Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic Therapy
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 31-03-2023

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Humanistic therapy is based on the theoretical and philosophical base of the humanistic school of psychology. The “humanistic” bent of thought focuses purely on self-discovery and knowledge. This form of therapy leads the way to self-inquiry1. The basic premise of most humanistic therapies includes:

  • An understanding of subjective experiences
  • The belief that each individual inherits potential for self-growth and actualization
  • Forming a non-judgemental, authentic, and collaborative relationship between the therapist and the client is encouraged
  • Avoid labeling clients with diagnostic inferences

Contemporary humanistic therapy includes the following practice traditions:

Person-centered Therapy

Formulated and devised by Carl Rogers in 1951, the person-centered approach in therapy focuses on a positive, and self-accepting stance with the following goals:

  • The goals of therapy are decided by the client, not the therapist.
  • The client must experience and understand various facets of one’s life to live it constructively
  • Developing openness to experiences
  • Develop trust for oneself and others

According to Rogers, following the six elements burgeon and bolster therapeutic change:

  1. Effective Psychological contact between the therapist and client
  2. Addressing incongruence experienced by the client, between the perception of oneself and real-life experience.
  3. Congruence (being in touch with oneself) and genuineness from the therapist’s side
  4. Unconditional positive regard towards the client.
  5. Maintaining an empathetic stance toward the client
  6. Maintaining positive regard and empathy toward the client


Existential Therapy

Rollo May, one of the leading authors in the field of existential therapy stated that the goal of this therapy is “to set clients free”.1 In this context freedom refers to the possibility of making personal choices without imposed limits. Other primary goals2 of this therapy are authenticity, and experience of one’s existence. The essential themes that are focussed upon are:

  • Freedom: By focusing on present issues and seldom dwelling on the past, the freedom to face personal concerns and challenges of life is provided.
  • Responsibility: Responsibility for one’s actions is inherent to such a therapeutic alliance. Essentially, a therapist will attempt to extract the client from the “blame game” and instead recognize one’s role in issues faced.
  • Choice: Making active choices encourages clients to focus on action and initiative. 

The therapeutic relationship in the existential framework also focuses on exploring existential themes; such as isolation, meaninglessness, etc.


Constructivist Therapy

Constructivist therapies don’t have specific developmental or personality theories to their credit. Rather this approach allows a therapist to devise a plan of action based on a client’s independent description of problems.

  • Solution-Based Therapy: Based on information elicited, the therapist sets small, achievable goals that highlight possible solutions to the described problems and issues. Some strategies applied include forming a collaborative relationship with the client, complimenting the client s actions, developing coping skills, and a novel phenomenon known as the “miracle question” (focused on an imaginative scenario of a miracle solving the client’s issues).
  • Narrative Therapy:  Narrative therapists focus on stories narrated by their clients. Problems described in the stories are given due attention by assisting clients in sorting them out. Two specific methods of narrative therapy are:


Personal Construct Therapy

Epton and White’s Narrative Therapy

  • Client issues and problems are discussed in the form of a story unfolding gradually with the client as the protagonist.
  • As the story unfolds, different themes come to light and are focused on in therapy


  • Client issues are focused on from the perspective of how the client views the world around oneself.
  • Stories narrated by the client are retold by using techniques related to devising alternate solutions



The strength of humanistic therapies lies in the way they prioritize client expression and behaviors. This framework also allows clients to obtain better insight into their lives. Therefore, these therapies hold an independent position in the field of psychotherapy.


To know more about humanistic therapy and get online counseling, contact HopeQure


1.Scheider, K., & Leitner, L. (2002). Humanistic psychotherapy. Encyclopedia of psychotherapy. (pp. 949-957). USA;Elsevier Science.

2.Sharf, R. (2012). Theories of psychotherapy and counselling-concepts and cases. Belmont, CA:Brooks/Cole.

3.Rogers, C. R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology21, 95–103.

4.Neimeyer, R. A. (2009). Constructivist psychotherapy: Distinctive features. New York: Routledge.

5.Deurzen, E. Van. (2009). Psychotherapy and the quest for happiness. London: Sage.

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