Humanistic Therapy: The Healing Power of Empathy

by Pierre Araman

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What is Humanistic Therapy?

Humanism is the study of an individual as a whole being. It is a perspective of psychology that looks at humans as innately ‘good’. Clients are considered experts on their own lives and thus, humanistic therapists do not psychoanalyze or judge. Instead, they focus on empathy through a non-directive approach that facilitates connection between client and therapist.

The goal of humanistic therapy is to focus on growth and self-actualization (self-development) and to help clients identify their strengths in the present moment. There are various types of humanistic therapies such as Gestalt, Psychosynthesis, and Solution-focused therapy, to name a few. One of the most famous humanistic therapy practices is called Client-centered therapy or Rogerian psychotherapy.

Client-centered therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s from the perspective that people organically develop towards their full potential over time. However, life experiences such as trauma and accidents distort and/or block the drive to fulfill one’s potential.

Some life experiences are called ‘conditions of worth’. These occur when we evaluate our own experiences through the values and beliefs of others instead of ourselves. Many people do this by discounting their own experiences in order to receive conditional positive regard or acceptance from others. As a result, a Social Self and a True Self are created. The Social Self is a self-concept based largely on the expectations of others and the True Self is a self-concept based on our actual feelings about our experiences. In order for the Self’s to be congruent with one another, Rogerian therapists focus on cultivating unconditional positive regard for their clients.

Techniques used in Client-Centered therapy:

Since each client is considered unique and are considered the expert on their own lives, there are no specific techniques used in Rogerian psychotherapy. Rogerian therapists instead offer their unconditional positive regard, empathy, and skillful non-directive reflections in order to help their clients reach their full potential.

Here is a video of Carl Rogers practicing Client-Centered therapy. As you watch the video, you can see that he does not judge nor direct the client in any particular way:

Here are additional resources if you are interested to learn more about Carl Rogers or about humanistic therapies:

Here are also two studies demonstrating the effectiveness of Person-Centered Therapies:

Humanistic Therapy at Sofia University

The Master of Arts in Counseling program at Sofia University introduces the tenets and practices of Humanistic theory. The competent and compassionate faculty at Sofia University provide great insight into this theory and help students learn how to apply these skills in their work with clients. Classes such as “Critical Thinking in Clinical Psychology”, “History and Systems of Psychology”, “Psychotherapy theory and Interventions” are just a few of the classes that may introduce you to this type of work.

Special thanks to Dr. Sersecion’s lecture on Humanistic Psychology.

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