Humanistic Therapy Handout

1.What is humanistic therapy, and what is its purpose?

–        The development of humanistic therapy occurred in the mid-1900s, and is often referred to as the “third wave” or “third force,” following Freudian psychoanalysis and behaviorism.

–        Humanistic therapy focuses on the concept of a whole person in the ongoing process of changing and becoming. Its general theory is that people are free to choose what they will become by creating and committing to their own values through their own decisions, despite environmental and genetic factors. Yet the freedom of choosing bring about the burden of responsibility and people suffer from guilt over lost chances to achieve their full potential.

–        Humanistic therapies focus on self-development, growth and responsibilities. They seek to help individuals recognise their strengths, creativity and choice in the ‘here and now’.

–        Humanistic therapy emphasizes a non-judgmental approach, with open-ended questions often employed to encourage the patient to explore his/her thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

–        Integration with the existentialist approach (emphasizes on people’s ability to meet or be overwhelmed by everyday challenge of existence).

–        Gave rise to the human-potential movement (The therapy movement that encompasses all practices and methods that release the potential of an average person for greater levels of performance and greater richness of experience).

–        Apart from existential therapy, client-centered therapy, and gestalt therapy, humanistic therapies also includes psychosynthesis, solution-focused brief therapy, transactional analysis, and transpersonal psychology.

2.Explain and give at least two situations/examples of how each of the following therapies work:

Client-centred therapy

–        Client-centred therapy, developed by Carl Rogers, mainly influence how many kinds of therapists defined relationships with their clients. The main goal of this therapy is to facilitate the healthy psychological growth of the individual

–        The base of this approach is to assume that all people basically tend to self-actualize (realize their potential) as Rogers believed that developing all capacities in ways that could maintain or improve the organism is the inherent tendency of all the organisms.

–        The conflict exists between people’s naturally positive self-image and negative external criticisms. This happens when healthy development is hampered by faulty learning patterns: people accept the estimate of others to replace their own ideas toward mind and body. The conflict will cause the anxiety and unhappiness and it may function unconsciously.

–        Client-centred therapy aims to create a therapeutic environment that makes clients learn how to achieve self-enhancement and self-actualization. Based on the assumption (people are potentially good), this therapy is nondirective and therapists build genuin relationships with their clients and they primarily help clients remove obstacles that restrain their natural positive tendency.

–        Basic strategy: recognize, accept, and clarify a client’s feelings. An atmosphere of unconditional positive regard (non-judgemental acceptance and respect) is necessary.

–        Situation 1: Michael has made an appointment to see his School Counsellor. He is due to finish school this year and is undecided about what direction he should take once he leaves school. Michael is a high achiever and his parents want him to make the most of his opportunity to enter University and study Law or Medicine. Whilst Michael is interested in Medicine, he feels that his interests at the moment are directed towards working and travelling abroad. He wants to discuss his preferences with the School Counsellor and to talk about the pressure he has been experiencing.

–        Situation 2: Client-Centred Therapy has proven to be particularly useful when treating dual diagnosis or low self-esteem in depression treatment facilities, addictions in drug and alcohol rehab centers, and disorders in eating disorder treatment clinics. By allowing the individual to connect with his/her inner-self, one is better equipped to transcend the limitations of addictions and other compulsions.

Gestalt Therapy

Gestalt therapy, developed by Fritz Perls, blends both physical and mental therapies. It associates an awareness of unconscious tensions with the belief that one must take personal responsibility to recognize and deal with those tensions. Clients may be asked to physically “act out” psychological conflicts so that they could be aware of the interaction between mind and body.

The major character of this therapy is its unpredictability. The therapist and client follow moment-to-moment experience and neither knows exactly where they will be led to.

A notable method of Gestalt therapy is the empty chair technique, in which the therapist puts an empty chair near the client, and let the client to imagine this chair is occupied by a feeling, a person, an object or a situation.

Example 1:  a client who is a freshman studying abroad is dissatisfied with her shyness when socializing with new classmates. The therapist would instruct the client to sit on a chair nearby an empty one. She imagines the occupant of the empty chair as her mother and reveal feelings that are difficult for her to express during campus life. She may then talk about her anxiety about being in a strange place of the home and appreciate her mother’s past influences on her. After that, she would probably feel more comfortable with her surroundings and be more willing to make friends.

Another method is guided fantasy, or visualization, in which clients, with the guidance of the therapist, close their eyes and slowly imagine a scene of the past or future events. Details are used to describe the event with different senses and thoughts.

Example 2: during the therapy session, the therapist lays a mother who is bored of her routine lifestyle down and asks her to close eyes and visualize a happy future event. She could think about what her children will be in the future, and fantasize how much contribution she has made to promote them to great success. She will then become more responsible of caring for them.



[1] “Humanistic therapies.” Counselling Directory. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

[2] “Humanistic Therapy.” CRC Health Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

[3] “Gestalt therapy.” Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017

[4] Palmera, Casa. “Client Centered Therapy.” N.p., 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

Barry, Jane. “A Case Demonstrating Person Centred Therapy.” Case Study Hub. N.p., 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.


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