Humanistic perspective

The Humanistic Perspective

The Humanistic approach to Psychology emphasises the importance of the individual as a whole person. There are two key figures that shaped the Humanistic approach - Abrahams Maslow, who was responsible for the term "Self actualisation" and Carl Rogers, who was responsible for the term "Client- centred therapy". Adler talks of issues of self esteem, and Carl Rogers progressed Adlers theories

Different aspects of the Humanistic approach are Individual subjective experience - How the individual sees the world, Individuals motivated to achieve personal growth and free will through Personal growth - Self awareness of emotions, and motivations and a holistic approach- which looks at the whole person

Humanistic therapy is based on a pyramid of self actualisation. The pyramid is defined by the fact that self actualisation is at the top of the pyramid and build upon the needs of hierarchy - Maslow believed that each proceeding need - needs to addressed and resolved before the individual can move on and develop to the state of Actualisation. Rogers's methods were based on his Client centred therapy, which focused on the individual conscious experience as opposed to the Therapists techniques. For this therapy to work, the three essential mental conditions needed to be met.

Humanistic Therapy is Client based. There are three key conditions that need to be met. They are congruency, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding. Individual's experiences and behaviours can be changed, distorted or stunted by experiences with unfavourable "Nature Nurture "Such as trauma associated with home life, domestic violence, poverty or violent early experiences. These distorted or stunted realisations of the individual create the need for psychotherapy. Therefore allowing the individual to be empowered to overcome, or change their mental and physical negative habits. If the differences cannot be reconciled, the individual may end up repressing the aspects of his/her personality which he/she feels to be unacceptable. Such a response is likely to happen when conditions of worth are placed upon a person who may then feel that, in order to gain acceptance, he/she has to appear to be what he/she is not. This state is likely to become worse each time a person feels judged and becomes afraid of not being loved.

"Cognitive psychology is a discipline within psychology that investigates the internal mental processes of thought such as visual processing, memory, problem solving, and language".

Cognitive psychologists use psychophysical and experimental approaches to understand, diagnose, and solve problems, concerning themselves with the mental processes which mediate between stimulus and response.

Cognitive therapy concentrates on focusing on internal processes; behaviour is determined by conscious internal mental processes and can be studied scientifically using experimental methods

Ulrich Neisser was responsible for the term 'cognitive psychology' in his book published in 1967 (Cognitive Psychology), where in Neisser proceeded to provide a definition of cognitive psychology which characterised the individual internal processes as dynamic information, processing systems whose mental operations might be described in computational terms

The term "cognition" refers to all the mental processes by which the sensory input is changed, reduced, elaborated, stored or recovered, and then used. Cognitive therapy is based on the use of these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and psychotic hallucinations... Given this theoretical definition, it is such a sweeping definition, that it becomes apparent that cognition is a process which is involved in everything an individual might possibly do. Therefore it is a logical assumption that moreover; every psychological phenomenon in an individual can therefore be related to a cognitive phenomenon. However cognitive psychology includes all human activity rather than just a fraction of it, in its analysis of the individual. There is more than one established viewpoint- although many are recognised as equally legitimate and necessary - such as Jean Piaget, Albert Ellis who was a leading pioneer in the development of CBT. Noam Chomsky - who are was considered to have been significant influences of the thinking and theories relating to the cognitive state of mind. Jean Piaget is considered to be the pioneer of the "constructive theory of knowing".

Firstly, many of the experiences that occur are before a child fully develops cognition and therefore remain the 'unknown'. Much of our early experiences and there meaning is held in the body as a "sensorimotor" process , alternatively it can be held in the "limbic system" as an emotional process and is therefore very difficult to access or assess via Cognitive Therapy. There is academic debate as to the validity of the use of Cognitive therapy, as it has its limitations and does not work for everyone, also its best used as a specific treatment plan for specific forms of treatment: Stress and Anxiety conditions respond well. CBT Therapy will concentrate on changing an individual's behaviour, without considering the meaning, function or reason of the specific behaviour and its self protective function. The consequence of this is that it becomes as effective as sticking a plaster on a large open wound. This is primarily because CBT is based on a "medical model". CBT focuses on pathology: it views the individual as dysfunctional, therefore requiring therapy in order to function within 'normally'.

CBT accepts the use of the scientific method, although it ignores both and generally rejects experimental, social and cultural factors, as the unconscious mind and biological factors. It has in fact been deemed somewhat simplistic in its approach. It also considers introspection as a valid method of investigation, unlike symbol-driven Humanistic approaches of Maslov or Rogers , which has no scientific basis, and is not measurable or testable - therefore cannot be scientifically validated.

Whilst Cognitive therapy acknowledges the existence of internal mental states (such as belief, desire and motivation) there is criticism that cognitive therapy empiricism with the acknowledgement and acceptance of internal mental states by cognitive psychology is contradictory. The negative to this approach is that it can actually reinforce one or more of the original pathology: an example being; "there is something wrong with me, I am bad person , the guilt or emotions become more unstable and the feelings of inadequacy are exacerbated , and the need to change can be a over whelming mental ordeal. Therefore the more focus placed on the changes required simply causes the resurface of the original issues within the individuals pathology.

Humanistic therapy is diametrically opposed to that of CBT and originates from a radically different philosophy. The Humanistic model asserts that we are essentially functional organisms and that our defensive inborn processes actually represent a healthy self protective choice given that the early environment we experienced, have the potential to surface as negative influences in latter life. The Humanistic therapist will seek to engage with the individual's frame of reference, including their deeply rooted affected mentality; the purpose of this is to facilitate the individual's forward move into a place of self actualised autonomy. Humanistic therapy is a collaborative journey, where the individual is the expert of their own experience, and the Humanistic therapist is the provider of the theory. There is no supporting scientific evidence, nor measure that can be used to assess the Humanistic approach


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  • Joanna Connor /version/01 - 04/10/09 word count = 1310

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