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The President’s Perspective: A Humanistic Foundation

The President’s Perspective is a new blog series from MSP President Fran Brown that will explore the field of humanistic psychology and share insights into her experience as President. This month, President Brown delved into the importance of humanistic psychology in her own life and at MSP.

Photo of President Fran BrownThe Michigan School of Psychology was originally founded as the Center for Humanistic Studies (CHS). What does it mean to be humanistic and how does that foundation fit with the current institution?

Even though our name has changed, we are absolutely committed to preserving our humanistic foundation. The tenets, or beliefs, of Humanistic Psychology are woven throughout our programs in a way that emphasizes empathy, authenticity, and human connection.

Why is a humanistic foundation so important in clinical psychology?

At the core of humanistic psychology is the belief that individuals are fundamentally good. Humanistically-trained psychologists recognize and celebrate the inherent value and dignity of all human beings; treatment is focused on client strengths, fears, individuality, and potential for growth. Healing occurs through the therapeutic relationship that provides the catalyst for change.

During the first half of the twentieth century, American psychology was dominated by psychoanalysis and behaviorism. In the late 1950s, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Clark Moustakas – one of the founders of CHS – recognized the value of empathy in psychotherapy and interacting with clients with an attitude of unconditional positive regard. Thus Humanistic Psychology – known as the Third Force – was born. This was a considerable departure from psychology’s previous focus on conscious/unconscious motivations (psychoanalysis) and emphasis on altering patterns of behavior (behaviorism) over consideration of thoughts, feelings and motivations.

As a graduate of both the MA and PsyD programs, how does your humanistic training influence you day to day?

My training as a humanistic psychologist was life changing. It opened my eyes to my own potential – to my personal blocks, and to ways in which I could live more authentically and creatively. I believe that’s what differentiates our programs from others. The experience of my own transformation allows me to facilitate transformations with my clients.

I try my best to embody the tenets of humanistic psychology in everything I do, not just in the therapy room. These beliefs also guide me in my professional role and in my personal relationships. While in challenging interactions it can be difficult to see the innate good in others, it is my humanistic grounding that brings me back to my better Self.

Has APA accreditation effected MSP’s ability to remain a humanistic institution?

I think that’s one of the things of which I’m most proud – that we were able to achieve maximum APA accreditation. One of the positives cited by our APA site review team was that we’re a quality program with an impressive “Something Extra;” that is, our humanistic orientation.

I recently attended the APA’s Division 32 (Society for Humanistic Psychology) Annual Conference and was asked how we are able to maintain our humanistic foundation while ensuring compliance with accreditation requirements. My answer? We don’t have to choose between accreditation and our humanistic values. Who we are and what we teach are deeply connected in a program of excellence. It’s important to include humanistic courses and content in our programs – and we do. But it’s even more important that we maintain a humanistic culture and way of being with each other.

As we are known to say around here, “We practice what we teach.”

For more information on Humanistic Psychology, click here