Humanistic Therapy - A Psychotherapy Approach !





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Therapy is a treatment in which therapists and clients work together to understand psychological problems and fix them. Humanistic psychology was developed in the 1960s by Abraham Maslow in response to the psychoanalytic theory. The main theorists who prepared the ground for humanistic psychology were Abraham Maslow, Carl Roger's, Otto Rank, and Rollo May.

Humanistic therapy is a type of therapy that emphasizes on being your true self to lead a more fulfilling life. It also believes that all people are good at heart and are capable of making the right choices for themselves. This kind of therapy emphasizes on the importance of choices made by individuals, and the ability to change one's behavior. Humanistic therapy is completely different from psychoanalysis or behavioral therapy.

Instead of focusing on a person's unconscious thoughts, experiences, and hidden conflicts, humanists focus on conscious, subjective experiences of emotion and a person's sense of self. It focuses on the more immediate experiences of a person’s daily life rather than their childhood. The two most common therapies based on humanistic theory are Carl Rogers's person-centered therapy and Fritz Perls's Gestalt therapy.

The person-centered therapy was developed by an American psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s. This type of therapy was based on his theory of personality which proposed that everyone has a sense of real self (a person's actual traits and abilities) and ideal self (how a person thinks he/she should be).

Roger's proposed that the closer the real self and the ideal self match up, the happier the person is. To achieve this, people need to receive unconditional positive regard which is love, respect, warmth, and affection without any conditions. Failure to receive unconditional positive regard will result in the mismatch of a person's real and ideal self.

Roger's believed that the goal of the therapist should be to provide unconditional positive regard which is absent from the person's life to help recognize the discrepancies between their real and ideal self. Roger's therapy is a very non-directive because the person does all the real work while the therapist acts as a mere soundboard. Sometimes, therapists may help the person redirect or reallocate their attention to focus on unresolved feelings. Carl Rogers's therapy is now called person-centered therapy because the person is truly the center of the process and less attention is given to the environment the person is in.

Roger's believed there are three key elements that are necessary for any successful person-therapist relationship. These were

  • authenticity
  • unconditional positive regard and
  •  empathy.

A person-centered therapist usually responds in a way that seeks clarification to understand a person’s experience. Reflection is a technique that therapists use to gain insights by allowing a person to talk without interference. Reflection is basically mirroring a client’s statements.

Another type of theory based on the humanistic approach is gestalt therapy. Gestalt therapy was founded by a German psychiatrist named Fritz Perls. He believed that people's problems stemmed from hiding parts of their feelings from themselves. If some part of a person's personality is in conflict with what according to society is acceptable, that person may hide that aspect of his or her personality behind a “mask” of socially acceptable behavior.

Gestalt therapy focuses on the person's present experiences and the environmental and social contexts in a person's life. The main goal of this type of therapy is to teach people to become aware of sensations within themselves and their environment so that they respond rationally to situations. Unlike psychoanalysis, which focuses on a person’s hidden past, gestalt therapy focuses on a person's denied past.

Person-centered therapy is non-directive, whereas, in gestalt therapy, therapists are directive, and often confront people on statements they make. A gestalt therapist does more than just listen and reflect on the client’s statements. They lead clients through a number of planned experiences which help them become more aware of their feelings. These series of experiences may include a dialogue that clients have with their conflicting feelings in which clients argue both sides of these feelings.

Clients may also talk to an empty chair to reveal their feelings toward a person represented by the chair. A gestalt therapist focuses on the client’s body language as well as the events going on in a person's life. By looking at the body language and understanding the events in the client's life, the therapist gets a gestalt i.e. a whole picture of the client.

Humanistic therapies have been used to treat a broad range of mental health challenges. It has been used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, relationship issues, problems at the workplace, and various addictions such as alcoholism. Humanistic psychology satisfies most people's ideas of what it means to be human because it values personal ideas and self-fulfillment. It has given researchers a flexible framework for observing human behavior because it considers a person in the context of his or her environment.

Unfortunately, humanistic therapies have similar drawbacks as Freudian psychoanalysis and other forms of psychodynamic therapies. There is little experimental research to support the basic idea on which these types of therapies are founded. Another drawback is the person receiving this type of therapy must be intelligent, verbal, and able to express themselves and what they are feeling.  So humanistic therapies are somewhat less practical choices for treating more serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia.