Assumptions of the humanistic approach

  • Each person can exercise free will and has control over what they think and feel, and how they behave.
  • Each person is a rational and conscious being, and is not dominated by unconscious, primitive instincts.
  • A persons subjective view and experience of the world is of greater importance to the understanding the person that objective reality.
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The person centred approach

  • Humanistic psychologists place a persons subjective experience and point of view at the centre of their theory.
  • Both Rodgers and Maslow are humanistic psychologists and their theories reguard people as essentially good and view human nature as positive.

They believe people seek personal growth and may suffer problems if they are not able to grow and change psychologically in a positive way througfhout their lives.

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Carl Rodgers

  • Rodgers believed that each person could achieve their goals, wishes and desires in life - when they did self-actualisation took place.
  • People who are able to self actualise are described as 'fully functioning persons' - this means that they are in touch with the here and now, and open to constant flow of experience.
  • Rodgers fully functioning people are well adjusted, well balenced and interesting to talk to and be acquainted with.
  • Often fully functioning people are high achievers in society, buisness and social life. Western society values such people.
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5 Characteristics (fully functioning person)

1. Open to experience- A person accepets both positive and negative emotions and any negative emotions are not denied but worked through.

2. Existential living- Being in touch with different experiences as they occur in life, avoid pre-judging.

3. Trust feelings- Feelings, gut reactions and instincts are paid attention to.

4. Creativity- Creative thinking and risk taking are part of life, person does not play it safe all the time.

5. Fulfilled life- Person is happy and satisfied with life, always looking for new chalenges and experiences.

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Self-worth and positive regard

  • Self-worth is how we think and feel about ourself.
  • Self-worth is a fundimental importance.

Feelings of self-worth exist on a continuum of a very high to very low and are influenced most by significant others in our life.

A person who has high self-worth has confidence and positive feelings about themselves, they face challenges and accept failure and unhappiness at times.

A person with low self-worth may avoid challenges, not accept that life can soemtimes be unhappy and will be defensive and guarded.

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Unconditional positive regard

Unconditional positive regard

  • Accept the person for what he/ she does
  • Person feels valued, safe and therofre accepts self and is open to others
  • Leads to feelings of self-worth and become a fully functiong person
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Conditional positive regard

Conditional positive regard

  • Accept the person as long as their behaviour is approved by others
  • Person seeks approval from others and denies aspects of themselves
  • Leads to feelings of low self-worth and not becoming a fully funcioning person
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Self concept and congruence/ incrongruence

Self concept (our whole self) is made up of self-worth, ideal self )how we wish to be) and organismic self (parts of us we deny).

  • Ideal self: how we should be in all aspects of our lives e.g. work, relationships
  • Organismic self: aspects of our self which we may not be fully aware of e.g. feelings, desires

If person has congruence, the three aspects are closely aligned. When there is a gap between all three, the person is in a state of incongruence and suffers anxiety and tension and poor psychological adjustment.

Self concept = whole self-worth + ideal self + organismic

Congruence: self-worth + ideal self + organismic = aligned

incongruence: self-worth + ideal self + organismic = not aligned

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Abraham Maslow: hierachy of needs

Proposed humans have a number of complex needs, as each group of needs becomes satisfied, the next level becomes important.

  • Self-actualisation (top)
  • Self-esteem
  • Love and belonging
  • Safety and security
  • Physiological needs (bottom)

Physiological needs: essential for survival, if not being met energies devoted to obtaining them, if met safety needs become more important

Self-actualisation: the point at where all needs of human are satisfied and the person is operating at their absaloute peak

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Evaluation of humanism


  • Promotes a self image of human beings and the personal growth of self-actualisation demonstrates ways in which a person can grow and change throughout their lives
  • Each person is seen as being in control of their lives, experiences and relationships with other people.
  • People are said to have free will which enables them to demostrate what happens


  • Too positive about human nature, there is no bad in the world?
  • Free will refects the thinking of the western world, third world in poverty have little choice
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Encounter groups

  • Small number of individuals
  • Participate in meetings
  • Develop self-awareness
  • Improve ability of each member to interact with other members
  • Rodgers believed that people had an innate ability to self-heal
  • Usually sit in a circle, on chairs
  • Facilitator leads but thers no rules or expectations about outcomes
  • Discuss any topic, feelings or emotions
  • Reflected back on negative attitudes by facilitator
  • May change attitudes towards themselves

Ideally the facilitator creates an atmosphere in which members can discover their own inner source of healing and be able to deal with the issues that have created problems in their life

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Evaluation of encouter groups


  • Helped to feel certain freedom, learn how to express emotions easily
  • Feel alive, increased confidence in dealing with personal relationships
  • Ability to tolorate critisims, debelop understanding of themesleves
  • Learn to let go of the past, live more fully in present, common outcome


  • Not for everyone, strong personality required
  • Not appropriate for particular psychiatric conditions
  • Counterproductive if vunerable people made to feel humiliated or existing problems intensified
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Person centred therapy

  • A person enters person centred therapy in a state of incongruence
  • Role of therapist to reverse situation
  • Focus on the person's subjective view on world
  • Rodgers reguarded everyone as "potentially competent individual"

-> aims to increase a person's feelings of self-worth, reduce the level of incongruence between the ideal and actual self, and help a person become more of a fully functing person

Three basic principles

  • Therapist is congruent with client (keen to allow client to experience them as really are)
  • Therapist provides client with unconditional positive reguard (accept them as they are)
  • Therapist shows empathetic understanding to client (understand sensitively and accurately)
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Evaluation of person centred therapy


  • Several large studies showed that the three qualities are beneficial
  • Gives client control and free will to control their lives
  • Promotes positivity in the clients life


  • Studies found these factors alone are not effective to promote lasting change in clients
  • Can be distressing therfore counterproductive
  • Requires commitment and is a lengthy process
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