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Psychology 101, Humanistic Psychology To Help You Reach Your Potential, Be Psychologically Healthy!

Updated on March 13, 2015

Simple to understand. This is why this article provides the best psychology information in this series of Psychology 101 articles. Here we concentrate on the main stakeholders in humanistic psychology and what humanism is all about. We, further, look at the historical perspective and what this means to us today.

Today, many psychology themes merge into one, as aspects of one school of psychology are integrated into other school's ideas and concept. However, humanist psychology is not considered a 'school', but many of the fundamentals do come from the three major schools: psycho-dynamic, cognitive and behaviourism.

Humanism does have its place in society today, as you will understand when you read on.

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Psychology Definition

As this is a psychology 101 based article, I will, as always, start by providing a ‘working definition’ of psychology as a term:

‘Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour of humans and animals.’

Psychologists concentrate on what is observable and measurable in a person’s behaviour. This includes the biological processes in the body, although, the mind is central to the subject.

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Humanistic Psychology Focuses On The Individual

Humanistic psychology developed in the 1960s. It focuses on the individual, free will, creativity, spontaneity and personal choice of the the individual.

The second feature is on an emphasis on conscious experience and, thirdly, anything to do with the wholeness of human nature.

The roots of the humanistic perspective can be traced back to William James, Gestaltists and the school of some of the psycho dynamic founders like Adler, Jung and Erikson.

A pre-cursor to Gestalt Psychology, it is thought that Humanistic Psychology is a development from Phenomenology. This is the study of immediate experience as it occurs.


Humanist Psychologists Think Behaviourist Psychologists Are Narrow In Their Concepts

Power to the people and the time is right for the flower of humanism to come into bloom. It is the 1960s and the Humanist Psychologists think the Behaviourist Psychologists are much to narrow in their concepts. People are not programmable machines, as the behaviourist think, they are more than that.

They also objected to the demeaning and deterministic nature from the psych dynamic school of Freud. They criticised psychoanalysis and the emphasis on mental illness. The Humanist's were not negative seekers that homed in on Freud's ideas of misery, jealousy, fear, selfishness and hatred. They were more positive than that.

They wanted to focus in on mental health through happiness, contentment, kindness, sharing and unconditional love.


Self Actualization

Publications as a result of Maslows result include:

  • Motivation And Personality (1970)
  • The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971)

It was from the latter that Maslow first wrote about his theory of self actualization (read more, Resource Box 3).

Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was the father of the Humanistic Perspective. He has had a profound effect on psychology today, although was inspired by two teachers of his - the Anthropologist Ruth Benedict and the Gestalt Psychologist, Max Wertheimer. You can read more about the School of Gestalt by clicking on the link (Resource Box 1) at the end of this article.

Maslow started off his psychological career as an avid Behaviourist (Resource Box 2) but became disillusioned at the limitation and regard of real people.

He set out to understand why healthy people were able to incorporate the ability "full humanness".

In his search, he investigated many individuals to find common characteristics and patterns in human contentment.

Humanist Psychology: Explanation on Video

Reach Your Full Potential With Self Actualization

Maslow's theory on self actualization is about reaching our full potential as an innate human motivation. This, therefore, is achieved by using and developing our talents and abilities.

Each time we experience or achieve our full potential, this creates a sense of fulfillment which he termed as peak experience. In order to reach self-actualization, we have to satisfy lower needs or basic needs which exist in various levels. Set in a pyramid or ladder this hierarchy of needs must be satisfied before people can realise this peak experience.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Who Are Society's Self-Actualizers?

Did you know that if you are middle-aged or order and free from neuroses, you are more likely to be the 1% of the population that are self-actualizers?

Did you know that ANYONE can have Peak Experiences? So, work at it and you will find your peak!!

Moving Up the Hierarchy of Need Ladder

In this ladder, we start from the bottom where each Need must be satisfied before the moving up.  This can motivate us to achieve a higher level of satisfaction.

People in everyday life may climb up and down the hierarchy several times.

They may reach different levels before returning back to the bottom again.


What Is Psychologically Healthy?

Psychologically healthy people show:

  1. Are objective in their perception of reality.
  2. Acceptance of their own natures
  3. They are committed and dedicated to a type of work.
  4. They appear natural, spontaneous and have simplicity in their behaviour.
  5. They are independent and have a need for autonomy and privacy.
  6. They experience lots of peak experiences.
  7. They are empathetic and have an affection for all humanity.
  8. They may be resistant to conformity.
  9. They show democratic characteristics.
  10. They are keen to explore their creativeness.

How Useful Is The Hierarchy Of Needs Today?

Maslow's hierarcy of needs has had a profound influence on society of today.

It is used in education, for example, for training teachers in motivating students and by helping students plan their own study.

By planning, setting goals and having regular breaks, students can improve their effectiveness in their studies.

In therapy, the hierarchy helps patients establish their own understanding of their needs. It, essentially, enables them to declutter and organise their thoughts.

This provokes action in their lives.

In management, the hierarchy helps managers to understand the needs of their staff and, therefore, motivate them.

By encouraging and understanding them, it helps to get the best work outcome from them.


What Is Roger's Definition of A Psychologically Healthy Person?

Rogers believed that a psychologically healthy person displays:

  1. An openness to experience
  2. Has an ability to live fully and be fully immersed in every moment or the experience.
  3. Has a willingness to follow their own instincts, rather than others.
  4. Freedom in theought and action.
  5. Creativity.

Carl Rogers

So, now we have centred and appropriately placed Maslow as the stamen within the bloom of humanistic psychology, where are the petals? This has to be Carl Rogers!

Carl Roger (1902 - 1987) developed a similar theory to Self Actualization. He emphasizes a natural or innate drive to people reaching their full potential. This process, he believed, was ongoing. Instead of people reaching self actualization, they are self actualizing because they are always striving toward this goal.

He also focused on the importance of upbringing during childhood, especially the role of the mother. Roger's believed that this was a crucial factor to adult personality. This is about unconditional love or Positive Regard. The opposite of this, he termed Conditional Positive Regard which, as suggests, can limit the development of the self.

Carl Rogers and The Self Concept

The self concept is an idea that would be considered and very humanistic in it's perspective.  It is the essence of being human.

Person Centered or Client Centred Approach To Therapy

Person centred therapy was developed by Rogers as a form of psychotherapy (Resource Box 4).

It is client centred (Resource Box 5) because the patient is responsible for becoming an active participant in improving their lives. This is different to psychoanaylisis and the behaviourist approach but does have some of the elements. However, the client is not passive. He does not have a diagnosis. The therapist is an enabler rather than diagnostic. The therapist is not responsible for the changes in the client.

Rogerian therapy is more fundamentally about counselling where the therapist is more of a confident who listens and encourages the client on an equal footing. Rogers believed that a good self concept enabled patients to work on self actualising.

Self Esteem

The following demonstrates how the perception in self has an effect on self esteem.

Ideal Self <-. . . . . .-> Self Image (large gap)

Ideal Self<->Self Image (small gap)

A large gap = Low Self Esteem

A Small gap = High Self Esteem

Self esteem depends on the gap between ideal self and self image. Therefore, self esteem can be increased by raising the self image and lowering the ideal self or both. This can be achieved through counselling.

So, how do you perceive yourself?

Carl Rogers And Self Concept

The humanistic perspective is about centralising the positive aspects of being human. A positive self concept, therefore, makes for a positive person. This positivity shines through and leads to contentment and happiness.

Carl Rogers believed that the role of the Self Concept consist of three parts:

  1. The Ideal Self
  2. Self Image
  3. Self Esteem

Ideas on self concept have had a major impact on self improvement and awareness. Although the humanistic movement has impacted strongly, because there is no strong scientific theory or research involved, humanistic psychology is not considered a school. It is just a perspective.


We Are All Potentially Humanistic

This psychology information on humanistic psychology demonstrates the concept that we are all potentially humanistic.  Psychologists in this realm believe in the positive and that we are all fundamentally good and moral.  It is formulated on being unconditional and empowering people to be the best they can be - reaching their full potential.  Born from the 1960s flower power, it seems natural that the seed of humanistic psychology has grown into the people enabler of today.

© This work is covered under Creative Commons License

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    • profile image

      altaf hussain 

      8 years ago

      qiute informative

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Great Britain

      Thank you qlcoach. We need to be positive, for the lack of love to become just love... love of ourselves and others make for a fulfilled life.

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      9 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      A well presented and written Hub. You worked hard on this. Yes to the power of the positive over all that is negative. As a retired mental health counselor, I have learned that our emotions can sometimes block our thoughts and actions. That's why I write about emotional recovery and miracles. Peace and Light...Gary.

    • mcleodgi profile image

      Ginny McLeod 

      9 years ago from Overland Park

      I consider myself to be very humanist. I have come to be very convinced that it's much more beneficial to focus on individuals as a whole rather than in groupings. I also believe that when this is not acknowledged either in ourselves or others, it can lead to low self-esteem and even clinical depression.

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      mega 1 - of course :)

    • mega1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Huge impact on us, this humanism. Of course, we're all whole humans, some of us just have to be reminded of it on a daily basis :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      Hi Denise, yes it has made a huge impact on today's world. It is, essentially, positive psychotherapy.

      Thank you for reading :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      Mentalist, thanks for coming by, but my article was not this intention. It is about counselling developed from humanistic psychology. The idea is that whatever circumstance that anyone is in, with or without mental health issues, the therapist empowers the client to understand what they need to do in order to fulfill their potential. This is a very individual therapy, which might need them to understand where in life they need to change things so as they can be more fulfilled. Firstly, however, they need to have their basic needs satisfied - this might be a product of circumstances (homelessness, not enough food to feed, heating, lighting).

      In order to change 'circumstance' or 'environment', counselling helps people to move in the right direction from within to their environment.

      If someone has no shelter, they can not feel secure. If they dont feel secure, they can not build meaningful and unconditional relationships - the relationships they do make are formulated on co-dependency. This is just an example.

      Hope this clarifies it better :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Wonderful hub, Shaz. I love Humanistic psychology. I think it is the most appealing to me in the field. :)

    • shazwellyn profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Great Britain

      Yes, me too Tony! It has made a profound affect on therapies of today. I couldn't believe that a social worker than I met, although holding the hierarchy in his assessment pack, didn't know it was Maslows! Doh... it makes you wonder, doesn't it?! lol

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      This is very useful. My orientation is definitely humanistic, as it is most applicable to the theory and practice of adult learning. Long been a fan of both Rogers and Maslow. Had the tremendous privilege of attending a workshop with Rogers when he was in Johannesburg in the mid-1980s. A most profound experience it was!

      Thanks for sharing this.

      Love and peace


    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      10 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      This article is enlightening as to how some people are unable to achieve higher levels of improvement due to mental problems and not circumstance.;)


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