Humanistic Approach - Theories of Personality

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The humanistic approach resulted in the introduction of prominent scholars' philosophies, such as Roger's and Maslow's, and facilitated the opening of second language teaching and learning processes. It happened towards the end of 1970. According to Lei's research, the humanistic approach emphasizes the importance of every particular learner's inner world and places an individual's thoughts, feelings, and emotions at the forefront of any human being's development (Inventory, In Wong & Wong). Due to the sudden shift in the center of concentration, education on languages and pedagogy was slowly moved from the initial behavioristic and mentalistic methods. The result was the emergence of what is mainly referred to as humanistic approach. Noticeable changes took place in language education, for instance, the role that was being played traditionally by the teachers and students underwent redefinition where the previous teaching practices which were authoritarian were replaced classrooms that were more of learner-centered. This deliverable if three-fold. It will present the humanistic approach, and it features, and second, it will be aimed at putting forth a discussion on the essential theorists' view on humanistic approach. Finally, it will highlight a comparison of the theories related to humanistic approach.

Theoretical Approach

According to Wang (2005), humanistic approach considers a holistic style to the existence of human beings through investigating meanings, personal responsibility, spirituality, freedom, and self-actualization. The path traces its origins to the thoughts of existentialists and phenomenological. On the other hand, eastern philosophy and psychology have critical roles to play as far as humanistic psychology is concerned, together with the views regarding personalization by Judao–Christian (Spinelli, 2001). It is because they have some concerns relating to the existence of the human beings and their very own consciousness.

It can sometimes be understood from the context of three different forces regarding psychology: which includes humanism, psychoanalysis, and behaviorism. According to Warmoth (2001), behaviorism originated from the work carried out by Ivan Pavlov which was based on the conditional reflex and provided a basis for academic psychology in the US. Abraham Maslow went ahead to rename behaviorism as "the second force." The “first force” originated from the research that was carried out by Freud on psychoanalysis, Carl Jung et al.’s psychologies. The theorists and individual practitioners, although they based their observations entirely on the available clinical data, they had a primary focus on the “unconscious” existence of the human race.

Humanistic psychologists commence their argument from the assumption that each has their respective ways of viewing and understanding the world around them and that any action that they take is right only within this context. On the other hand, the types of frequently asked questions on people tend to vary from the one that psychologists ask from other respective approaches. As opposed to the fact that different methods highly consider the objective of just some people, humanistic psychologists have a priority of trying to understand the subjectivity of people, asking questions like what it takes to be like a particular individual. Therefore, they brush aside the basis of the scientific method used in studying people. The humanistic psychologists endorse the ideology that individuals are entitled to what is known as free will and have the capability of selecting their actions. They also assume that all individuals have a tendency directed at growth and the subsequent realization of their potentials. Much of the research done under this category is substantially focused on the way people may be assisted to ensure that they fulfill their respective potentials and live lives that are more satisfying.

Study of Human Behavior

Humanistic psychologists occasionally tend to favor methods of research that provides them with the opportunity of understanding the subjectivity of other people. Consequently, they ten to brush off the processes that engage in an objective study of people, with the inclusion of experimentation. They tend to have a general thought that if they can reduce the experience that people have, then this can rob their richness and meaning leading to them escaping from quantitative approaches. Hence, there is the preference for qualitative, in particular cases of unstructured interviewing since it enables one to access the views of people and their experiences without necessarily imposing them on the ideas of the researcher concerning that which is fundamental (Wong, & Reker, 2005). In the instances where observation is used is highly considered to be participant observation, where the researcher takes a path along the subject of study to help with understanding the perception of the participants. Humanistic psychologists may also resolve into analyzing a series of other varying qualitative materials that provide them with the insight into the understanding of people concerning the world around them, with the inclusion of diaries, and biographies, to mention a few.

One type of this research is that which was carried out by Maslow in an analysis of 1973 on the characteristics of self-actualization. He went ahead to self-possible self-actualized and the figures historically used in biology and other evidence for documentation to help with analyzing that which they shared. He concluded that they tend to be quite unconventional and very much original, showcasing acceptance of themselves and other individuals, and having the capabilities of developing deep and intimate relationships to help enjoyment of their lifestyles.

Major Theorists

During the 1950s, there was a concern by the psychologist with the vision of advancing holistic psychology. The psychologists, including the likes of Maslow, and Moustakas, had the high interest in establishing a professional association which had a dedication to a given psychology on the uniquely expresses issues of the human beings. Examples of these problems included self-actualization, creativity, person, love, and individuality, to mention a few, with the desire to understand the existence of the human race.

The preliminary meetings led to the start of other developments, which resulted in humanistic psychology as being the “third force” in the field of psychology. Noticeable events were inclusive of forming the Association for the Humanistic Psychology, in the year 1961. Some of the significant theorists that are believed to have paved the way for Humanistic Psychology were Rollo May, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. Maslow experienced great influence from Kurt Goldstein. On the other hand, Psychoanalytic writers had the unpredicted influence on the humanistic psychology. The other works of psychoanalytic were Wilhelm Reich, who brought forth a discussion on healthy core self. Gustav Jung through his mythological and archetypal emphasis also helped in guiding the humanistic approach.

Carl Rogers

Humanistic psychologists have always worked hard to try and provide proper explanations regarding behaviors. For instance, according to Schneider, Bugental & Pierson, Roger's idea regarding behavior was centered on self, which is the consciousness of their own respective identity. Rogers helped to the belief that people can fulfill their potentials regarding growth if only they could view themselves from the positive perspective. For this to happen, they need to have what is known to as unconditional regard of positivity of those around them. Like, if they have the feeling of being valued, then they must neglect any reservation of the individuals around them. Rogers viewed the problem that most individuals had and categorized it as the sad fact that most individuals fail to have a positive perception of the favorable regard of the neighbors as being entirely unconditional. Regrettably, they have the thought that people will love them and value them only if they meet some conditions regarding worth. The very terms of worth results in the creation of incongruity within an individual and their real self, and an ideological person. The individual makes attempts of closing the existing gap between idea and their authentic self, though a majority of them do this in ways considered to be entirely unhelpful, possibly by going after achievements that may automatically fail to make them contented or by distorting how they view the world. For instance, if a student has a belief that they will just settle for anything after scoring well in exams may fail to acknowledge grade "B" and hence dismissing it as being a failure. It will automatically make them robe themselves of a clear achievement, or even start blaming their teachers, leading to a breakdown in taking actions that may result in the improvement of their grades.

Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow viewed human needs as being more complicated than the ones presented by Rodgers. According to Mishra (2000), while Rogers held to the belief that people required unconditional regard positively, Maslow appreciated the fact that people have a series of needs that were different regarding immediacy and which satisfaction needed to varying periods of time. He went further to arrange the needs in hierarchical order, putting the most basic needs at the very bottom. Maslow had a belief that the individuals who satisfied all of the requirements could become self-actualized. In that, they will be rare to find and will be the individuals who will have the ability to fulfill their potentials completely. Nevertheless, he also had the thought the prolonged periods of not satisfying a specific need could lead one into what is known as fixation. For instance, one who has grown up in poverty may have their lives dominated by increased anxiety at the thought of food even if they had the lack of escaping from the bondage of poverty later in their lives.

Counseling and Therapy

Humanistic psychology is inclusive of some approaches involved in counseling and therapy. Based on the earliest developments, Abraham Maslow emphasized on the existing hierarchy of wants and motivations. Further, Rollo May also talked of existential psychology which acknowledges that the existence of the human choice and how tragic is the human existence. Also, Carl Rogers highlighted person-centered therapy. Rogers argued that it was centered on the capacity of the client to have self-direction and understanding of the developments that they were witnessing.

The other approaches applied to humanistic therapy and counseling are inclusive of Gestalt therapy, holistic health, family therapy, and humanistic psychotherapy, to mention a few (Wong, 2004). These were grouped into the category of the existential psychotherapy done by Medard Boss. One of the new developments in humanistic and existential therapy was the work done by Kirk Schneider known as existential-integrative.

Humanistic psychology also has self-help included in it. For instance, Ernst and Goodison have described self-help groups using vital humanistic approaches. Co-counseling, which lies purely as an approach of self-help, is considered as originating from humanistic psychology. Besides, a humanistic theory has the relatively high efficiency and are the relation to popular therapy, with the inclusion of the re-evaluation counseling done with both Harvey Jackins and Carl Rogers. Humanistic psychology tends to see beyond the psychological, medical model to bring forth a nonpathologizing view of an individual. It frequently shows that the therapists tend to downplay the pathological aspect of the life of an individual in favor of the dominant elements of a person. One of the primary ingredients in the humanistic approach in a private interview between the therapist and the anticipating client and the possibility of dialogue. Most human therapies are target assisting clients with approaching a relatively stronger and healthier sense of oneself, which is unanimously referred to as self-actualization. Therefore this aspect related to humanistic psychology motivations is referred to as science regarding human experience, with much focus on the personal life experiences.

Social Issues and Humanistic Psychology

Although the former researchers may have failed to pay enough attention to social information, the massive portion of the humanistic psychologists in the contemporary world have decided to conduct a series of investigations of social, cultural, and gender issue. Earliest researchers on psychological humanism explored a set of topics like political topics, branding them as being healthy and acceptable experiences. Some of the topics considered include the capacity for one to love in the current society, the rampant advancements in the technological world, and how it’s dominating the life of the human race, and the brainstorming question regarding evil. Further, Maureen O’Hara, who was privileged enough to work alongside Rogers and Freire, had talked of the convergence between the pair of thinkers because they were distinct and had mutual relation when it came to the development of critical consciousness of occurrences which either dehumanize or oppress people.


Critics have pointed out that humanistic approach has failed to ignore cases of change in the research on social change. For instance, according to Rogers (1951), Isaac Prilleltensky, who was widely known as being a radical individual who was championing for communal and feminist psychology, argued for some years that humanistic led to an inadvertent contribution to what is known as systemic injustice. There is a further argument that early instances of incarnations of the psychology regarding individuals fell short of a cumulative empirical foundation. Further, they also argued that the individual behind the movement proposed an “unapologetic renunciation of human reciprocity and the community at large. Nevertheless, based on the contemporary rational intellectuals, there is the need for humanistic psychology to be understood to help with promoting ideologies like narcissism, or even selfishness.

Associating narcissistic with humanistic discourse and being over-optimistic regarding the world may b misleading when studying human theory. According to Inventory In Wong & Wong, while responding to the research done by Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi in 2000, both Greening and Bohart (2001) identified the fact that coupled with self-actualization, and fulfillment at the individual level, the humanistic psychologists have also presented their arguments on a series of social issues. These include advocating for peace at the international level and co-existing between nations, being aware of a holocaust, reduction in the global violence, and promoting social welfare and justice for humans (Zhang, & Atkin, 2010).

Criticizing humanistic psychology as lacking a basis of an argument have only had the reliance on restricted views. According to Allport (1961), these just constitute what is known as an uncritical adoption of the methods used in natural science, and blatantly neglecting the empirical work carried out by Rogers. Contrarily, a humanistic approach is traditional based on empirical research, with the inclusion of but not limited to the work done by Maslow, and David Elkins. In fact, research on humanistic psychology can trace its origin to the pioneer of American psychology, William James.


The humanistic approach provides clear facts that individuals have the freedom of will, which differentiates it from the other types of procedures, with a possibility of exempting some forms of cognitivism. O, the other hand, a suggestion can be made that the free will is incoherent. Since, while insisting on the abilities to choose their actions, they explain how our behaviors are determined due to the treatment that we receive from other people. According to Brown (2007), with the debate put forth by the nature-nurture debaters, humanists showcase favoritism towards nature, because of how influencing the experiences on the perception of individuals and understanding on the world is. It also profoundly acknowledges the influence that biological drivers and necessities have on human beings. The belief that they have that every individual has a unique inclination towards an ideographic approach related to psychology. Since they believe that the experience of humans must have engagement, humanistic psychologists fail to break down behavior into fundamental critical processes. It implies that the approach that they use towards psychology is considered to be explicitly holistic, as opposed to reductionist.

Lack of objectivity and cases of absence of rigor in the humanistic approaches is itself the criticism of the method. Other plans would have evidently regarded their styles as being unscientific, and vague, leading to them being open to biases. Human psychologists would, in turn, result in the rejection of these particular criticisms terming them as being inappropriate for people of sound mind. Other critics opt to take issues with what is known as the positive view of the nature of human beings that is endorsed with the humanistic approach. As much as it flatters to consider ourselves as being better entities working towards fulfilling our potential, the humanistic plan fails to provide more clear explanations on the horrors faced by people and the effect they cause. With the increased warfare across the globe, the talk by the humanistic psychologist of a possibility of growth seems wholly unrealistic by the passing of each day. Nevertheless, the approaches on counseling that were developed with Rogers and his fellow humanists have proved helpful for many people to overcome the very difficulties that they face in their lives, which is very much crucial in the improvement of the lives of many people.


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Mishra, C. (2000). A humanistic approach to education. Journal of NELTA, 5(2), 25-29. doi:10.1207ls15326985.

Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered Therapy: Its current practice, implications, and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Spinelli, E. (2001). A reply to John Rowan. In K. J. Schneider, J. F. T. Bugental &J. F. Pierson (Eds.). The handbook of humanistic psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Pp.465-471.

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Wong, P. T. P. (2004). Editorial: Existential psychology for the21st century. International Journal of Existential Psychology and Existential Psychotherapy, 1, 1-3.

Zhang, L., & Atkin, C. (2010). Conceptualizing humanistic competence in the language classroom by TJP - A Chinese case. International Education Studies, 3(4), 121-127. doi:10.1177/088840649401700203.

April 26, 2023


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