Humanistic therapy: process, uses, types, and advantages

Humanistic therapy: process, uses, types, and advantages

therapy session

Humanistic therapy, also known as humanism is discovered by Carl Rogers. He initially called it nondirective therapy, which is also known as client cantered or person cantered therapy. As the name suggests, it focuses on person’s individual thoughts rather than studying the group of people with similar characteristics categorized together assuming they exhibit same concerns. In addition, the therapy focusses on an individual as a whole instead of treating an individual diagnosis. Rogers believed that every human being had inherent worth as well as a need for self-growth and development. He considered his clients as complex human beings, each possessing their own set of unique characteristics, having different coping styles and strategies rather than a ‘sick patient’ having common problems.

Humanistic therapy is a form of talk therapy in which one expresses themselves openly without fear of judgement from listener’s side. The therapist listens to the client with empathy, patience and care.

Also Read: Talk Therapy 101: How does it work?

Personal Empowerment in Psychotherapy

In psychoanalytic therapy of freud’s, the central theme is to uncover unconscious or subconscious desires and thoughts which drives an individual’s behavior and perspective towards life. In this therapy, the central idea is that our thoughts or behavior controls us. However, Humanistic therapy makes people believe that they are in control of themselves and can reach their full potential by making wise decisions and clever choices in life. The central idea revolves around the fact that you are responsible for creating the life you want or aspire to live and could be able to make it happen once you uncover your true self. It focuses on wanting you to reach where you want to be or should be indeed.

Humanistic therapy leads you to a path of self-discovery and personal growth, thereby helping you to be a better version of yourself. Humanistic therapy comes under the category of psychotherapy, which is mainly based on following assumptions:.

  1. People have free will to make their own decisions and choices that are in interest of oneself and that they can be in charge of their own lives.
  2. People have potential to maintain happy and healthy, meaningful relationships with others.
  3. People at their core are good.

How humanistic therapy works

Therapist from a non-judgemental and an empathetic listener’s perspective listens to you talk about yourself and your life’s event no matter how small or large it seems to be. It is important for the therapist to keep aside their doctor or professional personality aside while listening the client talk. In the therapy sessions, the client is allowed to take the lead and discuss or talk about whatever they feel like. Remember the main goal of humanistic therapy is for the client to self-actualize. The therapist does not interferes much during talking sessions however, they may provide guidance when necessary.

Also Read: What Is Couples Therapy, And How Does It Work?

Uses of humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapy can be used to treat people with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychosis, PTSD, addiction or substance abuse. Humanistic therapy could be of great help for people having low self-esteem or are insecure in any aspect of life. Therapy helps people in building confidence in themselves by taking control of life and making certain life choices. Humanistic therapy helps people who seems to be confused or unclear with goals of life and makes them find their life purpose in order to reach their true self-potential. This therapy focuses on building and maintaining intrapersonal as well as interpersonal relationships.

Types of humanistic therapy

Client cantered therapy:

Client cantered therapy, discovered by Carl Rogers, is non-directive as the therapist does not provide guidance to the client or directs their behaviour. The client takes the lead in the sessions just to realise that at the end they could lead their life the same excessively. There is a sense of self-actualization achieved in the client and that is really the sole purpose of this therapy.

Gestalt therapy:

gestalt therapy, discovered by Frederick and Laura perlz, helps the client to differentiate the present moment’s thoughts and feelings from the interpretation they may have made in the past. This way the therapist provides new perspectives for the client to reflect upon the current thoughts and feelings and also helps the client get self-aware by considering the whole picture in view rather than the individual incomplete parts.

Existential therapy:

existential therapy puts light on the fact that people are free to make their own choices and hence are capable of it. It helps you understand how you fit in the world and how your choices impacts your future. People having depression, anxiety, panic disorder, mainly use it. Narrative therapy- Narrative therapy, as the name suggests, helps the client to re-examine the stories by letting them narrate it. The therapy centres the client as main character of their own story (life). The goal of narrative therapy is to help you change the stories to be healthier and more sensible in order to give way for the personal as well as professional growth.

Advantages of humanistic therapy:
  1. Builds Confidence: It increases one’s self esteem by building a self concept and makes people feel empowered by their capability of taking their own life decisions.
  2. Provides an ear: Therapists without any judgement, listens patiently to the client and offers genuine support by lending an ear to the client and providing safe space for them to practice self-exploration. It builds up a strong bond between the two and thereby solving the underlying cause of the problem.
  3. Personal growth: The main goal of humanistic therapy is self-actualization and personal growth, which is attained after the required therapy sessions. Personal growth is followed by professional growth, which can be achieved by building connections and using problem-solving skills. It all happens when one realizes themselves to be unstoppable.
  4. Focuses on you: Therapist considers yourself Separately rather than assuming you to be a part of the crowd or just some other human having similar set of beliefs. Therapists understands you and tailors treatment based on all the talkings and listenings done so far.

Limitations of humanistic therapy

  • Communication challenges: humanistic therapy won’t be affective if a person is not good in expressing their thoughts or concerns through verbal communication. Verbal communication is the main theme of this therapy and those who finds it difficult to communicate may not get benefited by this therapy approach.
  • Lack of structure: Since humanistic therapy has no defined structure or way of being conducted of its own, the client often gets lost or feel confused during initial sessions. That’s when the therapist has to take the lead.
  • Non beneficial for severe mental health conditions: Humanistic therapy is of little to no help in case of severe mental health conditions. Since the therapy is person centered and non directive, It may not offer guidance that the people with severe mental health conditions may require.

Also Read: What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)?

Techniques used for humanistic therapy

Role playing:

In Role playing technique, the therapist plays role of the other person and the client remains as a client and then enacts a particular situation or behavior. This way the therapist able to look upon the situation through different perspectives and understands it in a better way. On the other hand, the client could be able to respond well and may challenge their negative thoughts.

Active listening technique:

Therapists use active listening techniques to listen the client talk about themselves and their life. The therapy is client centered and let client do the talking while the therapist patiently and with full compassion listens to the client without judging or passing any comments. The therapist often nods, give facial expressions or utter some words of reassurance like ‘yes’, ‘I understand’, ‘right’, etc to let the client feel heard. The therapist asks the person to repeat the story or talk more about it if they fail to understand or have any doubt. This way the therapy gets out the good within you.

Also Read: What is Schema Therapy?

In conclusion, Humanistic therapy provides a unique and powerful holistic approach to address mental health concerns and encourages a person to take charge of their life by tackling the situation and making wise life decisions. Therapy provide deeper level of understanding for themselves and may provide a new way of perception. While it may not be a perfect solution for every person or situation, it can help in promoting self-awareness and thereby self-growth.


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