What is a humanistic approach to counselling

Humanistic psychology believes that people are good and focuses on helping people reach their potential by exploring their uniqueness. It is based on the assumption that people have free will and are motivated to reach their full potential through self-actualization.

Humanistic psychology and humanistic therapy go together as the latter focuses on people’s capacity to make rational choices and reach their full potential. This therapy approach focuses on the client and allows them to take lead in the conversation. It also allows them to discover their true authentic selves and find solutions for their concerns in the process.

The therapist acts as a non-judgmental, respectful listener who guides the therapeutic process. They acknowledge your experiences without trying to shift the conversation in another direction.

Important assumptions of humanistic psychology include:

  • Feelings, thoughts, perception, and more are central to how you feel about yourself, which is the main indicator of your behavior.
  • Your need to reach your full potential is a natural process.
  • All people have free will, and you need to take responsibility for your behaviors for personal growth and fulfillment.
  • People can be good with the right set of conditions, especially during childhood.
  • A psychologist should treat each case individually as each person is different with unique experiences.

Humanistic therapy is a mental health approach that emphasizes the importance of being your true self in order to lead the most fulfilling life.

It’s based on the principle that everyone has their own unique way of looking at the world. This view can impact your choices and actions.

Humanistic therapy also involves a core belief that people are good at heart and capable of making the right choices for themselves. If you don’t hold yourself in high regard, it’s harder to develop your full potential.

Read on to learn more about humanistic therapy, including how it works and tips for finding a therapist.

How does it work?

Humanistic therapy involves better understanding your world view and developing true self-acceptance.

This is accomplished partially through the development of unconditional positive regard, both from others and from yourself. When you believe that others only respect you if you act a certain way, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly feeling like you aren’t enough.

This feeling of worthlessness, in turn, can negatively impact how you view both yourself and the world around you. Remember, according to the underlying principles of humanistic therapy, how you view yourself and the world around you has a big impact on your thoughts and actions.

Humanistic therapy can help you to both develop self-acceptance and overcome criticism or disapproval from others by offering a safe space to work toward personal growth. There are ways of doing this, which we’ll go over later.

How does it compare to other types of therapy?

Humanistic therapy differs from more traditional approaches, such as psychoanalysis or behavioral therapy.

To start, humanistic therapy tends to focus more on your current day-to-day life. This is very different from other approaches that tend to focus on your past experiences, including those you might not be aware of.

Similarly, humanistic therapy also focuses more on helping the individual as a whole, rather than treating a specific diagnosis. A humanistic therapist will often do this through active listening. This means that they’ll listen carefully to your words, making sure they fully understand what you’re saying. They may stop you to ask follow-up questions.

Humanistic therapists work from the idea that you are the expert in your difficulties. They’ll support the direction you take each session, trusting you to know what you need to talk about in order to work through the things bringing you to therapy.

What are some examples of humanistic therapy?

Humanistic therapies include a number of approaches. Three of the most common are Gestalt therapy, client-centered therapy, and existential therapy.

Gestalt therapy

In Gestalt therapy, your personal experiences are key, along with describing what you’re going through in your own words. It’s based on an underlying theory that unresolved conflicts with others — including family members or romantic partners — lead to distress.

Gestalt therapy provides a state of “safe emergency” where you can explore, in the present moment, the things bothering you. For example, you might explore the belief that your opinions don’t matter to your partner.

Therapists help create the “here and now” atmosphere by asking what you’re currently aware of or how certain emotions make you feel. You might use a range of techniques to do this, including:

  • role-playing
  • exaggerating a behavior
  • reenacting a scenario

For example, you might be asked to visualize a person you’re having a conflict with sitting in an empty chair across from you. Then, you’ll carry out a conversation as if the person were actually sitting there.

Client-centered therapy

Also known as person-centered therapy and Rogerian therapy, this approach is considered the main type of humanistic therapy.

It’s based on the idea that absorbing criticism or disapproval from others can distort the way you see yourself. This blocks personal growth and prevents you from living a fulfilling life, which in turn leads to mental distress.

As the name suggests, it also places a lot of focus on developing a strong client-therapist relationship.

A client-centered therapist will unconditionally accept you, even if they disagree with some aspect of your behavior. Feeling accepted in therapy, no matter what you share, can help you avoid holding back out of fear of disapproval.

You’ll guide the direction of therapy while your therapist listens without judgement.

Existential therapy

Existential therapy draws more from philosophy than most other approaches to mental health treatment. The goal of this approach is to help you understand how your existence — the concept of you as a whole person — affects your unique worldview.

Existential therapists help you understand and explore the meaning you give to things that happen in your life. With their guidance, you’ll learn to accept responsibility for choices you make and realize the freedom you have to make changes that will give your life greater meaning.

Like other humanistic approaches, existential therapy is mainly concerned with the issues you currently face, rather than things from your past. But it does consider how your thoughts — conscious or unconscious — impact your mental health and goals.

Who’s a good candidate for humanistic therapy?

Humanistic therapy is worth a shot if you’re looking for ways to make your life more fulfilling, regardless of whether you have an underlying mental health condition. It’s also worth considering if you’ve previously had trouble building a rapport with therapists.

A 2002 review of 86 studies found that humanistic therapies were effective at helping people make lasting change over time. People in humanistic therapy showed more change than people in no therapy at all, according to the review.

People in other types of therapy showed similar amounts of change, suggesting it’s more about finding a type of therapy that you enjoy and will commit to doing.

In addition, a 2013 review of existing research suggests that client-centered approaches can be helpful for:

  • trauma
  • relationship difficulties
  • psychosis
  • depression
  • coping with chronic health issues

However, it wasn’t quite as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for addressing anxiety and panic disorder.

Whether a humanistic approach fits your needs can depend on what you want to get out of therapy. Humanistic therapies typically don’t make diagnosis a priority and may not work toward specific treatment goals.

If you have specific symptoms or behaviors you’d like to address or are seeking therapy with a clear goal for diagnosis and treatment, you might find a different approach more helpful. On the other hand, it may be a good fit if you’re simply feeling “stuck” or in a rut.

Keep in mind that other types of therapy often incorporate aspects of humanistic therapy, such as unconditional acceptance and active listening.

How do I find a humanistic therapist?

It’s not always easy to find the right therapist. When looking for a humanistic therapist, start by considering what you’d like to work on. This can be a specific issue or a more abstract concept.

Also think about any traits you’d like in a therapist. Would you prefer to work with a therapist of your own gender? The therapist-client bond is particularly important in humanistic therapy, so you’ll want to make sure the therapist is one you’ll feel comfortable with.

When looking for a therapist, you also want to take note of how much each potential therapist charges per session. Some therapists take insurance, but others don’t. And some may offer a sliding scale program that allows you to pay what you can.

Learn more about how to find affordable therapy.

The bottom line

Humanistic therapy is a type of mental health treatment that centers around your unique experience and perspective. Humanistic therapists offer empathy, genuine concern for you and your experience, and unconditional positive regard.

While it might not be the best option for getting a concrete mental health diagnosis, it can be a good option if you’re simply looking for ways to lead a more meaningful life.

Humanistic approach to Counselling

Article by : Payal Hora

“The purpose of Psychology is to give us a completely different idea of things we know best.”

                   -P. Valry

Human brains are the most complex structures and are influenced by various thoughts, emotions, external stimuli, experiences, etc and Psychotherapy gives counselors and therapists a reference point to decode the client’s behavior and trigger points, which will eventually help them in maneuvering the individual’s treatment.

Psychology was initially based on 2 perspectives. Namely, the behaviourist perspective  is based on the school of thought which implies that human behavior is conditioned due to its interaction with the environment around them.

The second pillar of psychology is the Psychodynamic approach, where psychologists believe that unconscious forces or unaddressed thoughts mold the behaviors of the individual and was more inclined towards dream analysis, childhood traumas, etc.

And the third force in psychology is Humanism or Humanistic approach which was born out of rebellion, as psychologists considered the former two approaches to be limited in their scope and sometimes detrimental to individuals issues.

The humanistic approach expanded its footprints in the 1950s. This theory was more focused on the good side of humans, rather than on the past experiences or pathological impacts. Carl Rogers developed this person-centered approach, with Abraham Maslow, who went on to study the need for self-actualization, after Carl Rogers coined the term “actualizing tendency.”

•What is Humanistic Counselling?

The humanistic approach focuses on the persons present rather than his past. Humanistic counsellors treat the patients as clients on an equal level to that of the counselor. This theory holds a person inherently good and tries to understand a person’s goals and steers them towards self-awareness. Carl Rogers, who developed this theory believes that every person controls their destinies.

In humanistic counseling, the counselor provides a deeper understanding of the person and focuses on the client’s innate ability to love and grow. The humanistic approach aims to help the client reach self-actualization, as referred by Maslow and Rogers.

Humanistic therapies are based on the fact that humans gravitate towards goodness, and can overcome obstacles and reach their goals with the right support.

“If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and self-initiated learning.”

– Carl Rogers

•Specialist Knowledge in Humanistic Counseling.

The therapist/counselor forms a close relationship with the client so that they feel comfortable to open up without the feeling of being judged. The various types of Humanistic Counseling are Gestalt therapy, Reality therapy  , Transpersonal therapy , Human Givens Psychotherapy and many more.

A.Gestalt Therapy:

A counselor, specializing in Gestalt Therapy, focus on making the individuals more self-aware about their emotions and feeling, rather than digging deep into the cause of those feelings. Previous theories focused on identifying the cause of the feelings , but Gestalt Therapists focus on the here and now of the client. Gaining self-awareness is at the core of Gestalt Therapy.

B.Person-centered therapy

A person-centered approach is also known as Client-centered therapy. In this type of counseling the focus is laid on the individuals self worth and value, so that they can accept themselves and reconnect with themselves on all the realms of life.

C.Transactional analysis

Transactional analysis identifies three ego states, namely Child ego, Parent ego and Adult ego. These ego states run through every relationship that the client establishes with other people in his life. This counselling approach , helps the client to align with his acting and thinking skills. It encourages them to think about the past decisions they made and how those decisions and choices influence their today.

•The Humanistic Counsellor

Humanistic counsellors are expected to be non-judgmental, be able to see the client’s world through the clients eyes and have unconditional positive regard towards their clients. They focus on the clients past, present and future , collectively, instead of focusing on a certain issue or incident. The humanistic counsellors are expected to make the client comfortable by providing them a safe environment, so that it becomes easy for them to open up.

Therapists allow their clients to look back at their life in retrospect, and value their own selves and believe in their innate goodness. Humanistic counsellors believe that problems are not caused by life events, but by the way we handle and perceive them! This perception influences are self-esteem and behaviour

“It is the client who knows what hurts,what direction to go,what problems are crucial,what problems have been deeply buried.”

                              –Carl Rogers

Humanistic counsellors therefore help people accept all the good, bad and ugly sides of the life and their personality , so that they can be at peace with themselves, thereby working out on their own solutions towards their problems.

•Benefits of Humanistic Counselling.

1.Humanistic therapy can be used to treat many psychological problems,like schizophrenia , anxiety, depression , alcoholism , etc.

2.Humanistic approach can also help people who are feeling lost or are low on self esteem or dealing with relationship issues or family issues.

3.Studies state that like other psychological therapies , humanistic therapy is effective in bringing about positive self change and stable thought process over time.

4.It also has been proven to enhance workplace creativity and emotional interactions.

•Criticism of Humanistic approach.

This approach has received criticism on all four squares of its existence,stating that the theory is highly subjective ,as it just has variables but no constants,which makes it difficult to be researched . Such dynamic views of personality also do not account for continuity in the behavioral changes of an individual and also ignores society’s impact on the personality of an individual.

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