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Humanistic therapy helps individuals access and understand their feelings, gain a sense of meaning in life, and reach self-actualization.
Discuss the goals, techniques, and efficacy of humanistic therapy
Humanistic therapy adopts a holistic approach to human existence and pays special attention to such phenomena as creativity, free will, and human potential. It encourages self exploration and viewing oneself as a "whole person."
In humanistic therapy, there are two widely practiced techniques: gestalt therapy (which focuses on thoughts and feelings here and now, instead of root causes) and client-centered therapy (which provides a supportive environment in which clients can reestablish their true identity).
Humanistic therapy has been used to treat a broad range of people and mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, relationship issues, personality disorders, and various addictions. However, it has been criticized for its lack of empirical evidence.
According to humanistic theory, the realization of one's full potential; can include creative expression, a quest for spiritual enlightenment, the pursuit of knowledge, or the desire to give to society.
As a psychotherapeutic treatment approach, humanistic therapy typically holds that people are inherently good. It adopts a holistic approach to human existence and pays special attention to such phenomena as creativity, free will, and human potential. It encourages viewing ourselves as a "whole person" greater than the sum of our parts and encourages self exploration rather than the study of behavior in other people. Humanistic psychology acknowledges spiritual aspiration as an integral part of the human psyche and is linked to the emerging field of transpersonal psychology.
Goals of Humanistic Therapy
The aim of humanistic therapy is to help the client develop a stronger, healthier sense of self, as well as access and understand their feelings to help gain a sense of meaning in life. Humanistic theory aims to help the client reach what Rogers and Maslow referred to as self-actualization—the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are essentially fulfilled and the "actualization" of the full personal potential takes place. Humanistic therapy focuses on the individual's strengths and offers non-judgmental counseling sessions.
Approaches to Humanistic Therapy
Empathyis one of the most important aspects of humanistic therapy. This idea focuses on the therapist's ability to see the world through the eyes of the client. Without empathy, the therapist is no longer understanding the actions and thoughts of the client from the client's perspective, but is understanding strictly as a therapist, which defeats the purpose of humanistic therapy.
Another key element is unconditional positive regard, which refers to the care that the therapist needs to have for the client. Unconditional positive regard is characterized by warmth, acceptance, and non-judgment. This ensures that the therapist does not become the authority figure in the relationship, and allows for a more open flow of information, as well as a kinder relationship between the two. A therapist practicing humanistic therapy needs to show a willingness to listen and ensure the comfort of the client by creating an environment where genuine feelings may be shared but are not forced upon someone.
Types of Humanistic Therapies
In humanistic therapy, there are two widely practiced techniques: gestalt therapy and client-centered therapy.
Gestalt therapy focuses on the skills and techniques that permit an individual to be more aware of their feelings. According to this approach, it is much more important to understand what and how clients are feeling, rather than to identify what is causing their feelings. Previous theories are thought to spend an unnecessary amount of time making assumptions about what causes behavior. Instead, Gestalt therapy focuses on the here and now.
Client-centered therapy provides a supportive environment in which clients can reestablish their true identity. This approach is based on the idea that fear of judgment prevents people from sharing their true selves with the world around them, causing them to instead establish a public identity to navigate a judgmental world. The ability to reestablish their true identity will help the individual understand themselves as they truly are. The task of reestablishing one's true identity is not an easy one, and the therapist must rely on the techniques of unconditional positive regard and empathy.
Humanistic psychology rose to prominence in the mid-20th century in response to the limitations of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory and B. F. Skinner's behaviorism. With its roots running from Socrates through the Renaissance, this approach emphasizes individuals' inherent drive towards self-actualization, the process of realizing and expressing one's own capabilities, and creativity.
Among the earliest approaches are the developmental theory of Abraham Maslow, which emphasizes a hierarchy of needs and motivations, and the client-centered therapy of Carl Rogers, which is centered on the client's capacity for self-direction and understanding of his or her own development. The term "actualizing tendency" was also coined by Rogers and was a concept that eventually led Maslow to study self-actualization as one of the needs of humans. Rogers and Maslow introduced this positive, humanistic psychology in response to what they viewed as the overly pessimistic view of psychoanalysis; during the 20th century, humanistic psychology became known as the "third force" in psychology.
Humanistic therapy is used to treat a broad range of people and mental health challenges. It has been used in the treatment of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, personality disorders, and various addictions, such as alcoholism. Many proponents advocate the idea that it can be useful and effective with any population; however, others have argued that it has limited effectiveness with individuals who have limited access to education. Certain studies suggest that humanistic therapy is at least as effective as other forms of psychotherapy at producing stable, positive changes over time for clients that engage in this form of treatment.
While personal transformation may be the primary focus of most humanistic psychologists, humanistic approaches have also been applied to theories of social transformation related to pressing social, cultural, and gender issues. In addition, humanistic psychology's emphasis on creativity and wholeness created a foundation for new approaches towards human capital in the workplace, stressing creativity and the relevance of emotional interactions.
Criticisms of Humanistic Therapy
Critics have taken issue with many of the early tenets of humanistic psychology. As with all early psychological approaches, questions have been raised about the lack of empirical evidence used in research. Because of the subjective nature of the framework, psychologists worry about the fallibility of the humanistic approach. The holistic approach allows for much variation but does not identify enough constant variables to be researched with true accuracy. Psychologists also worry that such an extreme focus on the subjective experience of the individual does little to explain or appreciate the impact of society on personality development. The presence of such a dynamic view of personality also does not seem to account for apparent continuity in an individual's persona over time.