What is humanistic therapy?

Humanistic is a general term which is used to cover a number of specific types of therapy – person-centred, Gestalt, transactional analysis , psychosynthesis, human givens and existential – though it can also be used alone. It is based on the idea that the individual is the expert in their own life and is inherently capable of reaching his/her own human potential by developing cognitive awareness and focusing on their relationship to themselves, to others and to society as a whole. When carrying out humanistic therapy, the therapist actively works with the client to explore their capacities for self-regulation, responsibility and choice. 

The relationship between client and therapist is key in creating conditions for growth and serves as a model for the client's relationships in the world. In humanistic therapy the focus is on a person's positive attributes and behaviours and their own ability to find fulfilment from within.

Creative techniques are used, such as role-playing and the empty chair method, where the client is able to confront memories or difficult relationships. The technique involves the client addressing the empty chair as if another person, or aspects of their personality, or a certain feeling was in it. Humanistic therapy takes into account the impact of the external world, accounting for social, cultural and political influences upon the individual’s life. Positivity, empathy and self-help are features that both the humanistic therapist and client engage with together. 

Humanism developed in the 1950s in response to perceived limitations of previous movements in psychology, notably psychoanalysis and behaviourism. 

Who benefits from humanistic therapy?

Humanistic therapy, which covers such a broad range of therapeutic methods, could suit many people and benefit many mental health problems. You may have a recognised mental health difficulty, or perhaps you are struggling to find a feeling of "wholeness" or you are struggling to reach your perceived potential – humanistic therapy is suitable for individuals in all of these circumstances. 

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Last updated on  30 April 2019