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Humanistic Psychology

Honoring the Whole Person

Photo of a sculpture of a head being held by handsDuring the first half of the twentieth century, American psychology was dominated by psychoanalysis, followed later by behaviorism. Neither school fully acknowledged qualities of human potential or the study of values, intentions and meaning in human existence.  There was need for a new paradigm that celebrated the inherent value and dignity of human beings.  That paradigm was to be called humanistic psychology.

Humanistic psychology as a “Third Force” had its beginnings in Detroit, in the early 1950s.  It was here that MSP co-founder, Clark Moustakas, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and others first met to discuss the humanistic tenants of self-actualization, health, creativity, intrinsic nature, being, becoming, individuality and meaning.

The humanistic psychological orientation is a contemporary and integrative school of thought. Central tenets of the humanistic approach to psychotherapy include:

  • fostering greater capacities for self-awareness and understanding of relationships with others;
  • strengthening relational bonds;
  • clarification and development of values,
  • personal meaning and life goals;
  • promotion of an environment of mutual care,
  • respect and empathy;
  • development of a greater sense of personal freedom and choice while respecting the rights and needs of others.

Interests of humanistic psychology include:

  • the aspirations of individuals, their goals, desires, fears, potential for and actualizing of personal growth, and
  • qualities of empathy, congruence, authenticity, presence, and intimacy.
  • Experiences of loss, tragedy, and pain, which are understood as reflecting basic issues concerning the nature of the self, existence, and one’s engagement in the world.

“Humanistic psychology aims to be faithful to the full range of human experience. Its foundations include philosophical humanism, existentialism and phenomenology. In the science and profession of psychology, humanistic psychology seeks to develop systematic and rigorous methods of studying human beings, and to heal the fragmentary character of contemporary psychology through an ever more comprehensive and integrative approach. Humanistic psychologists are particularly sensitive to uniquely human dimensions, such as experiences of creativity and transcendence, and to the quality of human welfare. Accordingly, humanistic psychology aims especially at contributing to psychotherapy, education, theory, philosophy of psychology, research methodology, organization and management, and social responsibility and change.”*

*APA Division 32: Society for Humanistic Psychology. (2013). About us [Webpage]. Retrieved from http://www.apadivisions.org/division-32/about/index.aspx

The Five Basic Postulates of Humanistic Psychology*

  1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.
  2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
  3. Human beings are aware and aware of being aware — i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
  4. Human beings have some choice and, with that, responsibility.
  5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.

* Association for Humanistic Psychology. (2006). Five basic postulates of humanistic psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 46(3), 239. doi:10.1177/002216780604600301




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