The Humanistic Approach

  • Assumptions
  • Psychologists
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
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People have free will

  • This is an optimistic view of humans compared to the behaviourist and psychodynamic approaches. Freedom to choose distinguishes us from animals
  • BUT freewill may not be a reality since many things dictate what we do. Free will may not be possible for people in many different cultures

People have an innate tendency to self-actualise

  • This aids the understanding of what motivates us to fulfil our potential. It emphasies the importance of 'the self'
  • BUT few people self-actualise - many are motivated only by basic needs so the idea of self-actualisation may be biased towards westernised values and the idea of individualism

People must be looked at holistically (as a whole)

  • Psychology can therefore study meaningful areas of human experience that will help people to become fully dunctiong e.g subjective conscioue experience
  • BUT this ignoresall important issues below conscious awareness so we cannot study the objectivity. The apporach does not explain about development
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  • Two basic needs - for love and approval, and for self-actualisation
  • The need for love and approval can lead to incongruence, due to conditions of worth
  • If the incongruence is great, problems will occur and the individual will need person-centred therapy


  • Hierarchy of needs
  • Those lower down are deficence needs, those higher up are growth needs
  • Needs further down the hierarchy must be satisified first
  • If needs are not met, personal growth is blocked and this causes problems for the individual

Humanists use the case study method and use techniques such as open ended interviews

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Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Humanistic psychologists view the person as an active agent, able to control and determine their own development, unlike behaviourism
  • Humanistic psychologists promote the idea of personal responsibility - free will as opposed to determinism
  • Person-centered therapy is used by psychologists and counsellors in therapy today


  • Humanistics theories are hard to falsify. They lack predictive power and are therefore unscientific
  • In rejecting the use of the scientific method, humanistic theories lack empirical support
  • Individual emotions and consciouness are difficult to study objectively
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