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In our latest series of blog articles, we’ve been discussing different types of therapy and how they can help you. In today’s article, we’re tackling Humanistic Therapy. Rather than an entirely different therapy, Humanistic Therapy is an approach to counselling that differs in some important ways to other therapies that you may have heard about.

Humanistic Therapy puts emphasis upon the importance of being yourself. The philosophy behind Humanistic Therapy is that by embracing your true self, and understanding your uniqueness, and your unique way of looking at the world, you can lead the most fulfilling life.

Sounds great, right? But this doesn’t give you the full picture. Read on as we uncover: What is Humanistic Therapy and is it right for you?

What is Humanistic Therapy and how does it work?

Underpinning the philosophy of Humanistic Therapy is the idea that most people are good at heart, and are capable of making the right choices. But, if you don’t fully appreciate your own self-worth, it can be hard to reach your full potential and lead your most fulfilling life. Humanistic Therapy is designed to give you a better understanding of your own world view, and help you to develop self-acceptance and self-worth.

The way that Humanistic Therapy achieves these goals is by helping you to develop something called ‘unconditional positive regard’. This term is something counsellors and psychologists are taught in their training, and encourage with their clients. It is also something that can help you to overcome feelings of worthlessness, shame, and low self-esteem. 

When we feel as though respect from others is only granted if we act a certain way, it can be hard to fully accept ourselves. This, in turn, can negatively affect our view of ourselves and the world around us. Humanistic Therapy focuses upon the principle that – how we view the world and ourselves, has an impact upon our thoughts and actions. It also implies that changing how we view ourselves and the world; can make a big difference in our personal lives.

The main aim of Humanistic Therapy is to encourage personal growth, through accepting and embracing who we are, our uniqueness, and our true value.

How does Humanistic Therapy differ from other types of therapy?

Humanistic Therapy differs from other, more traditional therapy approaches such as Behavioural Therapy and Psychoanalysis. For starters, it focuses more on day-to-day life rather than being primarily concerned with past experiences. This can be a relief for a lot of people, especially those suffering from depression or anxiety, who are used to having to relive and go over traumatic past events again and again – both during therapy and when on their own.

Humanistic Therapy focuses upon treating the individual as a whole person, rather than concentrating on a singular diagnosis. So, rather than ‘treating your depression’, the Humanistic Therapy approach focuses on uncovering who you are as a whole, unique individual. Your therapist will use active listening techniques to fully understand what you’re telling them, and they will ask a series of follow-up questions for more information if needed.

Your Humanistic therapist operates on the principle that you are the real expert on your life, and that you hold the key and the power to changing it. So, rather than prescribing solutions to you or treating you as an unwell person who needs to be told what to do, your therapist aims to help you to discover your power. They will empower you with tools and guidance, without dictating to you how best to overcome your challenges. This is what makes Humanistic Therapy so different – it empowers you to take charge of your life!

The central themes of Humanistic Therapy are: responsibility, self-determination, and free will. By helping you to understand your past experiences, present perceptions, and your expectations for the future, Humanistic Therapy can uncover how these influence your current reality. The six foundational principles of Humanistic Therapy are:

1.   All people have the capacity for self-awareness

2.   As free beings, everyone must accept the responsibility that comes with freedom

3.   Each person has a unique personal identity that can only be known through their relationships with others

4.   Every person must continually recreate themselves – the meaning of life and existence is never fixed, it constantly changes

5.   Anxiety is part of the human condition

6.   Death is a basic human condition that gives significance to life

During Humanistic Therapy, your therapist may include breathing and mindfulness techniques to help you manage powerful emotions. And, depending on your current state, may provide short-term crisis therapy before exploring further therapy or treatment options. This can be particularly helpful for someone experiencing a severe depressive episode, for example.

What are some examples of Humanistic Therapy?

There are a number of therapies that incorporate the Humanistic Therapy approach, including:

·         Gestalt Therapy

·         Existential Therapy

·         Person-Centred Therapy (also known as Client-Centred Therapy)

·         Narrative Therapy

Each of these therapies focuses on ‘knowing thyself’ by understanding our relationship to others, our view of the world, and our sense of self. You can ask your Gold Coast counsellor for more information about which types of therapy they practice, and whether Humanistic Therapy is a part of their approach.

Is Humanistic Therapy right for you?

Whether you suffer from depression and anxiety, or simply want to lead a more fulfilling life, Humanistic Therapy could be what you’re looking for. Humanistic Therapy practitioners are skilled in helping their clients to discover their true potential, whether or not they suffer from a mental health condition or not.

For many people who do experience depression or anxiety, Humanistic Therapy is a literal lifesaver! Rather than being defined by your mental health condition, Humanistic Therapy looks at you as a whole person, full of potential, value, and the power to make changes. For anyone who’s had trouble building rapport with therapists before (especially if you’ve been referred by your doctor to a Counsellor or Psychologist), Humanistic Therapy can be a welcome relief and a valuable tool.

In 2002, a review of over 85 studies found that Humanistic Therapies were effective in helping people to make long-lasting changes in their lives. Those who underwent Humanistic Therapy showed more positive changes than those in the control groups, according to the review. Interestingly, the study also showed that other types of therapy had similar effectiveness in helping people make changes. What these reviews tell us is that the most important thing is finding a therapy that works for you, that you can commit to over a period of time, and that makes you feel empowered.

A more recent review in 2013 found that client-centred approaches such as Humanistic Therapy are helpful in treating:

·         Trauma

·         Relationship difficulties

·         Depression

·         Psychosis

·         Coping with chronic health and pain issues

Interestingly, this review found that the most effective therapy for those experiencing anxiety or a panic disorder was Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For many people, a combination of therapies works best. After all, depression or anxiety are only one small piece of a more complex you – they don’t define you! 

Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we understand that therapy is not a one-size-fits-all thing. That’s why we specialise in a number of different types of therapy. From Hypnotherapy to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, to mindfulness-related therapies, and more. Our approach, always, is to view our clients as whole and unique people, with the potential to overcome their challenges. We don’t see you as a label, or focus solely on your condition, and instead help you to better understand what makes you, you!

Whether you are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, low self-worth, or simply wanting to change your life for the better, Humanistic Therapy could be a valuable approach. When you book an appointment with us, we will discuss all of your treatment options with you, and help find the best mix of therapies, depending upon your individual goals. 

If it’s time to make some changes in your life, get in touch with us today. 

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen