Humanistic psychologists try to help individuals develop their highest potential.
Humanistic psychology is a school of thought that focuses on the study of human strengths and the development of psychotherapy techniques that enhance an individual client's functioning. Mental health professionals interested in humanistic psychology occupy a wide range of jobs as social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists, but their jobs are rarely called "humanistic psychology jobs, " because humanistic psychology is an intellectual framework that these therapists share rather than an occupational specialty with specific job descriptions.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow started the humanistic psychology movement in 1954. Maslow and other humanistic psychology leaders were weary of the two dominant schools of 1950s psychology, psychoanalysis and behaviorism, which they felt focused too much on negative topics, including mental illness, instead of encouraging the personal growth of individual clients. Humanistic psychology became associated with concepts such as viewing human nature as intrinsically good, studying high-achieving individuals to learn how to encourage similar self-actualization in therapy clients, and developing talk therapy interactions that gently encouraged clients to grow.
Field in Transition
Maslow's work continues under the guidance of the Association for Humanistic Psychology and other professional associations. Two other movements grew out of the humanistic psychology approach: transpersonal psychology, which examines the relationship between spirituality and psychology, and positive psychology, which looks at ways to increase optimism and happiness. The field of humanistic psychology has developed an identity crisis because so many of its ideas have been absorbed by different mental health professions. The AHP announced in 2013 that the organization is considering ways to apply humanistic psychology ideas to "relationships, families, communities, societies, and in a global context" as well as to individual clients in an effort to revitalize humanistic psychology.