Founder, Description, Philosophy

The humanistic approach is a form of positive psychology which emphasizes a person’s innate drive towards realizing their own potential and their own capabilities (self-actualization). The approach is holistic and focuses on human potential, free will, and creativity. It encourages self-exploration, self-awareness, and mindfulness and provides positive social support. This approach has several subtypes and was mainly influenced by Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Rollo May. Humanistic psychotherapy tends to look beyond the medical model and follows a more non-pathologizing view of the person by focusing on the lived experience of people.

What type of problems is this approach used to treat and what populations can it serve?

The humanistic approach has been used in treating depression, anxiety, panic disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, addiction, and treating relationship and family issues. It is also used with people who have low self-esteem and self-efficacy and people looking for personal meaning in their lives.

What does this approach look like in practice? What are some types of interventions?

Therapists who use a humanistic approach to therapy will create an environment in which the client feels free to express any thoughts or feelings and will typically avoid suggesting topics to focus on. Behaviour analysis, as in other approaches, is typically not done with this approach. The role of the therapist is to provide empathy and listen attentively to the client and be non-judgemental. Interventions in this approach will typically involve assessing the client’s ideal self (the person the client wishes to be) the real self (who they feel they are), and the incongruence between the two. The goal is to have the two representations become congruent. Typically the focus is on the here and now rather than looking at the past and analyzing how it influences the present.



American Psychological Association