Humanistic psychotherapy is based on the firm belief in people’s ability to take charge of their own life and fulfil their potential. It says that humans have an internal drive to maximise their creative choices and interactions in search of self-awareness, freedom, and life-affirming feelings.
Humanistic psychotherapy focuses on two main tenets: working in the here and now, and the relationship between personal responsibility and self-empowerment. Although it deals with present experiences, the role of past experiences and future possibilities also comes into play.
There are a broad number of therapeutic approaches which fall under the “humanistic” umbrella. What they all hold in common, is that this type of therapy can be short or long-term depending on the client’s issues and progress. It is a client-centred therapy that emphasises the importance of a very positive relationship between the therapist and client that is warm, accepting, and non-judgemental.
The therapist can use a range of different techniques depending on their particular therapy approach. However, the following techniques, to help the client feel safe to fully express him or herself, are common to all humanistic approaches:
- Reflective listening. This involves summarising what the client is feeling and thinking and then relaying this understanding back to the client.
- Open-ended responses. These are questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. They foster communication and encourage elaboration.
Maggie Morrow is an award winning psychotherapist, an accomplished life coach and counsellor, and Director of KlearMinds. In 2007 she was awarded the BACP National Award for advancing the quality of therapy service provision to the highest standards in the UK.
Maggie’s experience spans over 20 years helping people overcome problems so they can enjoy more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
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Self-actualisation is at the heart of humanistic psychotherapy. This entails realising a person’s full potential, although the specifics of what that involves vary greatly depending on the individual. It might include things like the pursuit of success, happiness, knowledge, spiritual enlightenment, or creative expression. It is viewed as a continual process rather than a state that one reaches and stays in.
Humanistic therapies are a broad category encompassing a number of approaches that are focussed on growth, responsibilities, and self-development. Here are just a few of the therapies that fall into this category:
- Existential Psychotherapy explores issues using a philosophical approach that examines human capacities and limitations. It deals with the search for meaning in life.
- Gestalt therapy looks at the entirety of a person’s experience, including their actions, thoughts, and feelings, in search of self-awareness in the present moment. It looks at what people are feeling rather than the causes of such feelings.
- Person-centred psychotherapy or counselling focuses on individuals and seeks to help them value themselves and find self-acceptance through a non-directive relationship with the therapist in which the client does not feel judged.
- Transpersonal psychology looks at the person beyond his or her age, culture, appearance, or body. It seeks to help people understand themselves on a spiritual level.
Humanistic psychotherapy can be helpful in treating a wide range of mental health or psychological wellbeing issues. It can also be useful in cases where individuals seem out of touch with themselves, even if they do not have a specific mental disorder or other problem. A few of the issues it can help with include:
- It helps people take control of their lives.
- It helps people become more assertive.
- It helps people make better choices.
- It can help a person develop a healthier sense of self.
- It can bring about a sense of inner peace.