness, and authenticity. Humanistic therapists think that most people – not only those with obvious problems – can benefit from opportunities for self-development. Humanistic therapy uses both individual and group approaches.

The human-potential movement and humanistic therapy emphasis:
�A concern for what is uniquely human rather than what humans share with other animals.
âÂ?¢A focus on each person’s open-ended growth rather than reshaping individuals to fit society’s demands.
âÂ?¢An interest in the here-and-now rather than in a person’s childhood history or supposed unconscious conflicts.
âÂ?¢A holistic approach concerned with all levels of human being and functioning – not just the intellectual – including creative and spiritual functioning.
�A focus on psychological health rather than disturbance.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE RESULTS FROM HUMANISTIC THERAPY?

The anticipated outcome of humanistic therapy is a greater degree of personal wholeness, self-acceptance, and exploration of one’s potential. In group treatment, participants are expected to grow in interpersonal empathy and relationship skills. However, there have been few controlled studies to determine the reasonableness of these expectations.

WHO SHOULD AND SHOULD NOT USE IT?

Humanistic approach can be used by therapists may be medical doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, or clergy. Psychotic patients, substance abusers, and persons with severe personality disorders or disorders of impulse control may not be appropriate for treatment with humanistic methods.

WARNING LABEL:

The chief risks include the reinforcement of self-centered tendencies in some patients and the dangers resulting from encounter groups led by persons without adequate training. Poorly led encounter groups can be traumatic to persons with low tolerance for confrontation or “uncovering” of private issues.

ADDITIONAL READINGS ON THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH

Axline, Virginia M (1971) Dibs: In search of self Harmondsworth, Penguin. An un-put-down able book on a five-year-old in play therapy. The best book to read first in humanistic psychology. Totally absorbing.

Brammer, L M & Shostrom, E L (1989) Therapeutic psychology: Fundamentals of counselling and psychotherapy (5th ed) Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall. This is a big humanistic text, covering theoretical foundations, process, readiness for counselling, the therapeutic relationship, strategies and methods, and special chapters on groups, couple and family work, career development, etc. Section on interpretation, resistance and countertrans-ference, and a piece on the assumptions made by humanistic psychotherapists.

Ernst, Sheila & Goodison, Lucy (1981) In our own hands: A handbook of self-help therapy London, The Women’s Press. This is all about group work, with good chapters on gestalt, encounter, body work, symbol and fantasy, psychodrama, regression, lots of practical hints and exercises and a good chapter on politics. It is addressed to women, but is equally applicable to men. Gendlin, Eugene (1981) Focusing New York, Bantam. Says some very fundamental things about the process of therapy or counselling, based on thorough research. Offers a way of teaching the client how to be a better client. A classic of the experiential approach.

Walkenstein, Eileen (1975) Shrunk to fit London, Coventure. Written by a senior psychiatrist, this book starts off uncompromisingly with a chapter entitled “Human beings can’t be diagnosed”, and continues on from there. Truly humanistic, literate, covering many issues which arise in therapy, and giving many examples of how the author deals with them.

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