Humanistic Psychology - Counseling and Therapy

Counseling and Therapy

Humanistic psychology includes several approaches to counseling and therapy. Among the earliest approaches we find the developmental theory of Abraham Maslow, emphazising a hierarchy of needs and motivations; the existential psychology of Rollo May acknowledging human choice and the tragic aspects of human existence; and the person-centered or client-centered therapy of Carl Rogers, which is centered on the client's capacity for self-direction and understanding of his or her own development. The therapist should be focusing ensuring that all of the client’s feelings are being considered and that the therapist has a firm grasp on the concerns of the client while ensuring that there is an air of acceptance and warmth.

Other approaches to humanistic counseling and therapy include Gestalt therapy, which puts a focus on the here and now, especially as an opportunity to look past any preconceived notions and focus on how the present is affected by the past. Role playing also plays a large role in Gestalt therapy and allows for a true expression of feelings that may not have been shared in other circumstances. When using Gestalt therapy, non-verbal cues are an important indicator of how the client may actually be feeling, despite the feelings expressed. Also, humanistic psychotherapy, depth therapy, holistic health, encounter groups, sensitivity training, marital and family therapies, body work, and the existential psychotherapy of Medard Boss. Existential-integrative psychotherapy, developed by Kirk Schneider (2008), is a relatively new development within humanistic and existential therapy. Existential psychotherapies apply the existential philosophy, which emphasizes the idea that humans have the freedom to make sense of their lives. They are free to define themselves and do whatever it is they want to do. This is a type of humanistic therapy that forces the client to explore the meaning of their life, as well as its purpose. There is a conflict between having freedoms and having limitations. Examples of limitations include genetics, culture, and many other factors. Existential therapy involves trying to resolve this conflict.

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of humanistic therapy. This idea focuses on the therapist’s ability to see the world through the eyes of the client. Without this, therapists can be forced to apply an external frame of reference where the therapist is no longer understanding the actions and thoughts of the client as the client would, but strictly as a therapist which defeats the purpose of humanistic therapy. Included in empathizing, unconditional positive regard is one of the key elements of humanistic psychology. Unconditional positive regard refers to the care that the therapist needs to have for the client. This ensures that the therapist does not become the authority figure in the relationship allowing for a more open flow of information as well as a kinder relationship between the two. A therapist practicing humanistic therapy needs to show a willingness to listen and ensure the comfort of the patient where genuine feelings may be shared but are not forced upon someone. The therapist should be focusing on ensuring that all of the client’s feelings are being considered and that the therapist has a firm grasp on the concerns of the client while ensuring that there is an air of acceptance and warmth. A student of Carl Rogers, Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication emphasizes empathy in the relationship.

Self-help is also included in humanistic psychology: Sheila Ernst and Lucy Goodison have described using some of the main humanistic approaches in self-help groups. Co-counselling, which is a purely self-help approach, is regarded as coming within humanistic psychology. Humanistic theory has had a strong influence on other forms of popular therapy, including Harvey Jackins' Re-evaluation Counselling and the work of Carl Rogers, including his student Eugene Gendlin ; (see Focusing).

The ideal self and real self involve understanding the issues that arise from having an idea of what you wish you were as a person, and having that not match who you actually are as a person (incongruence). The ideal self is what a person believes should be done, as well as what their core values are. The real self is what is actually played out in life. Through humanistic therapy, an understanding of the present allows children to add positive experiences into their real self-concept and continued their good behavior. The goal is to have the two selves become congruent. Rogers believed that when a therapist was able to be congruent, a real relationship occurs in therapy. It is much easier to trust someone who is willing to share feelings openly, even if it may not be what the client always wants to hear and that allows the therapist to foster a strong relationship.

Humanistic psychology tends to look beyond the medical model of psychology in order to open up a nonpathologizing view of the person. This usually implies that the therapist downplays the pathological aspects of a person's life in favour of the healthy aspects. A key ingredient in this approach is the meeting between therapist and client and the possibilities for dialogue. The aim of much humanistic therapy is to help the client approach a stronger and more healthy sense of self, also called self-actualization. All this is part of humanistic psychology's motivation to be a science of human experience, focusing on the actual lived experience of persons. The role of the therapist is to create an environment where the client can freely express any thoughts or feelings. In this form of psychology the therapist cannot suggest topics for conversation nor can he guide the conversation in any way. The therapist also can not analyze or interpret the client’s behavior or any information the client shares. The role of the therapist is to provide empathy and to listen attentively to the client. The therapist works to understand how the client feels.

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