PSYC1001/1010: Lecture

Humanistic Psychology, Counselling, Psychotherapy



Humanistic psychology (or Humanistic-Existential psychology) can be thought of as the third force in psychology. It developed during the 1950's and 60's as a reaction against behavioural and psychodynamic psychology. A major area of application has been in counselling and psychotherapy. In the 1970's a fourth force emerged: Transpersonal psychology. The AHP website proposes the recognition of three areas of impact: (1) a new set of values for approaching an understanding of human nature and the human condition, (2) an expanded horizon of methods of inquiry in the study of human behaviour, (3) a broader range of more effective methods in the professional practice of psychotherapy.


O HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY: the historical context


         First Force: Behavioural Psychology (Watson; Skinner; neo-behavioural cognitive psychology)

         Second Force: Psychodynamic Psychology (Freud - Psychoanalysis; Jung - Analytical Psychology; Adler - Individual Psychology; etc.)

        Third Force: Humanistic-Existential Psychology (Maslow; Rogers; May; Perls; Fromm; Moreno; Kelly; Laing; Frankl; [& Jung]; etc.)

        Fourth Force: Transpersonal Psychology (Maslow; Sutich; Tart; Grof; Wilber; [& Jung, Assagioli]; etc.)



My own proposal is that humanistic psychology can be regarded as being concerned with five
basic questions or themes. Any psychology that ignores such issues is a very poor psychology!!

(1) "What is a human being?"
        (existential theme)

(2) "What is the nature of subjective, lived-experience?"
        (phenomenological theme)

(3) "What is our potential?"
        (growth theme)

(4) "How can we best promote growth and change?"
        (clinical theme)

(5) "What are we a part of?"
        (spiritual/transpersonal theme)



G Precursors and Influences:- Philosophical (especially Existentialism and Phenomenology); Humanism; disenchantment with content and methods of psychology.

G Landmarks:- Jung's break with Freud (1912); May's ‘Art of Counselling' (1939); Roger's ‘On Becoming a Person' (1961); founding of the ESALEN Institute, Big Sur, California 1962; conference at Old Saybrook (1964); Maslow's ‘Towards a Psychology of Being' (1968); Wilber’s ‘Spectrum of Consciousness’ (1977); Old Saybrook 2 (2000).

G Fragmentation:- Counselling; Psychotherapy; Transpersonal psychology; Existential psychology; Phenomenological psychology; Human potential movement; New Age philosophy; Counter-culture.

G Recent developments in psychology:- Rethinking psychology; Qualitative approaches.



   G ABRAHAM MASLOW (Theoretician, peak experiences, self-actualization, etc)

   G CARL ROGERS (Person-centred therapy, counselling, encounter groups, etc)

   G ROLLO MAY (Existential psychology)

   G (CARL JUNG - Self; Active imagination)

   G FRITZ PERLS (Gestalt therapy)

   G ROBERTO ASSAGIOLI (Psychosynthesis)

   G JACOB MORENO (Psychodrama)

   G ERICH FROMM (Human freedom)

   G VICTOR FRANKL (Will to meaning)

   G RAM DASS (LSD research; Service)

   G RONALD LAING (Anti-psychiatry)

   G GEORGE KELLY (Personal constructs)

   G KEN WILBER (Transpersonal, Spectrum of consciousness)


O ABRAHAM MASLOW (1908 - 1970)


    N D-motives (survival)

    N B-motives (growth/self-actualization)



      Behaviour that promotes self-actualization:

       G experiencing life like a child

       G trying new things vs. safe paths

       G listening to your own feelings

       G avoiding pretence ("game playing")

       G being prepared to be unpopular

       G taking responsibility/working hard

       G identifying your defenses



G transient moments of enhanced awareness, deep intensity, associated with feeling
           fully alive, intense joy, excitement.


O CARL ROGERS (1902 - 1987)


      G conditions of self worth (conditional regard)

      G positive self regard

      G experiencing unconditional positive regard

      G actualizing tendency



      G non-directive therapy/counselling

      G incongruence as conflict between:- self & reality or self & ideal-self

      G incongruence results in low self esteem, confusion, vulnerability

      G Rogers' core conditions:-

                     (i) empathic understanding (warmth)
                    (ii) unconditional positive regard (acceptance, non-judgmental)
                    (iii) genuiness (authenticity, congruence).


O KEN WILBER (1948 - )

Ken Wilber is most closely associated with the development of a fourth force in psychology, known as transpersonal psychology. This is a psychology concerned with human experience that ranges beyond (trans) the individual ego (personal). The transpersonal approach embraces the widest scope of human experience, together with the widest range of methods of study. The aim of transpersonal psychology is to offer a synthesis of what may seem on the surface to be two quite different traditions - science and spiritual practice, and what is emerging is a new field offering new approaches to psychotherapy, human development, crisis, human suffering and compassion, etc. Wilber is a prolific writer with a wide breadth of vision. His theories offer an understanding of the major schools of psychotherapy, which he combines with his command of the major spiritual practices. He sees human phenomena as distributed into four quadrants, but argues that modern psychology has shifted its focus away from the left towards the right quadrants. Recently he has proposed a possible fifth force, integral psychology (2000).



Introductory textbooks willfully neglect the humanistic approach, but these are the exception:-

          Glassman, W.E. (1995) Approaches to Psychology. 2nd Ed. OU Press.

          Graham, H. (1986) The Human Face of Psychology. OU Press.

          Hiles, D.R. (2000) Defining the Paradigm of Humanistic-Existential Psychology. Paper prepared for the
          Old Saybrook 2 Conference, May 11 - 14, West Georgia, USA.   (Available here).

          May, R. (1967) Psychology and the Human Dilemma. Norton.

          Rowan, J. (1988) Ordinary Ecstasy: Humanistic Psychology in Action. (2nd Edition). Routledge.


Websites: (This is now a major internet resource in humanistic psychology) (The AHP website) (Excellent site covering many key humanistic theorists) (Excellent website about Ken Wilber) (A paper by Frederick Wertz that is well worth reading) (Part 2 of Wertz’s paper)


You can find further links here.