Humanistic approach in counselling psychology

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It will look at how it emerged and who were the main practitioners in this approach. It will then compare with the other two main approaches Psychoanalysis and cognitive behaviour theory.

Humanistic approach one of the three approaches in counselling psychology emerged after disillusion with the other two prominent approaches at the time psychodynamic and behaviourist. It emerges as the third force in the 1950s and 1960s. It moved away from looking at psychology clinically and more at the human being.

The humanistic approach as the third force in contemporary psychology realizes the important of learning and the different psychological processes that are usually associated with the focus of research but focuses usually positively on the individual’s future not the past. Carson et al (1988). The therapy is phenomenological so it is important for the counsellor to see events exactly the way the client see them. The person being treated is not seen as a patient but as a client on equal terms to the counsellor. The main goals of humanistic psychology are to find out how individuals perceive themselves in the here and now and to recognize growth, self-direction and responsibilities. This method is optimistic and attempts to help individuals recognize their strengths by offering a non-judgmental, empathic experience. Humanistic believe this self actualizing tendency is the essential

The Humanistic approach offers a therapeutic atmosphere which allows the client to become fully integrated again. The way the therapeutic relationship works is not only about the theory it is also about the experience itself. Gray (1994).

The humanistic perspective was greatly influenced by exceptional psychologists such as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls, and Gardner Murphy. The Humanistic approach provided individuals with an alternative choice in focusing on realizing human capabilities in areas such as creativity, personal growth and choice. Two of the major names in associated with this approach are Carl Rogers Abraham Maslow. Carl Rogers is seen by many as the person who advance the cause of humanistic psychology the most. Rogers’s client-centered therapy and person-centered psychology show and verified the differences between humanistic psychology and behavioral and psychodynamic approaches to personality. Rogers saw humans as rational creatures inundated by irrational needs. He believed getting to know and understand the power of those irrational needs on one’s behavior was what humanistic therapy was about., Margrate take this off

For therapeutic change to occur in the person-centred approach, Rogers maintained that three core conditions need to be present. Unconditioned positive regard is where the counsellor accepts the client unconditionally and non-judgementally. Whatever the client wants to discuss all thoughts and feelings, positive or negative they are able to discuss without fear of rejection or condemnation. Empathic understanding, the counsellor accurately identifies with the client’s thoughts, feelings and meanings from their point of view. Where the counsellors enters the client’s world his reality without fear or judgment, and without pushing the client into feelings he may not be ready to discover. Empathy is a never ending process where the counsellor removes their own thoughts and experiences in order to perceive and relate to the experiences of the client. The third condition congruence or realness the counsellor is authentic and genuine the counsellor does not pretend to know it all but is present and transparent to the client and they can draw on their own experiences to facilitate the relationship. These three core conditions Rogers believed helped the client to develop and grow their own identity so clients move from having poor self-concept to a position where they are closer to their real worth of their organism self a state doing so become the Rogers maintained that growth promoting came from the therapeutic relationship with no technique or method needed.

Person centered has a set of values and attitudes not ways which people should behave. However Personal centered counselors use paraphrasing, reflecting feelings, paraphrasing to share feelings in response to the client’s disclosure mirroring back emotional communication and so communicating to the client he cares and understands. It has been argued that this can be looked at as a techniques but Humanistic look at it as a good working alliance.

Maslow’s 1940’s 50’s 60’s theory has common characteristics with Rogers he posited what he called a hierarchy of human needs. At the bottom are biological needs, then esteem needs, then cognitive, then aesthetic needs then a need to self actualise. This theory of self-actualization tendency according to Maslow was the innate human motivation which everyone has and helps people to reach their potential by using their own talents and abilities. He believed motivation was essential to understanding human behaviour. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs believe psychopathology is cause by the failure to gratify one’s fundamental needs, physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow hierarchy of needs lists and characteristic are as significantnt today as they were 40 years ago. Maslow put great emphasis on peak experiences. Peak experiences are times in life which bring us beyond our ordinary perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. These peak experiences emerge unexpectedly and changes an individual understands of themselves and the world. However some psychologists felt Maslow’s theory because of the “mystical” nature of peak experiences left them a bit uneasy. But Maslow motivation ideas are widely know and accepted.

The humanistic approach is effective as it offers therapies such as the person centred approach (Rogers, 1902) and reality therapy amongst others. Personal centred counselling is one of the most extensively used counselling methods it is used in schools, hospitals workplaces. Roger’s believed that humans have an actualising tendency to achieve their full potential. It emphasises the role of over socialisation in preventing people from being able to perceive themselves and their environment properly, and consequently not being able to self actualise. Through experience with clients, he found that each person’s reality is different, depending on their perceptions and experiences. He called this perception a person’s ‘internal frame of reference’. When perceptions become maladaptive, therapy aims to focus on each individuals’ world to help them live more fully, using the core conditions of congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. Rogers believed that the client knew what was best for them. Rogers spoke of what he called an internal locus of evaluation where Rogers believed a person could get all the wisdom guidance from within themselves. Mearns (1997).

This essay will now compare the two other approaches psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural theories differ with Humanistic.

Freud 1956-1939 was the founder of the psychodynamic non directive approach. The main emphasis is put on the unconscious under free will of the theory. According to Freud psychodynamic approach is determined by unconscious thoughts, memories etc which have their roots in childhood experiences. The psychodynamic approach was the first personality and psychotherapy theory; it emphasised on sexuality as an influence, and put forward the importance of early childhood experience and developed the concept of the unconscious. Psychodynamic theory is based on pathology but there are no controlled studies. The differences between men and women are overemphasis and it pays little attention to interpersonal relations, individual identity and changes a person makes over a lifetime. Psychodynamic believes that early experiences have a major impact on the development of our conscious and unconscious. Freud believes adult personality and behaviour are controlled by the conscious and unconscious mind.

The techniques psychodynamic counselors engage in are derived from psychoanalysis

The counselor’s role is to interpret the unconscious metal material that emerges indirectly in the counseling session. The major techniques used are Free association the patient without censoring anything reports whatever comes into his mind. Interpretation the counselor interprets what he thinks is the real meaning of some of the patients behaviors. Analysis of transference the patient answers the counselor in a way that they have answered other important people in their life, silence as a technique is used to encourage free association, the counselor then helps the patient understand and interpret their responses from this interpretations are made about the unconscious motives behind the actions or thoughts..

Cognitive-behavioural therapy belongs to the behaviourism school. It believes that behaviour is learnt through conditioning and modelling and maladaptive behaviour is treated by learning adaptive behaviours. Cognitive-behavioural therapy can be divided into three main types of therapy; cognitive therapy, (Beck, 1960) behaviour therapy Watson (1920) and rational-emotive-behaviour therapy, also called REBT Ellis, 1950). Cognitive-behavioural therapy CBT emerged from behavioural psychology. The term cognitive-behavioural therapy CBT is a directive counseling approach was introduced by Beck s 1960’s Cognitive therapy all based on the suggestion to change people’s behavior in order to relearn the new behavior and un learned the old Close attention is paid to the beliefs, thoughts and perceptions of clients to see how they monitor and control their behavior. The counselor may be identified as a teacher or trainer by the client. The therapeutic style of CBT does not believe that the therapeutic relationship is a must for change to occur. Very different from Humanistic who believe relationship of great importance.. There is an interactive structured dialogue between client and therapist the client is expected to recognize the problem behavior and the thoughts which lead up to it and question the validity of the thought processes. New ways of looking at the experiences are developed which will lead to a change in behavior the client may be give homework assignments.


The humanistic approach is non-directive and believes the way a person behaves can be controlled by their free will. The cognitive approach believes a person’s behaviour is caused by the way they think, by memories and the way the information is stored in the brain. They differ in Humanistic approach believes a person can make their own decision and changes in their life. The cognitive approach believes it is not as easy and a person’s behaviour cannot be controlled so easily and is determined by the way a person’s mind works. Psychodynamic approach maintains that childhood experiences made up the adult personality

The Humanist assumptions that people are motivated by the wish to grow and fulfill their potential and can choose what they want to be and what is best for them has the benefit of being a very positive approach.  It puts emphasis on free will in contrast to behavioral and psychodynamic approaches which place more emphasis on what makes people behave as they do. The client is more likely to feel that the counselor is an equal partner that an expert. The main therapeutic tool in the Humanistic approach is the relationship between the client and the counselor.

In conclusion within the psychodynamic casework the therapist would use procedures, which offered support and affirmation while the relationship between the counselor and client was being maintained, therefore reducing stress. They would also use modifying procedures, which aimed to reduce outside pressure helping the client to gain insight into their individual situation. where in CBT clients are more focused to change the behavior as CBT is only required to change a maladaptive behavior, therapeutic relationships are more involve in training and learning ,and focusing as teachers and student t relationship Humanistic approach has been responsible of a range of techniques within caring. In humanistic approach is considered as ‘person-centered therapy’. Using this approach the counselor must be empathic and show an understanding how the individual feels about the situation they are in and to help the client see that they are the key to the healing process.

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