Existential Humanistic psychology

May 10, 2017


Existential / Humanistic

Existential-Humanistic Psychology and Mindfulness

Existential-Humanistic psychology has played an important role in the treatment of psychopathologies by looking at individuals as a whole person and living in a socially interconnected and holistic world. In order to appreciate how this came about it is important to get an overview of the development of humanistic psychology from a historical, social, and geopolitical perspective. On December 11, 1940 Carl Rogers, at the age of 38, spoke to the Psi Chi chapter of the University of Minnesota - his speech was titled "Newer Concepts in Psychotherapy". This was the origin of humanistic psychotherapies (Cain, 2002). Cain also wrote that this speech received a lot of excitement and also criticism. Carl Rogers would later identify the date of the Minnesota speech as the birth of client-centered therapy. This talk led Carl Rogers to write a book, Counseling and Psychotherapy, which eventually become a landmark in the history and development of humanistic psychology (Rogers & Russell, 2002). These new concepts of humanistic psychology emerged as an alternative to the present day behavioral therapies and psychodynamic processes. The humanists believed that the behaviorists and the psychodynamic therapies did not integrate the goals and aspirations of the clients being treated. This movement was called the "third force" following psychoanalysis as the first force and behaviorism as the second force. Three major strands of humanistic therapy evolved during this process: client-centered therapy (CCT), Gestalt therapy, and existential therapy (Elliott, 2002). Carl Rogers (1902-1987) developed CCT, currently called person-centered therapy (PCT) while Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) developed the human motivational theories that led to self-actualization. Friedrich Perls (1893-1970) and Paul Goodman (1911-1972) were responsible for the development of Gestalt therapy (Strumpfel & Goldman, 2002), while Rollo May (1909-1994) popularized and advanced the existential movement in the United States (Bugental, 1996). All of these therapies focused on helping the individual self-discover the healing process, leading eventually to improved self-esteem. High self-esteem has many positive social benefits: individual happiness (Shackelford, 2001), academic achievement (Schmidt & Padilla, 2003), and supportive social behavior (Schimel, Arndt, Banko, & Cook, 2004).

Core Beliefs of Existential-Humanistic Psychology

Several authors have identified common and unique characteristics of humanistic psychology (Shaffer, 1978; Greenberg & Rice, 1997; Cain, 2002). The five core beliefs that emerge from these authors are: a phenomenological approach; a tendency for a person to attain self-actualization; a holistic perspective and integrated view of a person; that each person has the ability to determine for them what is good and bad; and for the therapist to respect the subjective experience of a person unconditionally. These five major characteristics of humanistic psychology are interrelated and interdependent (Shaffer, 1978).

Phenomenology is the most important core belief of existential-humanistic psychology and psychotherapy. The founders of phenomenology were from Germany: Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). Using this concept, humanism focuses on the unique conscious experience of each human being. So in order to understand the person one needs to understand their perception of reality (Kendler, 2005). It is very important to understand a person's subjective or conscious experience without any judgment, bias, expectation, or comparison. It is only then that a humanistic therapist can assist a person in dealing with his or her own issues.

According to Abraham Maslow self-actualization implies that a person is experiencing reality with all of their faculties and feeling a sense of connection with the rest of humanity and their (Maslow, 1971). The question is: Who or what is the entity that is going through this experience? It is the self. The construct of self, also called self-concept, plays a very important role for all humanistic psychotherapists. The self is constantly evolving and changing from childhood and eventually it incorporates the self-image into one whole self. Humanists believe that a person has the capacity to change their behavior and have the internal mechanism to heal and grow as individuals. Each person is viewed as an indivisible whole - a gestalt. Humanistic psychology is monistic in its approach and does not believe in the dualism of the body and mind. The person is interconnected and integrated.

Each individual has the capacity to choose and to determine a course of action. There are a number of steps that can reinforce the confidence factor in one's making choices and improving their self-esteem. According to Carl Roger (1965) the client first starts to believe in their abilities to induce a change. Then they develop the confidence in making decisions that will change their behavior and at the same time create the foundation of living a socially dependent life. Choices and will play an important part for a person to function. All humanistic therapies view each person's reality as unique. It cannot be categorized nor can it be compared to someone else's. The therapist must show genuine concern and respect towards the client's subjective experience.

Source: www.human-studies.com

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