The Humanistic Perspective in Psychology: a Focus on Individual Potential

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Updated: Nov 24, 2023
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Emerging in the middle of the twentieth century, the humanistic view in psychology represented a radical break with the prevailing behavioral and psychoanalytic schools of thought at the time. This view stresses people’s innate goodness, potential, and ability to realize their full potential. It is founded on the principle that each individual is of intrinsic worth and deserving of courtesy and consideration. This article sheds light on the humanistic approach in psychology, its roots, fundamental principles, and ramifications in treatment, education, and personal development.

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In the 1950s, people began to question the assumptions behind psychoanalysis and behaviorism, giving rise to the humanistic approach. Behaviorism stressed visible behavior and external stimuli, while psychoanalysis concentrated on the unconscious mind and internal conflicts. However, the emphasis in the humanistic approach is on the uniqueness of each person and their potential for self-actualization. The writings of psychologists like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, who focused on the individual as a whole rather than on their individual behaviors or hidden tensions, had a major impact on this method.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a key notion in humanistic psychology. According to this idea, people are driven to behave by a set of wants that range from the bare necessities (food, water, shelter, etc.) to the more abstract (but no less important) pursuit of self-actualization (i.e., becoming the best version of oneself). Maslow argues that after basic needs are addressed, people may concentrate on developing themselves to their fullest potential.

Person-centered therapy was pioneered by Carl Rogers, another seminal figure in humanistic psychology. A key tenet of this therapy technique is providing a safe space for clients to open up about their innermost ideas and emotions without fear of criticism. Rogers had faith in humanity’s innate kindness and capacity for self-development. His method focuses heavy emphasis on the therapeutic alliance’s mutual feelings of understanding and acceptance.

Humanism has made important contributions to several disciplines than psychology. Because of this, educators now prioritize students’ emotional and social growth in addition to their academic achievement. Management and leadership styles that put a premium on employees’ sense of purpose, independence, and worth have their roots in humanistic theory.

The humanistic view has been criticized despite its useful contributions. Free will advocates counter that biology, culture, and society all have a role in shaping human behavior, which the book mostly ignores. However, some psychologists point out its lack of scientific evidence and its utopian perspective of human nature.

In sum, the humanistic approach in psychology is a game-changer in terms of our collective capacity to comprehend and support human potential, flourishing, and development. It stresses the significance of subjective experience, the quest of self-actualization, and the intrinsic worth of each person. Methods that promote empathy, respect, and individual growth have been widely adopted as a result of the approach’s influence in therapy, education, and business. Despite its flaws and detractors, the humanistic approach to psychology is nevertheless widely used and appealing because it emphasizes the multifaceted and fascinating nature of the human experience.

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The Humanistic Perspective in Psychology: A Focus on Individual Potential. (2023, Nov 24). Retrieved from