What is Humanist Psychology: bases and foundations

What is Humanist Psychology: bases and foundations

Humanist Psychology (humanism) is based on the belief that people are good by nature. This type of psychology holds that moral, ethical values ​​and good intentions are the driving forces of behavior, while adverse social or psychological experiences can be attributed to deviations from natural tendencies.

Humanism incorporates a variety of therapeutic techniques that focus on the individual potential of each and emphasize the personal self-realization.


  • 1 The development of Humanist Psychology
  • 2 Principles of Humanist Psychology
  • 3 Humanist Psychology in Therapy
  • 4 Contributions of humanism to Psychology
  • 5 Limitations of Humanist Psychology

The development of Humanist Psychology

Humanism emerged in the late 1950s as a "third force" of psychology, in response to the limitations they considered the schools of thought of the behaviorism and the psychoanalysis.

The behaviorism He was often criticized for not taking into account the influence of human consciousness and personality, as well as being too deterministic, mechanistic and overly relying on animal studies. Psychoanalysis by its side was rejected for its strong emphasis on unconscious and instinctive forces and for being deterministic, too.

In 1957 and 1958, Abraham Maslow and Clark Moustakas met with other psychologists who shared their ideas to establish a professional association that emphasized a more positive and humanistic approach to psychology. The basic principles of this new approach to psychology were: Self-realization, creativity, health, individuality, intrinsic nature and the meaning of life.

After receiving the sponsorship of the University of Brandeis, in 1961 the American Association of Humanist Psychology was founded. Other important contributors to the development of humanistic psychology were Carl Rogers, Gordon Allport, James Bugental, Charlotte Buhler, Rollo May, Gardner Murphy, Henry Murray, Fritz Perls, Kirk Schneider, Louis Hoffman and Paul Wong.

Fundamental ideas of Humanist Psychology

  • True understanding of human behavior cannot be achieved by studying animals.
  • There is free will, and individuals must assume personal responsibility for their self-growth and fulfillment. The behavior is not predetermined.
  • The subjective experience of the individual is the main indicator of his behavior.
  • Self-realization (need to reach maximum personal potential) is natural.
  • People are fundamentally good and will experience growth if they are provided with the right conditions, especially during childhood.
  • Each person and each experience is unique, so psychologists should treat each case individually, rather than relying on the averages of group studies.

Principles of Humanist Psychology

  1. The human being is a totality. This is a holistic approach, whose objective is to study the human being as a whole and not fragmented.
  2. The human being has a structured core. This nucleus is his "I", his "self" (self) which is the genesis and structure of all his psychological processes.
  3. The human being naturally tends to his formative self-realization. Put in the face of negative situations, you must transcend them; and if the medium is defined as auspicious, genuine and empathic, in addition to non-threatening, its potentialities will be favored.
  4. The human being is a being inserted in a human context, and lives in relation to other people.
  5. The human being is aware of himself and his existence. It drives according to what it was in the past and preparing for the future.
  6. The human being is provided with powers of decision, freedom and conscience to choose and make their own decisions. These faculties make him an active being, builder of his own life.
  7. The human being is intentional. This means that their volitional or intentional acts are reflected in their own decisions or choices.

The Humanist Psychology in Therapy

The Humanistic psychologists usually avoid using objective study techniques, such as non-participant observation and scientific experimentation. Humanistic therapists tend to believe that the reduction of human nature to mere numbers deprives them of their wealth, so they use qualitative methods of study, such as unstructured interviews and participant observation.

Unstructured Interviews They allow the therapist to access the thoughts and experiences of an individual without directing the interview to any particular topic or idea. In participant observation The therapist is part of the study, facilitating the formation of personal relationships and obtaining information directly from the person. Other forms of qualitative data collection that are used are the biography analysis, diaries and letters.

Humanistic psychology integrates multiple therapeutic techniques, such as Carl Rogers Client-Centered Therapy, which is also known as "Rogers therapy" and others.

Humanism suggests that each person has been created with different abilities and needs, and must rely on them to achieve healing. Psychologists who practice this method of therapy adopt a non-pathological approach of the individual, instead they have a productive, adaptable and potentiating orientation of the traits and positive behaviors of an individual during treatment.

Contributions of humanism to Psychology

The humanistic approach has made significant contributions to the field of psychology. It is a new approach to understanding human nature, with new methods of collecting data in behavioral studies, and a wide range of psychotherapy techniques that have proven effective. Some of the main concepts and ideas that emerged from the humanist movement include:

  • Hierarchy of Needs
  • Person Centered Therapy
  • Unconditional Positive Consideration
  • The free will
  • Selfconcept
  • Self esteem
  • Self realisation

Humanism has inspired many types of therapy. These therapies focus on maximizing the value and options of each person in order to obtain a greater sense of power and freedom, increasing the self-awareness of emotions to achieve the goals that can help promote positive change. Self-realization is often considered essential for this approach.

Humanist Psychology underlines the inherent value of human beings and it focuses on its ability and willingness to maintain dignity while strengthening self-esteem and competition. This value orientation is considered responsible for the creation of therapy models that use interpersonal skills in order to maximize one's life experience.

Limitations of Humanist Psychology

The subjective experiences of individuals are tremendously difficult to measure, record and study. The emphasis on the collection of qualitative data makes it almost impossible to verify the observations made in therapy. For this reason it is very difficult to compare a set of qualitative data with others, in addition, the lack of quantitative data means that fundamental theories cannot be supported by empirical evidence.

Other criticisms of the approach are its lack of efficacy in the treatment of serious mental health problems and the generalizations made about human nature, as well as the complete rejection of some important behavioral and psychoanalytic concepts. For example, although humanistic psychology argues that animal studies are useless in the study of human behavior, some research on animals has given rise to concepts that are applicable to people. In addition, humanistic psychology focuses exclusively on free will and consciousness, but research shows that the unconscious plays an important role in human psychology.

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