Humanist Therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?
Jul 15, 2021
It seems that Humanist Therapy is in fashion. Courses, conferences, web pages, articles appear everywhere... and evidently there are defenders and retractors.
I'm not going to position myself, but I do think it's interesting to really know what we're talking about, in the same way that I think it's important that we learn to differentiate between therapy or humanistic approach from other unreliable disciplines. When something becomes fashionable, we lack time to invent "alternatives" of dubious credibility.
The origins of Humanist Therapy
It is considered that the precursor of the humanistic approach was Carl rogers (1959). He was an American psychologist who, before becoming a relevant clinical psychologist, studied agriculture in the university and later became interested in theology, which brought him into contact with the philosophy.
Carl Rogers appeared in a specific socioeconomic context, he did not appear out of nowhere. In the 60s everything was questioned; it was the time of the student movements, hippies, feminism, environmentalists... there was a longing for change.
Humanistic Psychology appears
We could simplify the identity of this current of psychology by saying that the "humanists" not only investigate suffering, but deepen the growth and self-knowledge of their own person. They are more concerned with proposing alternatives to this suffering than with studying behavior. They provide a positive vision and are based on the will and hope of the same person. They start from goodness and health, and understand that mental disorders or everyday problems are distortions of this natural tendency. They focus on healthy people, and consider that personality is innate and "good" in itself.
In humanist models, the past or personal history are not appealed, but rather the capacities and tools available to the person at the present time which influence their problem and / or solution. We could say that it analyzes the present, the here and now. The moment you are not able to enjoy and take advantage of this present is when problems appear. Humanists understand that the "healthy" person is the one who is enriched by their experience. Its purpose is to be able to know and learn gradually.
Humanists defend that each person has, innately, a potential that allows them to grow, evolve and self-actualize and that pathology appears when these capacities are blocked. They consider that the individual must learn to be, to know and to do, and that it is the same person who must find the solutions by himself, leaving him total freedom to decide. The pathological disorders they are renunciations or losses of this freedom that does not allow him to continue his process of vital growth.
Contributions of the humanist perspective
Some of the most important contributions that appear associated with the appearance of Humanist Therapy are the following:
- Optimistic vision: the potential of the person is the tool to solve their own problems.
- Emphasis on social factors: self-knowledge must be linked to social responsibility.
- Therapy as intervention: placing help to the person as the objective and final goal.
We must also bear in mind that these models postulate that the individual does not react to reality, but to his perception of it, which is totally subjective.
Criticisms of this approach
Another noteworthy point is the one that has brought the most criticism of this approach: its theoretical weakness. Humanistic Psychology flees from classifications and does not consider the scientific method as a "natural" method to understand "abnormal" behavior. This means that this trend is not accompanied by a solid empirical base and suffers from theoretical weakness, which has given rise to many “self-help” movements of doubtful credibility.
Another criticism that this movement has received is its consideration of the human being as “good by nature”. It is an optimistic approach and surely very timely for the time, but forget that the human being is a set of negative and positive factors and characteristics, and therefore we must consider both.
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change." —Carl Rogers