Humanist therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

Humanist therapy seems to be in fashion. Courses, conferences, websites, articles … are popping up everywhere and there are obviously lawyers and retractors.

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

The origins of humanist therapy

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

Carl Rogers appeared in a specific socio-economic context, he did not come out of nothing. In the 1960s, everything was called into question; it was the era of student movements, hippies, feminism, environmentalists … there was a desire for change. And in this broth of culture appeared humanist psychology.

Humanistic psychology appears

We could simplify the identity of this stream of psychology by saying that “humanists” not only investigate suffering, but deepen their own growth and self-knowledge. They are more concerned with offering alternatives to this suffering than with studying behavior.. They bring a positive outlook and their basis is the will and hope of the person himself. 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 the personality to be innate and “good” in itself.

Humanistic models do not appeal to the past or personal history, but it is the abilities and tools available to the person today that influence their problem and / or solution. You could say that he analyzes the present, the here and now. The time when you cannot enjoy and enjoy this gift is when problems arise. Humanists understand that the “healthy” person is one who is enriched by his experience. Its goal is to be able to know and learn gradually.

Humanists argue that each person innately has a potential that allows them to grow, evolve and flourish, and that pathology arises when these abilities are blocked. They consider that the individual must learn to be, to know and to do, and that it is he himself who must find the solutions by himself, leaving him complete freedom of decision. Pathological disorders are renunciations or losses of this freedom that do not allow you to follow your process of vital growth.

Contributions from a humanist point of view

Some of the most important contributions that seem associated with the emergence of humanistic therapy are:

  • optimistic vision: It is the potential of the person who is the tool to solve his own problems.
  • Focus on social factors: Self-knowledge must be linked to social responsibility.
  • Therapy as an intervention: To provide assistance to the person as the ultimate goal.

It should also be kept in mind that these models postulate that the individual does not react to reality, but to his perception of it, which is totally subjective.

Criticisms of this approach

Another strong point is what has led to more criticism of this approach: its theoretical weakness.. Humanistic psychology avoids classifications and does not view the scientific method as a “natural” method for understanding “abnormal” behavior. This means that this current is not accompanied by a solid empirical basis and suffers from a theoretical weakness, which has led to many “self-help” movements of questionable 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 certainly very timely for the time. forgets 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, I can change.” -Carl Rogers

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