Working with people in hospital settings requires medical knowledge and understanding that healthcare providers should be empathetic, caring, and supportive of their patients. Various psychological theories were developed to comprehend human beings better, and one of such approaches was the humanistic theory of personality, which is widely used in clinical practice. The humanistic approach was developed by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow in the 1940s-1950s (Gregory, 2020). Maslow described the hierarchy of human needs, and Rogers emphasized the importance of client-oriented therapy (Gregory, 2020). This approach treats every patient holistically, offering unconditional positive regard and support, which is particularly important for an ill individual with a personal drama (DeRobertis& Bland, 2018; Lee Roze des Ordons et al., 2018). Therefore, an ability to put oneself into another person’s place and show respect to every individual, integral parts of the humanistic theory, are essential in clinical practice. The basic assumptions of this approach about inherent goodness allow patients to encourage self-improvement, at least for their own and families’ sake, by being compliant with the treatment and improving lifestyles.
Basics of Humanistic Approach
Before humanistic theory became accepted, it was criticized for the lack of specificity likely by the followers of Freudian or Cognitive Behavioral theories (CBT). It was later realized that giving patients empathy, acceptance, and genuineness are as vital as other methodologies (Elkins, 2022). This theory, developed by Maslow and Rogers, emphasizes the importance of patient-provider relations (Elkins, 2022). Furthermore, it considers a patient in one’s whole human condition, focusing on one’s unique experiences, integrity, and meaning-making (Eneman et al., 2019; Gregory, 2020). It certainly does not suggest that this approach is superior to others because research showed that no statistically significant difference was found in the outcomes when applying any psychologic theory of personality (Elkins, 2022). Still, personality theory brings humility to client-counselor interaction, reassuring individuals that regardless of their actual or perceived issues, there is someone that will support and accept them (Lee Roze des Ordons et al., 2018). Using humanistic theory in patient counseling may put a significant responsibility on a counselor. The latter should establish a rapport and ongoing communication with the client as well as convince them to find meaning and purpose in one’s life.
Advantages of Humanistic Theory
The most prominent benefit of the humanistic approach is that it centers around an individual’s unique experiences, offering acceptance and understanding. The term “humanism” means “knowing yourself,” and hence this psychotherapy engages patients in the dynamic process of learning and exploring their own thoughts, emotions, and experiences (Schneider, 2019). Another positive aspect of this method is that it perceives happiness as a continuous process of self-improvement through raising self-awareness (Pincus et al., 2018). Furthermore, humanistic theory encourages the development of emotional resilience or anti-fragility by practicing self-acceptance (Pincus et al., 2018). The importance of developing this particular characteristic is explained in this therapy by the fact that human beings always experience various stressful situations that may ruin the previously formed seemingly stable system. Anti-fragility helps a person to adapt to different stressors, using them as fuel for growth (Pincus et al., 2018). Notably, humanistic psychotherapy does not undermine the need for building relationships and comparing one’s belief system with that of others to facilitate further development (DeRobertis, 2021). Self-acceptance and self-awareness play an essential role in humanistic therapy, enabling mental tenacity regardless of external circumstances.
Disadvantages of the Humanistic Approach
Humanistic theory is often blamed for the lack of specificity as well as for the vague and unscientific approach. For example, this method is believed to give too much autonomy to individuals in their psychological self-exploration (Mahbubi, 2021). However, in conventional psychotherapy, humanism is believed to have a superficial approach to subjective feelings and perceptions of clients (Schneider, 2019). It diminishes the necessity to provide honest and unbiased feedback to individuals about their emotions and behaviors (Schneider, 2019). Additionally, it seems to lessen the essence of negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and hatred, which should sometimes be adequately addressed and articulated to patients (Schneider, 2019). Humanistic therapy seems to be primarily accused of giving clients excessive hope about personal growth, sometimes making them delusional about their actual situation and possibilities.
The usefulness of Humanistic Therapy in Clinical Practice
Despite the abovementioned drawbacks, the humanistic theory has been successfully integrated into clinical practice, assisting healthcare workers and patients attain better outcomes. Various therapies developed based on this approach, including Gestalt, existential analysis, and experiential therapy, were found to be effective in cases of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and relationship problems (Gregory, 2020). However, according to Elliott et al. (2021), humanistic therapies were inferior to CBT in some studies involving cohorts of patients with major depression. For generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and PTSD, there was a statistically significant improvement in individuals’ states before and after treatment (Elliott et al., 2021). Moreover, the humanistic approach was found to be equally effective or even sometimes superior to CBT in pre-and post-treatment of patients with psychoses (Elliott et al., 2021). It appears that most studies agree on the fact that humanistic therapies are not inferior to CBT in various psychiatric conditions.
The humanistic approach is practical despite its over-focus on client-counselor relations as well as a person’s unique experiences and emotions. Indeed, it helps individuals to become free to change and act, offering unconditional acceptance, understanding, and support (Schneider, 2019). Patients with generalized anxiety and eating disorders reported having a substantial improvement in their mental health after being exposed to humanistic therapy (Elliott et al., 2021). In fact, it was found that raising self-awareness and self-acceptance had a major contributory role in such cases (Elliott et al., 2021). Overall, humanistic approach can alter people’s mindsets to become more self-conscious and resilient to external pressures and stressors, preparing patients for the harsh reality of being part of society.
In summary, humanistic theory received recognition from the medical community due to its effectiveness in various mood disorders and psychoses. This method concentrates on establishing a connection with a patient, offering one unconditional positive regard and support. Furthermore, it helps a client develop self-awareness and acceptance of the existing issue in order to change the situation through emotional growth. Individuals can understand themselves and find meaning in their lives using one or several humanistic theory therapies: existentialism, experiential method, and Gestalt therapy. Additionally, patients learn how to become resilient and anti-fragile to external problems, becoming more adaptive to negative and positive life changes. Although this approach is often blamed for being not scientific, research shows its efficiency in treating patients with various anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and even psychoses.
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