Humanistic Theory

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Experiential and Humanistic Theory As a person goes through life and has ups and downs, their ability to handle the stress varies from person to person. At times, a person has difficulties maintaining all the pressures of issues that sometimes feel to manifest into deep sensations of falling. Not knowing where to turn or where to go to get a clear view of what it is that may has them continuing to feel all of the world is against them. Many people rely on friends and family to get that ear to sort out their troubles.

Calm down an agitated person, assisting a friend through a death of a family member, or something as simple as avoiding negative thoughts through distracting, these forms of lending a hand can be described as psychotherapy. Anton Meamer discovered the age-old wisdom in the eighteenth century, early nineteenth. Anton realized that when a person or individual suffers a variety of mental anguish or illness, when put in a hypnotic trance, their symptoms disappeared. Many didn’t understand the nature of what Anton was doing and dismissed a lot of his work.

Later, Sigmund Freud rediscovered the theory and showed that the presence of caring, being attentive, becoming a trusted listener assisted with their issues or situations. Allowed a person to focus on their experience through revisiting long forgotten traumatic events and assist with symptoms of the trauma. Through observation, psychotherapy became a form of treatment and a new revolutionary form of therapy was born. As the foundation of psychology was being laid out, the development of theories began to be discovered.

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Understanding behavior and what may cause a person to want to strive in life and become successful in society opened the doors for theorist to develop a humanistic theory. The potential of an individual making a contribution to society and becoming a person who is likeable by peers, family, and friends led two theorist to develop the humanistic theory movement. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers regarded an individual’s personal growth and feeling fulfilled in life as basic human motive. Humanistic theory involves the development of an individual.

The achievement of happiness is dependent upon the willingness of an individual to pursue their own deepest interests and desires. By an individual focusing on themselves, creating a strong sense of self gives a person to feel positive about their contribution to society. Humanist’s theory looks at behavior not only through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the individual presenting the behavior. A goal of humanistic theory and therapy gives the client the opportunity to deal with their behavior and situation in their own terms of real self and ideal self.

With this idea, a client’s progress and direction in the therapy is based from what they are and what they want. Achieving self-esteem in therapy through this process allows the client to evaluate their own sense of what. Self-esteem will also strengthen the understanding of self and not be something or someone they are not. As the foundation is being set, as the clients acceptance of real self begins to emerge, their self-esteem becomes solid and their awareness to eventually not strive for being someone or something they’re not creates a positive sense of self and their needs begin to be met.

With the qualities of positive regard for self, having an unconditional awareness of self, creates an empathetic and genuine client and humanistic therapist relationship. Using the techniques of humanistic therapy allow therapist to assist the client in agreeing with the merging of their real self and the ideal self. No matter what the client reveals of them self in therapy, keeping a positive regard will keep the client in an accepting and warm environment. In the context of humanistic psychotherapy, the individual should expect the therapist to be accepting of whatever has been revealed.

As this bond is established, the client’s achievements towards self-actualization can be secured through the understanding of the therapist creating a solid and functional use of the client’s needs. The development of the “pyramid of needs” by Maslow in 1943 became the blue print used today to identify the needs of individuals. Maslow believed that in the correct order, an individual can become self-actualized through a hierarchy of needs. Once an individual has met the basic physiological needs such as food, water, sex, sleeps etc. then they are able feel safety through the security of body, employment, morality, family health, etc. As the individuals moves up the hierarchy, feeling loved and belonged strengthens their self-esteem and reaching self-actualization is achieved. Carl Rogers believed that in order for an individual to develop fully, in addition to Maslow’s hierarchy, their environment needs to be genuine, accepting, and have empathy. Rodgers felt that without the essential environment that is nourishing, development of healthy personalities and relationships will not have the opportunity to flourish fully.

Rogers continued to expand on Maslow’s theory by going a little deeper. He felt that an individual operates from a unique frame of reference through building self-regard and self-concept. As an individual is identifying how to meet their basic needs, what about the experiences that are learned? David Kolb took a different approach then just viewing behavioral theories. Kolb developed the experiential learning theory that takes the approach on how experiences, including cognitions, environmental factors, and emotions influence the learning process.

Kolb illustrated that experiences provide a great deal of information that serves as the ground level for reflection. Through reflections, Kolb believes an individual forms an abstract concept. Kolb describes four stage cycle theory of learning that creates a transformation of an experience. Concrete experience also known as “Do”, reflective observation also known as “Observe”, abstract conceptualization also known as” Think”, and active experimentation also known as” Plan”. One may begin at any stage, but must still follow each other in sequence.

The first two stages are ways to grasp an experience and the last two are ways to transform an experience. The first stage, concrete experience is when the individual actively experiences in an activity such as a lab session or field work. The second stage, reflective observation is when an individual consciously reflects back on that experience. The third stage, abstract conceptualization an individual attempts to conceptualize a theory or model of what is observed. The fourth stage, active experimentation is when an individual is trying to plan how to test a model or theory or plan for a future experience.

When speaking of individuals, this describes the learner. Both theories demonstrate an approach that helps an individual identify with their selves. Each approach taken may have a different model that is adhered to, however, each approach focuses on the experiences that an individual has had that make up their psyche. Through understanding where an individual is at with their level of needs, the understanding of how they perceive and learn the information helps build a strong foundation when addressing the issues and situations of a person.

As with any type of therapy, using techniques that is considered traditional in the aspect of a person-centered therapy, creating an environment where the clients is allowed to lead the conversation in a therapy session gives the client a sense of control. Feeling as if they are being heard, the relationship can begin to form and the therapist will continue to be aware of the different levels of theory that can present itself. Using the correct technique in a session will be sure that the client’s subjective perspective isn’t being missed and both client and therapist benefit from the potential growth that is uniquely inherent in them both.

References: Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. Retrieved January 26, 2013 Kolb, D. A. , Boyatzis, R. E. , & Mainemelis, C. (2000). Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Research and New Directions. In Perspectives on cognitive, learning, and thinking styles. Retrieved January 26, 2013 McLeod, S. (2012). Humanism. In Simply Psychology. Retrieved January 26, 2013 Severin, F. T. (1973). Discovering man in psychology: A humanistic approach. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved January 26, 2013

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Humanistic Theory. (2017, Jul 06). Retrieved from

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