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Humanistic Psychology / Humanistic Therapies

Humanistic psychology grew in the mid-20th century at a time when psychoanalytic and behavior theory were prominent. Humanistic psychology emphasizes the inherent goodness in people, and their inherent drive toward realizing and expressing their own capabilities (self-actualization). The perspective of humanistic psychology has been summed up in five ‘postulates’ (Bugental, 1964):
  1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.
  2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
  3. Human beings are aware and aware of being aware—i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
  4. Human beings have some choice and, with that, responsibility.
  5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity.
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Information (Professional)

  • Proposed therapeutic interventions of an existential-humanistic psychotherapist | Bob Edelstein

What is Humanistic Therapy?

Approaches Within Humanistic Therapy

  • Person-centered therapy—Carl Rogers (Rogers, 1951)
  • Gestalt therapy—Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, Paul Goodman (Perls & Goodman, 1951)
  • Positive psychology—Martin Seligman (Gillahm & Selgiman, 1999)
  • Existential therapy—Viktor Frankl (Frankl, 1947)
  • Personal construct theory / repertory grid—George Kelly (Kelly, 1977)

The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Therapeutic Change

Carl Rogers proposed six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change:

  • Therapist–client psychological contact: a relationship between client and therapist must exist, and it must be a relationship in which each person’s perception of the other is important.
  • Client incongruence: that incongruence exists between the client’s experience and awareness.
  • Therapist congruence, or genuineness: the therapist is congruent within the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is deeply involved—they are not ‘acting’—and they can draw on their own experiences (self-disclosure) to facilitate the relationship.
  • Therapist unconditional positive regard: the therapist accepts the client unconditionally, without judgment, disapproval, or approval. This facilitates increased self-regard in the client, as they can begin to become aware of experiences in which their view of self-worth was distorted by others.
  • Therapist empathic understanding: the therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference. Accurate empathy on the part of the therapist helps the client believe the therapist’s unconditional regard for them.
  • Client perception: that the client perceives, to at least a minimal degree, the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding.


  • Bugental, J. F. T. (1964). The third force in psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 4(1), 19–25.
  • Frankl, V. E. (1947). Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager: Österreichische Dokumente zur Zeitgeschichte.
  • Gillham, J. E., & Seligman, M. E. (1999). Footsteps on the road to a positive psychology. Behaviour Research and Therapy37(1), S163.
  • Kelly, G. A. (1977). Personal construct theory and the psychotherapeutic interview. Cognitive Therapy and Research1(4), 355-362.
  • Perls, F., Hefferline, G., & Goodman, P. (1951). Gestalt therapy. New York.
  • Rogers, C. (1951). Client Centred Therapy. London: Constable and Company Limited.