PSYC3009: Humanistic-Existential Psychology

Module Leader   Dave Hiles   (Room: H0.22b)

                 Teaching Mode:-           Terms 1, 2 & 3 (i.e. Teaching Weeks 1-12; 16-24; 29-30)
                             Lectures/Workshops 24 hrs
                             Exam  2 hrs
                             Student Centred Learning  94 hrs

Module Aims:-

  1. to introduce students to the humanistic approach to psychology;
  2. to provide an appropriate philosophical context for the understanding of human behaviour, experience, and therapeutic change;
  3. to study personality, growth and development from a humanistic-phenomenological perspective;
  4. to consider transpersonal approaches to the study of human experience.

 Module Learning Outcomes:-

  1. students will understand the basic principles of the humanistic approach to psychology, and types of research methods employed;
  2. students will be able to locate psychology within an existential-phenomenological framework;
  3. students will grasp the implications of the humanistic and transpersonal approaches for the study of human creativity, consciousness, crisis and spiritual growth.


     One two hour examination.

     The Examination:Coursework weighting is 70:30.

Module Rationale

This module is designed as an option for students studying psychology. It assumes that students have studied a basic introduction to psychology and are familiar with other approaches to the study of behaviour and experience, such as behavioural, psychodynamic, social approaches. The module explores the implications of psychology as a human science, and provides a theoretical overview of the humanistic and existential foundations of psychology, particularly emphasising the philosophical, phenomenological and methodological issues this raises. There is a focus on personal growth, creativity, consciousness, clinical applications and transpersonal themes. The theoretical components will be taught in a short series of lecture/dialogues, organised around five basic themes framed as questions. Workshops will stress the practical element of the course in a series of experiential activities, designed to complement the theory. Student centred learning will involve a wide range of set background reading and private study. The coverage of the module includes:-

The Humanistic and Existential foundations of psychology: The third and fourth forces.
Traditional vs New paradigm research, and its limitations. Postmodern and human science approaches to psychology.
Precursors and philosophical roots.
Pioneers of humanistic and existential psychology: Maslow, Rogers, Perls, Assagioli, Moreno, Fromm, Kelly, Rank,
May, Wilber, Grof, Laing, Frankl.
Humanistic approaches to personal growth: therapy, personality and lifespan development, self actualization, personal meaning,
agency, crisis and opportunity, authenticity, death and suffering.
Human creativity and consciousness: Wilber's spectrum, altered states, peak experiences, states of awareness,
phenomenological approaches.
Transpersonal issues: Maslow's B domain, Frankl's will to meaning, Wilber, Grof,
Multicultural perspectives on being: East/West issues.

All announcements, communications, timetables for this module will be posted on Blackboard.


               ROWAN, J. (2001) Ordinary Ecstasy: The dialectics of humanistic psychology.
                          3rd Ed. Brunner-Routledge.


PSYC3009: Teaching Programme

Lectures/Workshops:-  One hour per week, in the Clephan Building (Cl 00.23)
Fridays  9.00 - 11.00am


Wk 1: Introducing: Third and Fourth Force Psychology -  "Whither humanistic psychology?" The state of the field: Influences and fragmentation. Implications of psychology as a human science.

Wk 2: Philosophical roots and current thinking - Existentialism, phenomenology. Postmodernism. Introducing the five themes.

   THEME (1): "What is a human being?"

Wk 3: Pioneers of the humanistic approach - Maslow, Rogers, May, Fromm, Assagioli, Perls, Moreno, Kelly, Laing, Frankl, Wilber, Grof.

Wk 4: The existential psychology perspective - Existential givens: freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, death. Frankl's will to meaning.

Wk 5: Existential themes in practice - Fromm's existential needs. Authenticity, alienation, suffering.

Wk 6:     W/Shop: Existential needs.

   THEME (2): "What is the nature of subjective, lived-experience?"

Wk 7:  Husserl and phenomenology - Husserl and the method of the human sciences. Language and the construction of experience.

Wk 8:  New paradigm research methods - Human science research. Phenomenological, hermeneutic and transpersonal research methods.

Wk 9:  Psychology from a phenomenological perspective - Human subjectivity. Intersubjectivity, healing dialogue in counselling practice. Self in relation.
Wk 10:
  W/Shop: Selves in relation.

    THEME (3): "What is our potential?"

Wk 11: The psychology of human potential - Maslow's psychology of being, needs hierarchy. Self actualization. Fromm's personality distortions.

Wk 12: Human consciousness - Wilber's spectrum. Altered states, states of awareness.


Wk 16: Human creativity Creativity, imagery & imagination.

Wk 17:     W/Shop: Gestalt/Psychosynthesis exercise.

    THEME (4): "How can we best promote growth and change?"

Wk 18:  Humanistic approaches to personality and growth - Rogers' psychology of becoming. Personality, lifespan development, personal meaning, agency.

Wk 19: The humanistic therapies (1) - Counselling; encounter; TA; NLP; PCT.

Wk 20: The humanistic therapies (2) - Gestalt; psychosynthesis; body work; primal; regression; sand play therapy.

Wk 21:     W/Shop: Focussing exercise

    THEME (5): "What are we a part of?"

Wk 22:  Transpersonal psychology - Maslow's B domain. Peak experiences. East/West issues. Multicultural perspectives on being.

Wk 23:  Some key approaches to Transpersonal and Integral psychology - Ken Wilber, Michael Washburn, Hameed Ali, Roberto Assagioli.

Wk 24:  Transpersonal issues - Stanislav Grof: spiritual tensions and growth; spiritual emergence and emergencies.

Wk 25:      ***  No Lecture  ***


Wk 29:  Overview. Integration of theory and experience.

Wk 30:  Revision and exam.


Supplementary Reading:  (This is required reading for the module)

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.

Deurzen-Smith, E. van (1997) Everyday Mysteries: Existential dimensions of psychotherapy. Routledge.

Hiles, D.R. (2002) Humanistic-Existential Psychology Lecture Notes.

Maslow, A.H. (1971) The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. Penguin.

Moss, D. (1999) Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology: A historical and biographical sourcebook. Greenwood Press.

Rowan, J. (1993) The Transpersonal: Psychotherapy and Counselling. Routledge.

Schneider, K.J., Bugental, J.F.T. & Pierson, J.F. (2001) The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading edges in theory, research and practice. Sage.

Spinelli, E. (1989) The Interpreted World: An introduction to phenomenological psychology. Sage.

Valle, R.S. & Halling, S. (Eds.) (1989) Existential-Phenomenological Perspectives in Psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience. Plenum.

Wilber, K. (2000) Integral Psychology: Consciousness, spirit, psychology, therapy. Shambala.

     n.b. See also the websites at the end of the module outline.

There is a 2hr exam in Term 3 which is designed to assess your grasp of the areas covered in Terms 1 and 2. Copies of previous year’s exam papers are available at Examnet on the DMU Library website.

Coursework involves: (i) an essay, (ii) making at least three contributions to the Blackboard Module Discussion Board, (iii) participation in the workshops is a requirement, and failure to attend these without good reason will be reflected in your overall Module Assessment.

Full details of the essay topic, and the Discussion Board requirements will be available on Blackboard.

Reassessment for the module involves retaking the failed written component(s).

Practical Programme:
Throughout the module there is a series of workshop/practicals, each linked to one of the first four themes. The emphasis is on experiential learning. This will work like this:

1) You are expected to attend these workshops, since active participation in the workshops for this module is a requirement. If however you decide that you are not able to take part in any particular workshop, for whatever reason, then you must discuss this with the module leader.

2) It is a requirement that you inform the Module Leader prior to the workshop if you intend to not take part.

3) Attending a workshop implies a commitment to participate, confidentiality, and an acceptance of responsibility for self. While participation is required, no evaluation of performance whatsoever is involved.

4) The fulfilment of this requirement will be reflected in a student's Overall Assessment where examination or coursework marks are borderline. There is an optional request that students place a brief report on the activity on Blackboard.

Student Centred Learning:
This is student managed time (about 94 hrs) to cover required reading of set texts, written coursework, your contributions to the Blackboard Discussion Board, preparation and revision for exam, background reading, private study into particular areas of interest, etc. There is a full list of References and Background Reading for the module on Blackboard and also at the module website:

Further Reading & Background References:
This comprehensive list is provided as a resource for students to further their exploration of the issues and topics raised in the module, or simply to follow up references given in lectures.

n.b. The KEY TEXT above is essential, and will be referred to extensively. Supplementary Reading is required reading and will be made available on SHORT LOAN in the library. The Further Reading list provides important texts for following up topics covered in the module. Background References gives a listing of the main references used in lectures, and will be useful for pursuing a topic in depth, and for future study.

Further Reading:

Braud, W. & Anderson, R. (1998) Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences: Honoring human experience. Sage.

Frankl, V.E. (1962) Man's Search for Meaning. Hodder & Stoughton.

Friedman, M. (1992) Dialogue and the Human Image: Beyond humanistic psychology. Sage.

Fromm, E. (1949) Man for Himself. Ark Paperbacks.

Fromm, E. (1994) The Erich Fromm Reader (Readings selected and edited by Rainer Funk). Humanities Press.

Giorgi, A. (1995) Phenomenological psychology. In J. Smith, R. Harré & L. Van Langenhove (Eds.) Rethinking Psychology. Sage.

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

Grof, C. & Grof, S. (1990) The Stormy Search for the Self: A guide to personal growth through transformational crisis. Tarcher/Putman.

Hastings, A. (1999) Transpersonal Psychology: The fourth force. In D. Moss (Ed.) Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology: A historical and biographical sourcebook. Greenwood Press.

Maslow, A.H. (1968) Toward a Psychology of Being. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

May, R. (1992 [1939]) The Art of Counselling. Souvenir Press.

May, R. (1983) The Discovery of Being: Writings in existential psychology. Norton.

Polkinghorne, D. (1982) What makes research humanistic? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22, 47-54.

Polkinghorne, D. (1994) Research methodology in humanistic psychology? In F. Wertz, (Ed.) The Humanistic Movement: Recovering the person in psychology. Gardner Press.

Rowan, J. (1996) Developments in transpersonal psychotherapy. In W. Dryden (Ed.) Developments in psychotherapy: Historical perspectives. Sage.

Walsh, R.N. & Vaughan, F. (eds.) (1980) Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions in Psychology. St. Martins.

Walsh, R.N. & Vaughan, F. (eds.) (1993) Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision. G.P. Putman's Sons.

Welwood, J. (1983) Awakening the Heart: East/West approaches to psychotherapy and the healing relationship. Shambala.

Wilber, K. (1979) No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth. Shambala.

Wilber, K. (1998) The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating science and religion. Random House.

Wilber, K., Engler, J. & Brown, D.P. (1986) Transformations of Consciousness. Shambhala.


Background References:

Almaas, A.H. (1986) Essence - The diamond approach to inner realization. Samuel Weiser.

Almaas, A.H. (1988) The Pearl Beyond Price: Integration of personality into being - An object relations approach. Diamond Books.

Assagioli, R. (1965) Psychosynthesis. Turnstone Press.

Becker, C.S. (1992) Living and Relating An introduction to phenomenology. Sage.

Boorstein, S. (1980) Transpersonal Psychotherapy. Science and Behavior Books.

Bühler, C. & Allen, M. (1972) Introduction to Humanistic Psychology. Brooks/Cole.

Claxton, G. (1986) Beyond Therapy: The impact of eastern religions on psychology.

Collier, A. (1977) R.D. Laing: The philosophy and politics of psychotherapy. Harvester Press.

Cortright, B. (1997) Psychotherapy and Spirit. SUNY.

Ferrucci, P. (1982) What We May Be: The vision and techniques of psychosynthesis. Thorsons.

Frankl, V.E. (1967 [1946]) Man's Search for Meaning: an introduction to logotherapy. Hodder & Stoughton.

Friedman, M. (1991) The Worlds of Existentialism: A critical reader. Humanities Press.

Giorgi, A. (1970) Psychology as a Human Science: A phenomenologically based approach. Harper and Row.

Grof, S. (ed) (1984) Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science. SUNY.

Grof, S. (1984) The Adventure of Self-discovery. SUNY.

Howarth-Williams, M. (1977) R.D. Laing: His work and its relevance for sociology. RKP.

Hudson, L. (1972) The Cult of the Fact. Harper & Row.

Laing, R. (1967) The Politics of Experience. Penguin.

Laing, R. (1969) The Divided Self. Penguin.

Laing, R. (1970) Self and Others. Penguin.

Matson, F.W. (ed.) (1973) Without/Within: Behaviorism and Humanism. Brooks/Cole.

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

May, R. (1969) Existential Psychology. (2nd Ed.) Random House.

May, R. (1969) Love and Will. Norton.

May, R. (1975) The Courage to Create. Collins.

May, R. (1991) The Cry for Myth. Norton.

McCall, R.J. (1983) Phenomenological Psychology: An introduction. University of Wisconsin Press.

Moustakas, C. (1994) Phenomenological Research Methods. Sage.

Nye, R.D. (1975) Three Views of Man. Brooks Cole.

Peck, M. S. (1978) The Road Less Travelled. Simon & Schuster.

Reason, P. & Rowan, J. (eds) (1981) Human Inquiry: A Sourcebook of New Paradigm Research. Wiley.

Reeves, C. (1977) The Psychology of Rollo May. Jossey-Bass.

Rogers, C. (1961) On Becoming a Person. Constable.

Rowan, J. (1983) The Reality Game: A Guide to Humanistic Counselling and Therapy. Routledge.

Rowan, J. (1990) Subpersonalities: The people inside us. Routledge.

Schneider, K.J. & May, R. (1995) The Psychology of Existence: An integrative, clinical perspective. McGraw-Hill.

Shaffer, J.B.P. (1978) Humanistic Psychology. Prentice-Hall.

Thines, G. (1977) Phenomenology and the Science of Behaviour: An historical and epistemological approach. George Allen & Unwin.

Valle, R. (1998) Phenomenological Inquiry in Psychology: Existential and transpersonal dimensions. Plenum.

Valle, R. & King, M. (1978) Existential-phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology. OUP.

van Kaam, A. (1969 [1966]) Existential Foundations of Psychology. Doubleday.

Washburn, M. (1994) Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective. SUNY.

Washburn, M. (1995) The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A transpersonal theory of human development. (2nd ed). SUNY.

Wertz, F.J. (Ed) (1994) The Humanistic Movement: Recovering the person in psychology. Gardner Press.

Wilber, K. (1979) The Spectrum of Consciousness. Quest.

Wilber, K. (1980) The Atman Project. Quest.

Wilber, K. (1981) Up from Eden. Quest.

Wilber, K. (1982) Odyssey: A personal inquiry into humanistic and transpersonal psychology. J. Humanistic Psychology, 22, 57-90.

Wilber, K. (1983) Eye to Eye: The quest for the new paradigm. Shambala.

Wilber, K. (1996) A Brief History of Everything. Shambala.

Wilber, K. (1997) The Eye of Spirit: An integral vision for a world gone slightly mad. Shambala.

Zweig, C. & Wolf, S. (1997) Romancing the Shadow: How to access the power hidden in our dark side. Thorsons.


The following websites can be accessed on the Internet, many are rich in links to further sites. If you find others that are particularly useful please share them with the class. Website addresses can easily become outdated, if any do not work please let me know.

Humanistic:-         (the OS2 website - but now depleted!!)

Rollo May:-

Erich Fromm:-







In addition, you will find further, regularly updated, links relevant to this module on my Links page.


© Dave Hiles 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.