Humanistic therapy emerged in the 1950's, and although behavioural therapy and psychoanalytic methods were available, a humanistic approach offered individuals another alternative. This approach focuses on recognising human capabilities in areas such as creativity, personal growth and choice. Two major theorists associated with this approach are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
The main goals of humanistic psychology are to find out how individuals perceive themselves here and now and to recognise growth, self-direction and responsibilities. This method is optimistic and attempts to help individuals recognise their strengths by offering a non-judgemental, understanding experience.
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This approach to counselling and psychotherapy sees human beings as having an innate tendency to develop towards their full potential. But this is inevitably blocked or distorted by our life experiences, in particular those who tell us we are only loved or valued if we behave in certain ways and not others, or have certain feelings and not others. As a result, because we have a deep need to feel valued, we tend to distort or deny to our awareness those of our inner experiences that we believe will not be acceptable.
The counsellor or psychotherapist in this approach aims to provide an environment in which the client does not feel under threat or judgement. This enables the client to experience and accept more of who they are as a person, and reconnect with their own values and sense of self-worth. This reconnection with their inner resources enables them to find their own way to move forward.
The counsellor or psychotherapist works to understand the client's experience from the client's point of view, and to positively value the client as a person in all aspects of their humanity, while aiming to be open and genuine as another human being. These attitudes of the therapist towards the client will only be helpful if the client experiences them as real within the relationship, and so the nature of the relationship that the counsellor and client create between themselves is crucial for the success of therapy.
Gestalt Therapy focuses on the whole of an individual's experience; their thoughts, feelings and actions, and concentrates on the 'here and now' - what is happening from one moment to the next. Roughly translated from German, Gestalt means 'whole' and was developed in the 1940's by Fritz Perls. The main goal of this approach is for the individual to become more self-aware, taking into account their mind, body and soul.
A therapist will constantly promote the client's awareness of themselves and often uses experiments that are created by the therapist and client. These experiments can be anything from creating patterns with objects and writing to role-playing. Promoting self-awareness is the main objective of gestalt therapy but other areas such as improving the ability to support ones emotional feelings are also important. Gestalt therapy is influenced by psychoanalytic theory and therapists will concentrate on 'here and now' experiences to remove obstacles created by past experiences.
Transactional Analysis is a theory that involves an individual's growth and development. It is also a theory related to communication and child development explaining the connections to our past and how this influences decisions we make. Transactional Analysis was developed during the late 1950's by psychiatrist Eric Berne.
Berne recognised three key “ego-states” - Parent, Adult and Child. The Parent ego state is a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours we leant from our parents and other important people. The Adult ego state relates to direct responses to the 'here and now' that are not influenced by our past. The Child ego state is a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our childhood. The ego-states are useful for analysing unconscious scripts and "games" people play.
Transactional Analysis seeks to identify what goes wrong in communication and provide opportunities for individuals to change repetitive patterns that limit their potential. It encourages individuals to analyse previous decisions they have made to understand the direction and patterns of their life for themselves. It also helps clients to trust their decisions and think/act as an individual improving the way they feel about themselves. TA is a humanistic approach and like Person-Centred Counselling focuses on the here and now concept.
Transpersonal psychology began within humanistic therapies, however today it is gaining recognition by many psychologists and a number of professional organisations, and is now often seen as its own separate psychological theory (along with the other three main categories: behavioural, psychoanalytical and psychodynamic and humanistic).
Transpersonal psychology literally means "beyond the personal" and involves encouraging the individual to discover the deep core of who they really are (the real person that transcends an individual’s body, age, gender, physical space, culture, appearance etc.) It involves building and expanding on an individual's qualities, their spirituality and self development.
Abraham Maslow's research on self-actualisation was a key factor in the development of Transpersonal Psychology, which has since been refined by the work of many others. Transpersonal Psychology encompasses three major areas: Beyond-Ego Psychology, Integrative/Holistic Psychology, and Transformative Psychology.
Psychosynthesis was developed by psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli and involves an integration of the psychological and transpersonal elements. Psychosynthesis accepts the idea of a higher, spiritual level of consciousness, sometimes referred to as the "higher self". Techniques such as meditation and visualisation are often used for self-exploration and personal growth.
Existential Therapy focuses on exploring the meaning of certain issues through a philosophical perspective, instead of a technique-based approach. It is appropriate for those wishing to increase their self-awareness and broaden their views on their surrounding world.
The principles of existential therapy are based on the theories of 19th and 20th century influential philosophers, such as Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, who were in conflict with the predominant ideologies of their time and committed to exploring human existence in a personal manner. Existential therapy favours the idea that we are all directly responsible for our own lives, over the idea of meaningful existence and predetermined destiny. Many other philosophers, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Gabriel Marcel and Ludwig Binswanger, also contributed to the exploration of these ideas and the therapy is aimed at making sense of human existence.
Existential Therapy is generally not concerned with the client's past, but emphasises the choices to be made in the present and future.