Humanistic Psychology Emphasizes Your Healthier Self

Humanistic Psychology Can Help Specific Phobia

Businesswoman walking to office building
Beau Lark/Fuse/Getty Images

Humanistic psychology is a movement in this field that minimizes the effects of the unconscious mind, focusing instead on the uniquely human capacity to understand one’s place in the world and relationships with others.

Humanistic psychology focuses on the whole person, and emphasizes shared characteristics of all human beings, which are:

In addition, humanistic theories move away from the medical model into a new focus on the healthiest aspects of the client’s personality.

The mental health professional encourages you to use those healthy parts of your personality to move toward increasing psychological health.

Humanistic Psychology and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Humanistic psychology has had an influence on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other popular models of today. CBT is one of the most common therapeutic modalities to help patients overcome specific phobia, a fear of a specific object or situation. The other two types of phobia are agoraphobia and social phobia (social anxiety disorder).

A Brief History of Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology developed during the 1950s and 1960s as a reaction to the main schools of thought at the time, psychoanalysis, and behaviorism. Humanistic psychology is a branch of the larger philosophical theory known as humanism, which encompasses existential beliefs and a renewed focus on the self.

One of the "godfathers" of humanistic psychology is Abraham H.

Maslow. He proposed an hierarchy of needs, or drives, and posited only when the base needs are met can a person progress to the higher levels and eventually to the goal of self-actualization.

The hierarchy of needs from lowest to highest is:

The Concept of Self

The central focus of most humanistic psychologists is the concept of self.

Humanists believe you perceive the world through the lens of your own experiences.

Carl Rogers, on of the pioneers of this concept believes this unique view shapes your personality, as well as the behavior you use to satisfy the three needs of the total self, which are:

  • self-actualization, or to become your true self
  • self-maintenance, to keep being yourself once you reach self-actualization
  • self-enhancement, the transcendence beyond the status quo

Existentialism and Humanistic Psychology

Many humanistic psychologists embraced the view of existential philosophers and focused on our ways of being in the world. These thinkers describe two modes of being, the loner mode (when you chose to live within yourself) and the dual mode (when you unite in feeling with another person).

You know your mind is in dual mode when you exchange the pronouns "I" and "you" for "we" when speaking to others.

Humanistic Psychology Today

Humanistic psychology was revolutionary in its time and referred to as a new approach. However, in 2001, researchers relabeled its core principles as common factors of the therapist-client relationship and humanistic psychology lost its stand-alone status as a therapeutic method.

Today the therapeutic community at large look at these core factors as best practices.

Professors teach the principles of humanistic psychology to up and coming therapists as simply a fundamental part of clinical work.

Humanism, now standard in the practice of psychology and talking therapy, teaches the therapist to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • warmth
  • accurate empathy
  • unconditional positive regard  


Encyclopaedia Britannica: Humanistic Psychology

Lambert, et al. Psychotherapy - Theory, Research, Practice, Training: Research Summary on the Therapeutic Relationship and Psychotherapy Outcome (2001)

Continue Reading