Humanistic therapy, also known as the humanistic approach, is an umbrella term that covers several types of therapy, including person-centred therapy, Gestalt, existential therapy, solution-focused therapy and transactional analysis.
The humanistic approach is about free will, self-discovery and achieving your full potential as a human being, rather than concentrating on individual problems or symptoms. It looks at everything that makes you who you are and focuses on you as a unique individual and your relationship with the world around you.
The therapy is client-led, so your therapist will work with you on the issues you want to explore. They’ll help you think about your feelings and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. Your therapy may be short or long-term, depending on your needs.
How does humanistic therapy help?
Our member Dee Johnson says humanistic therapy provides you with “a safe, accepting, non-judgmental and self-led explorative space to discover what drives you and what your abilities are. It helps you find your answers, unlock your potential and break unhelpful old patterns of behaviour.”
She adds: “Painful and difficult life events can block a person’s self-belief and worth, which obscures their ability to find solutions and emotional freedom. The humanistic approach works on gently removing these blocks allowing constructive and healthy emotional and psychological growth.”
How does the humanistic approach work?
The humanistic approach works on the concept that human nature is inherently good and everyone has the potential to find their own answers to their problems.
The relationship between you and your therapist is vital so you feel able to be fully transparent, explore your feelings and speak openly. Your therapist offers you empathy, congruence - where they are open and authentic, and unconditional positive regard - where your therapist accepts you as you are.
Says Dee: "These help you to find the ability to change, build unique strengths and values and become more self-aware and self-trusting, so you’re able to find your own solutions. Once you’ve discovered these abilities, you’re better able to handle difficult situations in the future."
What can you expect from humanistic therapy?
Your therapist will encourage you to explore how you respond to certain questions and situations to become more self-aware.
Dee says: “In general, the therapist will use open questions and provide a space to reflect back on what you are saying without judgment. They will help you to change by looking at what is possible for you."
It can really help to express your inner most thoughts and feelings out loud to your therapist. Talking to an independent person may be the first time these things make sense to you. It can also be the first time you feel you have permission to think or feel this way.
What can humanistic therapy help with?
As humanistic therapy is about self-exploration, it can help with a range of issues, including anxiety, depression, addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and relationship problems.
Dee says: “It's helpful for people who experience self-destructive behaviours, have a fear of rejection and abandonment or who are unable to identify and regulate emotions. It also helps those who want to live a more emotionally confident and honest - as in being true to yourself - life.
“Being valued as a person and having your feelings validated in a non-judgmental manner can start the process of releasing, unpicking and healing the inner battle and exhaustion of living with such issues.”
What therapy can help with
An A-Z list of issues and concerns which may be helped by talking to a counsellor.
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session.
How to get therapy
Where and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy, including free and paid for services