What To Know About The Benefits Of Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy centers around the idea that people are capable of self-actualization and have the capacity to become the best versions of themselves. The therapy promotes the idea that each person has the power and capability to change their life for the better. Humanistic therapy began in the 1950s as a direct response to Abraham Maslow, who shaped psychology by developing the hierarchy of needs (via Positive Psychology). He believed that humans first needed physiological demands met — like shelter, food, and sleep — in order to move up the chain to the highest need, which was self-actualization. Around the same time, psychologist Carl Rogers honed in on the idea of person-centered therapy, according to Psychology Today. These two ideas, the importance of self-actualization and therapy that privileged the person, came together to shape humanistic therapy.


This particular form of therapy is all about an individual's ability to make the right choices, per Forbes, and focuses on the personal responsibility to understand behaviors and feelings but also create change. When practiced earnestly and regularly, humanistic therapy can be remarkably empowering. Here's what you should know about it.

Humanistic therapy is catered towards the individual rather than a statistic

What makes humanistic therapy so compelling is that the therapist's focus is on the individual. The patient is the source of study, rather than statistics or behaviors that come from a group of people, according to Psychology Today. And it makes sense that humanistic therapy is particular to each person because each person's goals and highest self is different. The National Library of Medicine sums up the core of humanistic therapy, saying, "For the humanistic therapist, not being one's true self is the source of problems."


The fact that humanistic therapy shapes itself to focus on the patient is its potential weakness as well. As Psychology Today points out, the one knock against this type of therapy — and something worth being aware of — is that it doesn't follow a typical structure or mold. As such, people who prefer a set structure around therapy might not benefit from humanistic therapy. However, if this sounds appealing, this approach can be hugely helpful in tapping into one's specific dreams and goals.

As Good Therapy points out, "Humanistic psychologists believe that each individual is a unique, valuable social being who is often best assisted through genuine person-to-person relationships." This means that therapeutic sessions focus on self-awareness and a rich, loving sense of oneself in order to treat "the whole person."


Humanistic therapy can be brief or go for the long haul

Another benefit of humanistic therapy is that it can take as long as a patient needs. There is no set timeframe for the therapy to become effective. However, it's worth noting that a crucial component of humanistic therapy is the bond between the therapist and client, per VeryWell Health. There must be trust and a willingness to be vulnerable, where the client knows that the therapist has his or her best interests at heart and is a safe person to confide in. For many, building up this connection can take time.


However, it's worth noting that some practices of humanistic therapy can be brief. As the National Library of Medicine notes, some patients who are seeking help with addiction and substance abuse find a brief period of this therapy helpful in addition to other substance abuse treatments, like a 12-step program. Humanistic therapy can help set a tone of empowerment and positivity in order to get the individual on their way with some solid goals in place. It's really up to the person. If a patient is seeking therapy for deeper-rooted topics, humanistic therapies can offer support for lifelong personal work and growth.

Humanistic therapy addresses a range of topics, from addiction to self-esteem

Humanistic therapy can address a wide range of issues. It can offer relief and tools for dealing with high-functioning anxiety. It can also treat other concerns. If an individual is suffering from depression, it can also offer worthwhile tools to help.


As Psychology Today points out, humanistic therapy can help people suffering from "depression, anxiety, panic disorders, personality disorders, [and] schizophrenia." But it doesn't stop there. The therapy is helpful when dealing with interpersonal matters, be they family relationships or romantic partnerships. As the National Library of Medicine points out, humanistic therapy has also proven to be helpful with addiction issues. Interestingly, there are mixed reviews about the compatibility of humanistic therapy with 12-step programs, since a major tenant of the latter is "powerlessness" over the substance. However, since the 12 Steps also focus on self-inquiry and taking responsibility for one's own actions — and making necessary amends for mistakes — this therapy would work nicely.


Humanistic therapy can also deal with broader topics that a person may be grappling with in life. A person may seek out this form of therapy to improve self-esteem and increase their sense of personal well-being. They may choose humanistic therapy in order to achieve a certain meaningful goal or to achieve a sense of self-actualization in whatever way that manifests for each particular person.

What to expect in a humanistic therapy session

Because humanistic therapy is so specific to the relationship between the patient and the therapist, finding the right fit is key. Don't settle. Keep searching for the right therapist, and look for one who provides a feeling of chemistry. When seeking out a therapist for humanistic therapy, an individual should look for a few things in the first session. Does the therapist emit positivity? As Psychology Today notes, "unconditional positive regard" between the patient and therapist is a crucial component of humanistic therapy. Will the therapist be non-judgmental as the two people journey together?


A person should also look for empathetic understanding on the part of the therapist as well as genuineness. In order for humanistic therapy to work, a trusting, comfortable relationship with a therapist who clicks is necessary. However, keep in mind that this kind of bond doesn't happen in one session. It's a matter of seeking out the potential for a strong relationship in that first therapy session.

There are different kinds of humanistic therapy to suit all needs

To keep things simple, the major tenets of humanistic therapy are acceptance and growth, as the National Library of Medicine points out. Keeping this in mind, there are actually a few forms of humanistic therapy, so a person can really make sure that they're getting the best treatment for their specific needs.


While particulars can vary, there are a few different forms of humanistic therapy to note. The first, according to Forbes, is client-centered therapy. This type is all about the bond between the client and therapist, with the client in full control of his or her goals and direction. The therapist's function is to provide an empathetic, positive space.

The second form of humanistic therapy is Gestalt therapy, which focuses on the present moment and puts less emphasis on past experiences. It is all about promoting the client's personal capability and responsibility. The third is existential psychotherapy, which helps a client find and conceptualize the "deeper meaning" in their life. It urges the client to look at the idealized version of their life compared to the choices they are currently making and helps them get to that best, self-actualized version.


The fourth form of humanistic therapy is experiential psychotherapy. This can be very appealing for clients who enjoy the chance for a creative outlet, as it can often incorporate art, music, and even animal therapy. The key focus here is to get the client to express their feelings in an active way.

The healing happens outside of meetings

Perhaps the best benefit of all when it comes to humanistic therapy is that the lion's share of the work happens after a therapeutic session. Since so much of humanistic therapy is receiving positive feedback from the therapist, the client then gets to go and practice this new sense of self in daily life. Much of the healing happens outside of therapy, the National Library of Medicine notes.


Within this healing, both in session and outside of it, clients frequently notice a newly empowered sense of self. As Talk Space notes, it can be so beneficial for an individual to have a non-judgmental relationship where they can process hopes, goals, struggles, frustrations, and future dreams. It also focuses on holistic healing so that a client can feel self-actualization in all aspects of their lives. Many leave feeling uplifted with a solid, firm sense of self-worth and self-esteem.