Humanistic Psychology: History, Basic Principles, Criticism and etc.

Humanistic psychology , also known as humanism or the humanistic perspective of psychology, is a movement that emphasizes the inherent kindness in people. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong with people, humanistic psychology takes a more holistic approach, looking at the individual as a whole and emphasizing the desire for self-actualization.


  • A Brief History of Humanistic Psychology
  • The Five Basic Principles of Humanistic Psychology
  • The Development of Humanistic Psychology
  • Support and Criticism of Humanistic Psychology
  • The Impact of Humanistic Psychology

A Brief History of Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology emerged during the mid-twentieth century in direct response to psychoanalysis and behaviorism. The founders of the humanist approach believed that Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective was very negative and focused only on pathology. BF Skinner’s behaviorism, on the other hand, was very mechanistic and reduced human nature to simple conditioned responses.

A psychologist named Carl Rogers was, instead, interested in understanding all the things that helped people grow, change, improve and prosper. Psychology was much more than fixing problematic behaviors or mental illnesses, he believed. It was also about helping people to live the best lives they could and achieve the greatest happiness possible.

Rogers believed that everyone has what is known as an actualizing trend , or an innate need to strive to become their best self. It was this concept of the current trend that helped inspire psychologist Abraham Maslow to create a hierarchy of human needs. More basic needs are near the bottom of this hierarchy, suggested Maslow. As these needs are met, he proposed that the more advanced needs take on greater importance, including the need for self – actualization . He described it as the need to fulfill your full potential and become everything you can be.

The Five Basic Principles of Humanistic Psychology

According to an initial article written by two prominent psychologists, there are five fundamental principles of humanistic psychology:

  1. People are more than the sum of their parts.
  2. To understand people, you must look at them within their human context, as well as their place within the universe.
  3. Human beings are conscious, as well as aware of this awareness.
  4. Human beings have free will and are able to make their own choices, but with those choices come great responsibilities (Uncle Ben said).
  5. Human beings intentionally look for things and aim to leave their mark on the world, setting goals, expressing creativity and seeking meaning.

The Development of Humanistic Psychology

Carl Rogers not only believed that people are basically good and always looking for growth, he also felt that these basic principles also played an essential role in psychotherapy. He developed an approach to treatment known as client-centered therapy [ buy the book by clicking here ], which emphasized the importance of unconditional positive consideration. Showing customers unconditional support could contribute to the treatment process.

During the late 1950s, Abraham Maslow and other humanist thinkers began to formalize the growing humanist approach. As they began to develop a professional organization, they outlined some of the main topics of interest, including self-actualization, creativity, individuality and personal fulfillment.

Some important events in the history of humanistic psychology:

  • In 1961 the American Association of Humanist Psychology was created.
  • The publication   of Maslow’s Introduction to the Psychology of Being in 1962 is often considered the official introduction to what Maslow called the “third force” in psychology (with psychoanalysis and behaviorism being the first and second forces).
  • In 1971, humanistic psychology gained its own separate division from the American Psychological Association.

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Support and Criticism of Humanistic Psychology

Since its creation, humanistic psychology has been praised for helping to put the power to control one’s mental health in the hands of the individual. The humanist approach believes that people have great power to contribute to their own mental state.

While humanists believe in personal control and autonomy, they also recognize the powerful role that environmental influences can play in influencing mental health and well-being. Our environment and experiences also help to shape our behavior and worldview.

Humanistic psychology also played a role in removing some stigma around mental illness. Although therapy was thought to be something only for people with severe mental illness, humanistic approaches have helped people to realize that psychotherapy could also be a useful tool for those who want to explore their own mind and behavior and improve their lives.

Humanistic psychology was also the target of some criticism. Since many of your concepts are very subjective, it can sometimes be difficult to test your claims empirically. Concepts such as self-realization, maximum experiences and personal realization are difficult to measure and to evaluate, although they are largely subjective evaluations.

The Impact of Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology is often described as its own distinct branch of psychology, but it also represents a perspective or way of thinking about human behavior. The humanistic approach helped to introduce new ways of thinking about human motivation and behavior. She also introduced new treatment approaches and psychotherapy techniques to deal with mental illness and promote psychological well-being.

Humanistic psychology continues to exert a powerful influence today and its effects can be seen both in other branches of psychology and in the areas of education, philosophy and even politics. The very recent development of fields such as  positive  psychology and transpersonal psychology owes much to the influence of humanistic psychology.

Today, humanistic psychology remains a vital part of the field that continues to contribute a lot to our understanding of human mind and behavior.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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