Humanistic Therapy: Definition, Types, and Benefits

Discover the Power of Self-Growth with Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy is a positive approach to psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s nature rather than categorizing groups of people with similar characteristics as having the same problems.

It emphasizes the ability of human beings to use their free will to make rational choices and develop to their maximum potential. This therapy type is centred on the individual’s unique personal experiences, growth, and self-fulfillment.

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What is Humanistic Therapy?

Humanistic therapy, also known as humanism or humanistic psychology, is an approach to therapy that focuses on the individual’s unique experience. It involves understanding human life in terms of the person’s lived experience and emphasizes the inherent goodness in people.

This therapy type is guided by empathy, unconditional positive regard, and authenticity. It encourages self-exploration, self-awareness, and self-acceptance, promoting personal growth and fulfillment.

How does Humanistic Therapy Work?

Humanistic therapy focuses on the individual’s conscious experience, personal responsibility, and the pursuit of self-actualization. The therapist creates a supportive environment where clients feel safe expressing their feelings and experiences.

The therapist’s role is to understand the client’s experience from their perspective empathetically and to facilitate the client’s growth and self-understanding. The therapy focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than past experiences, encouraging clients to explore their current feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

What are the different Types of Humanistic Therapy?

There are several types of humanistic therapy, each with a unique focus and approach. Some of these include:

  1. Person-centred Therapy (PCT): This type of therapy often uses active listening to help individuals lead themselves toward solutions.
  2. Gestalt Therapy: This approach focuses on the individual’s present experience and life context, encouraging them to understand what happens in their ‘here and now.’
  3. Existential Therapy: This therapy type focuses more on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning.
  4. Narrative Therapy: This therapy type helps individuals to reframe their narrative or story in a way that aligns with their desired identity or values.


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What Issues Humanistic Therapy Can Help With?

Humanistic therapy can be effective for people dealing with a variety of mental health issues and life challenges, including:

Humanistic Therapy Techniques

In addition to active listening, humanistic therapy may also involve techniques such as:

  • Assuming the client’s innate goodness
  • Acknowledging the client’s power to decide
  • Treating the client as a whole person
  • Recognizing the client as an individual
  • Coping with issues in the here and now
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Finding solutions

Benefits of Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy offers several benefits. It promotes self-awareness and personal growth, helping individuals better understand their feelings, behaviours, and motivations.

It encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions and make positive life changes. It also fosters a sense of authenticity and self-acceptance.

Humanistic Therapy Techniques & Examples

Humanistic therapy uses a variety of techniques to facilitate personal growth and self-understanding. These include active listening, unconditional positive regard, empathy, and authenticity. The therapist may also use role-playing, guided imagery, and mindfulness exercises.

  1. Example 1 – Dealing with Low Self-Esteem: Consider a patient named Sarah struggling with low self-esteem. In a humanistic therapy session, the therapist would provide a safe and non-judgmental space for Sarah to express her feelings and thoughts. In addition, the therapist might use active listening and empathetic understanding to validate Sarah’s experiences. Through this process, Sarah would be encouraged to explore her self-perception and identify her strengths. Over time, this could help Sarah to develop a more positive self-image and improve her self-esteem.
  2. Example 2 – Coping with Anxiety: John is a patient suffering from anxiety. In a humanistic therapy session, the therapist would focus on John’s current feelings and thoughts rather than delving into past experiences. The therapist might use mindfulness exercises to help John stay present and manage his anxiety symptoms. The goal would be to help John understand and accept his feelings of anxiety rather than trying to eliminate them, thereby reducing the power they hold over him.
  3. Example 3 – Overcoming Relationship Issues: Lisa has trouble in her relationship. In a humanistic therapy session, the therapist would encourage Lisa to express her feelings and thoughts about the relationship. In addition, the therapist might use techniques such as role-playing to help Lisa explore her communication patterns and understand how they might contribute to the relationship issues. This could help Lisa to develop healthier communication skills and improve her relationship.

Remember, these are simplified examples and real-life therapy sessions would be more complex and tailored to the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Humanistic therapy can effectively treat various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and addiction. It can also help individuals to improve their self-esteem, enhance their relationships, and achieve personal growth.

However, the effectiveness of humanistic therapy, like any therapy, can depend on various factors, including the individual's engagement in the process, the specific issues being addressed, and the skill and experience of the therapist.

It's important to note that while humanistic therapy can be very beneficial, it may not be the best fit for everyone. Some individuals may find other therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural or psychodynamic therapy, more effective for their needs. As always, discussing these considerations with a qualified therapist is important.

The primary technique used in humanistic therapy is active listening. The therapist listens empathetically to the client's experiences and feelings, providing them with unconditional positive regard and acceptance.

An example of humanistic therapy is person-centred therapy, where the therapist provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment, allowing the client to guide the direction of the therapy.

The main ideas of the humanistic theory include the belief that humans are inherently good, the importance of free will and personal responsibility, and the pursuit of self-actualization.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Humanistic Therapy are both forms of psychotherapy that effectively treat various mental health issues. However, they differ in their approach and focus.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) identifies and changes negative thought patterns and behaviours. It is problem-focused and goal-oriented, with the therapist taking a directive role.

On the other hand, Humanistic Therapy emphasizes the individual's unique experience and the inherent goodness in people. It is process-oriented and focuses on self-exploration, self-awareness, and personal growth.

The therapist in Humanistic Therapy takes a non-directive role, providing empathy, unconditional positive regard, and authenticity. Both approaches can be beneficial, and their choice often depends on the individual's needs, preferences, and the nature of their issues.

No matter what you are struggling with, we are here for you.

No matter what you are struggling with, we are here for you.

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.


  1. Humanistic Therapy: This article from the American Psychological Association provides a comprehensive overview of humanistic therapy, its benefits, and its applications.
  2. The Effectiveness of Humanistic Therapies: This research article from the National Institutes of Health discusses the effectiveness of humanistic therapies.
  3. Humanistic Therapy and Depression: This article from Verywell Mind discusses how humanistic therapy can be used to treat depression.