Do you want to know about an approach to psychotherapy that is non-judgmental and helps you with self-exploration? Follow this article to know how one such therapy works for people and what is the goal of humanistic therapy!
Humanistic therapy is one of the psychotherapeutic approaches which has its own therapeutic goals and interventions to help people beat mental issues. It instills positive regard and good intentions among people so that people who deviated from their natural tendencies can revive back to it. It safeguards the uniqueness of an individual.
We usually see people motivating others by giving them an example of an individual so that they can get inspired by them and follow similar steps. We tell them that if another person can succeed in a certain situation, you can too, but humanistic therapy does not let you get inspired by anyone else except for yourself.
If you want to know about this third force of psychological approach called Humanistic Therapy, then follow this article so that you get a complete insight into this therapy, including what is the goal of humanistic therapy, how it works, and what are its different types. It will further clear the misconceptions related to this therapy so that you can better decide how this therapy will be a better option for you to deal with any mental health problem.
Table of Contents
What is humanistic therapy?
It is based on Humanistic psychology that people are naturally good, and therapy helps people reach their true positive potential so that they make valuable contributions to society. According to humanistic psychology, people who deviate from their positive potential need to be motivated, so they reach the state of self-actualization and make efforts towards good things.
As our actions and choices are influenced by our beliefs, this therapy’s motive is to make people recognize their true potential through which they can make the right decisions for themselves. As a result of which, an individual does not analyze another person but rather focuses on his mind and his behavior. It is not only restricted to mental disorders but can also be helpful for a person to boost his self-confidence so that his attitude and perceptions toward life improve.
Origin of humanistic therapy
It traces back to the movement of humanism and refers to humanistic psychology. Humanism revolves around the ideology that humans are inherently good, and this ideology determines them to provide morality, ethics, and positive intentions in the world. Humanists make efforts to discover ways that can benefit human potential and eradicate the practices that become barriers to humans achieving their potential. However, society and manipulative characteristics of society deviate humans from these natural tendencies.
In the early twentieth century, the department of psychology was dominated by two philosophies of behaviorism and Freudian psychoanalysis. Behaviorism focuses on the use of reinforcements to manipulate people’s behavior. In 1950, American psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow initiated the modern humanistic therapy techniques against behaviorism and psychoanalysis.
According to humanistic psychology, how a person thinks about himself determines his perspective and behavior. The prime motive of this approach was to focus on human potential so that the best in people could be brought out through the use of the science of psychology.
Types of humanistic therapy
There are three major humanistic therapies that are carried out in the world:
Gestalt is a German word that connotes the idea of “whole,” so this therapy focuses on the present personality of the person. It deals with the underlying factors of your current life, including your relationship with your family members or partners. Any conflict that you are currently experiencing with any person on a personal level can be a barrier in your mind.
People more often think about their past and get depressed, which indirectly affects their present life too, but this therapy helps people focus only on the factors that are relevant in their current life. It analyzes the present environment of an individual and helps him recognize what is becoming a hindrance to his personal growth.
You get to understand your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in a better way. If any hindrance is there, this therapy further helps you to tackle them and bring positive changes in your life. There are a number of gestalt therapy techniques used by therapists depending from person to person as every individual’s brain functions in a different way:
- Body Language: In this technique, the therapist analyzes the body language, including facial expression and hand and feet movements of the client, and notes them down. Afterward, the therapist also asks the client to express one of those movements.
- Empty chair: This is based on imagination, where the client is asked to make a conversation with an empty chair, assuming that he is talking to another part of himself. The client opens up to this imaginary other part and talks about things that he wants without having to explain why he said them, which helps him understand his emotions.
- Exaggeration: In this technique, the client is asked to exaggerate any of his emotions so that they can find out the part that disturbs them more. When the client focuses on his feelings and talks about them, he eventually reaches the root cause of the problem.
- Locating the emotion: There are parts of our body where we feel certain emotions, as anxiety can gather in different parts of the human body in the form of cold feet, gut reactions, chills in the spine, etc. This therapy helps clients find the location in their bodies where they feel a particular emotion. It allows them to focus on it and process the emotion.
After gestalt therapy, an individual is able to better understand his emotions which also creates a sense of self-control in him. He becomes confident about himself and his emotional needs so that he can deal with stressful situations in his life in a better way.
This therapy was initiated by Carl Rogers, who was of the view that people have the tendency to heal themselves, so with active listening, we can give people a space to speak their hearts out and reach the stage of self-actualization. In this therapy, a non-judgemental environment is provided to the client so that he can open up and talk about his experiences and problems to the therapist. It is a person-centered approach where the therapist is only a source of a guide that provides a trustworthy and positive environment to the client.
There is an equal balance between the therapist and client in this type of therapy because when the client digs deep into his problems, the therapist makes sure that the client is moving in the correct direction and provides guidance if there is an intervention needed. It is also called person-centered therapy because clients are constantly reassured that they have the power in the relationship and they are not being commanded.
While techniques have been considered a barrier in this type of therapy, there are no specific methodologies followed by the therapist. However, there are some factors that a therapist must ensure to the client during treatment. They are as follows:
- Set Boundaries: It is important for the therapist to outline the main concerns and then make sure that the therapy process revolves around those concerns so that they do not deviate from the actual issue.
- Active listening: The therapist must make sure that he responds to the client in a non-judgemental way and puts his idea of the client’s words in his own words. In this way, the client will feel heard and understood.
- Tolerance: The client, during this therapy session, can go through a number of emotions and might be expressing those in front of the therapist. These emotions can also include anger and frustration, but the therapist needs to stay calm during these situations.
- Decisions by clients: A client is the one going through that experience, so he is more aware of it than anybody else. The therapist can facilitate them to make the best decision for themselves by exploring the decision of their outcomes.
The client, after this therapy, becomes less dependent on anyone for emotional stability because he becomes more aware of himself and understands himself in a better way.
This therapy revolves around the existence of you as a person in this world as it helps the client deal with the reality of life. It is based on the philosophy of existentialism, where a therapist helps the client understand how an individual’s concepts affect his life. It emphasizes the condition of the client as a whole. A client takes responsibility for his actions and searches for the meaning of the actions and things happening in his life.
Existential therapy deals with the important existential givens such as freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, etc. When a human confronts any of these givens, he faces a conflict that further gives birth to anxiety and creates obstacles in his life. This therapy helps people not get overwhelmed by the realization of these givens and maintain a balance in life.
Humans do not take responsibility for their actions and present life and mostly focus on the past. The therapist brings the client’s consideration to himself rather than putting it on others and the past. There are four levels of experiences on which an individual confronts himself. The factors that disturb an individual during anxiety fall under these four realms. An individual’s approach and thought process depend on these realms, which define his reality. These four realms are as follows:
- Physical realm: It refers to the physicality of an individual about how he deals with the environment around him. All the worldly factors revolving around mortality are covered in this realm, including sleep, desire, death, etc.
- Social realm: It covers all the societal factors, including language, family, and culture. How we behave in society and interact with the people around us triggers meaninglessness in an individual.
- Personal realm: An individual’s own characteristics and self-realization about his identity fall under this realm. How our brain works and how our past and present dwelling in our mind builds up our personality and, at times, creates conflict.
- Spiritual realm: It deals with an individual’s own vision of the things around him and his transcendent experiences. This is our ideal world where we visualize all the factors of life and make sense of our life.
This therapy helps people make meaning of their lives so that people are not bothered about superficiality. People who want to become aware of themselves and this world’s reality benefit from this therapy as they learn to balance their inside and outside worlds.
Goals of humanistic therapy
Like all other types of therapies, humanistic therapy is mainly designed to benefit people so that they can deal with mental conditions in a better way. These benefits regulate the goals of this therapy:
As this therapy helps the client draw his own conclusions by going through a process of self-realization so, in the end, he becomes aware of his feelings and emotions. It benefits him in his personal as well as professional life because the individual does not depend on any other person apart from himself for emotional stability or guidance. Your therapist might ask you some questions to help you dig deep into your own self so you become aware of your needs.
An individual becomes self-reliant, so he does not look for other people to solve his problems. He tries to solve the issues by himself, and if he ever comes across a situation that puts him in a depressive stage, he looks for the solution by himself as he develops a better understanding of his mind and its demands.
A human urge to blame another person in a situation creates more problems for him, so through this therapy, an individual focuses on his right and wrongdoings, which helps his relationships with others.
Know your potential:
This therapy focuses on self-actualization, which helps an individual reach his maximum potential. It becomes a driving force for that person to grow his personality and have compassion for himself. He knows his worth and does not get attacked by unnecessary low self-esteemed thoughts.
Live fuller selves:
By maintaining healthy and meaningful relationships with others and themselves, people are able to live their life to the fullest and remove all the disabling thoughts that can become a barrier to living one’s life.
Your power in situations
Life can bring any situation in the future, and you will be going to deal with the consequences of every situation on your own. An individual does not feel like relying on any decision, as through humanistic therapy, even if you are not able to completely change the situation, you can still decide how to respond in a given case.
This therapy works differently for everyone as everybody is built differently. Your unique personality is acknowledged by a therapist so that you grow in life with your own uniqueness. You can contribute in your own unique way to society, and there is no pressure to follow a rule of personality.
Treating you as a whole
Human life is a combination of emotional, mental, and physical aspects, so sometimes when an individual is in a conflict, there is more than one aspect involved in it. This therapy does not deal with only one factor of your life, such as fear, phobia, or belief but covers all the aspects of your personality, including your belief system, thought process, behavior, needs, etc.
Approach of humanistic therapist
The approach of every therapist varies depending on the client, but there are some key elements that every therapist has to make sure to follow in every single case. These key elements are as follows:
It is to imagine yourself in another person’s shoes so that you can completely understand that person’s situation. The therapist will never understand the situation of his client by being judgemental of his situation.
This is the second step after empathy, where the client needs care from the therapist so that there is a sense of warmth and acceptance without any judgment. The therapist needs to keep away from the commanding or authoritative nature and create a comfortable environment so that the client feels at ease and the information therapist needs for the process is conveyed in a better way.
As the therapist does not control any actions or thoughts of the client, freedom is given to the client. This freedom of thought and words gives him a space to rationalize his thoughts and come to a meaningful conclusion as, according to human therapy, a person can understand himself better than anyone else, and that is why he can make the best decisions for himself.
The therapist does not act authoritative, but he observes your thoughts and emotions to make sure that even if your thoughts are flowing on their own to draw a conclusion, it is on the right path. He observes the thoughts and emotions of the client and informs him about the consequences. His observation helps clients to be open about their problems as he listens in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner, so the client develops an interest in getting genuine feedback from the therapist.
How does humanistic therapy work?
Humanistic therapy does not only address the problem but also focuses on the underlying factors of the problem that can only be carried out if the client explores who he is and how he perceives the world. The existing barriers are targeted, and the client himself alters his thoughts towards meaningful aspects of life, which helps him live his life to the fullest potential. There is no specific mapped-out process or tools involved in this therapy.
The therapist performs according to the need of the situation and mostly lets clients discover the meaning of life. These therapy sessions are based on unstructured interviews where the therapist observes your thoughts and feelings without directing them to a specific topic. The therapist makes sure that you open up and talk about the things you want and then gives feedback where it is needed.
Humanistic therapy works better for people who want to bring positive changes into their lives as this therapy works in the longer run. People dealing with anxiety, depression, personality disorder, relationship issues, lack of confidence, and issues within themselves can find this effective. As most of these aforementioned conditions are related to a person’s thought process, targeting the thought process helps to solve these issues.
This approach in psychology has introduced a new dimension in the field of psychology, which was previously dominated by psychodynamic psychology and behaviorism. It advocates the free will of people as people have inherent goodness, but it needs to be explored, so a humanistic approach helps people become aware of their thoughts and actions. A better understanding of one’s own self helps him reach maximum potential in life, enhances problem-solving skills and improves your relationship with others and adds meaning to your life.
There are several types of therapies that come under this psychological approach, such as client-centered therapy, existential therapy, and gestalt therapy. The therapist chooses the therapy according to the requirements of the client, and it requires an equal effort of the client and therapist where the client has control over his thoughts, and the therapist only provides guidance and feedback.