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Humanistic Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

Humanistic Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

May 6, 2021

It seems that Humanistic Therapy is in fashion . Everywhere there are courses, conferences, web pages, articles ... and evidently there are defenders and retractors.

I'm not going to position myself, but I think it's interesting to really know what we're talking about, in the same way that I think it's important that we learn to differentiate humanistic therapy or approach from other unreliable disciplines. When something becomes fashionable, we lack time to invent "alternatives" of doubtful credibility.

The origins of Humanistic Therapy

It is considered that the precursor of the humanist approach was Carl Rogers (1959). He was an American psychologist who, before becoming a relevant clinical psychologist, studied agriculture at university and later became interested in theology, which brought him into contact with philosophy.


Carl Rogers appeared in a specific socio-economic context, he did not emerge from nowhere. In the 60s everything was questioned; It was the moment of student movements, of hippies, of feminism, of ecologists ... there was a desire for change. And in that breeding ground appeared the Humanist Psychology .

Humanist Psychology appears

We could simplify the identity of this current of psychology by saying that the "humanists" not only investigate suffering, but deepen in the growth and self-knowledge of the person. They are more concerned with proposing alternatives to this suffering than studying behavior . They provide a positive vision and their basis is the will and hope of the same person. They start from goodness and health, and understand that mental disorders or everyday problems are distortions of this natural tendency. They focus on healthy people, and consider that the personality is innate and "good" in itself.


In humanistic models there is no appeal to the past or personal history, but rather the capabilities and tools available to the person at the present time that influence their problem and / or solution. We could say that it analyzes the present, the here and now. At the moment that is not able to enjoy and take advantage of this present is when the problems appear. Humanists understand that the "healthy" person is the one who is enriched by their experience. Its purpose is to know and learn gradually.

The humanists defend that each person has, in an innate way, a potential that allows them to grow, evolve and self-actualize and that the pathology appears when these abilities are blocked. They consider that the individual must learn to be, to know and to do, and that it is the same person who must find the solutions on his own, leaving him total freedom to decide. Pathological disorders are renunciations or losses of this freedom that does not allow you to continue your process of life growth.


Contributions from the humanist perspective

Some of the most important contributions that appear associated with the appearance of Humanistic Therapy are the following:

  • Optimistic vision : the potential of the person is the tool to solve their own problems.
  • Emphasis on social factors : self-knowledge must be linked to a social responsibility.
  • Therapy as intervention : placing the help to the person as the goal and final goal.

We must also bear in mind that these models postulate that the individual does not react to reality, but rather to the perception he has of it, which is totally subjective.

Criticisms of this approach

Another noteworthy point is the one that has most criticized this approach: its theoretical weakness . The Humanist Psychology flees from the classifications and does not consider the scientific method as a "natural" method to understand the "abnormal" behavior. This implies that this current is not accompanied by a solid empirical base and suffers from theoretical weakness, which has led to many movements of "self-help" of dubious credibility.

Another criticism that this movement has received is its consideration of the human being as "good by nature". It is an optimistic approach and surely very opportune for the time, but Forget that the human being is a set of negative and positive factors and characteristics , and therefore we must consider both.

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change." -Carl Rogers

GESTALT THERAPY (Simply Explained) (May 2021).


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