Humanistic therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of authenticity. It goes beyond treating symptoms and focuses on understanding the whole and unique person.

Humanistic therapy stems from the philosophy that every person has an innate drive for self-improvement and personal growth.

It focuses on the here and now, fostering an environment of trust and empathy. It encourages people to explore their feelings, thoughts, and aspirations without fear of judgment.

Humanistic therapy adopts a person-centered approach. The therapist acts as a facilitator, guiding the person toward self-awareness.

The therapist refrains from giving direct advice or solutions. Instead, they empower the person to explore their feelings and thoughts independently and tap into their inner resources.

This article examines humanistic therapy, its benefits and drawbacks, and where to find this mental health support.

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Humanistic therapy operates on the fundamental belief in each person’s inherent worth and potential for growth.

It supports people to be their true selves, placing them at the center of the therapeutic process and acknowledging their autonomy and self-determination.

Trust, acceptance, and empathy

Humanistic therapists offer genuine acceptance and nonjudgmental support to their clients.

They foster an atmosphere of trust where people feel valued and understood, regardless of their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. This unconditional positive regard aims to help people develop self-acceptance and build solid relationships.

By demonstrating empathy, therapists can provide emotional validation. This empathetic connection enhances the therapeutic process. It encourages individuals to explore their emotions openly.

Humanistic therapy emphasizes the concept of self-actualization, which is the innate drive in each person to realize their full potential.

Therapists support clients in their journey of self-discovery, helping them uncover their unique strengths, values, and aspirations.

Humanistic therapy operates on the premise that every person has the potential for self-improvement and personal growth.

By providing an empathetic, supportive, and person-centered environment, people can grow toward understanding their worldview and cultivating genuine self-acceptance.

Humanistic therapies include a diverse range of approaches, including Gestalt therapy, client-centered therapy, and existential therapy:

  • Gestalt therapy: Gestalt therapy focuses on helping people become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the present moment. It employs role-playing, empty-chair dialogues, and guided imagery to facilitate self-awareness and personal growth.
  • Client-centered therapy: This approach strongly emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and the concept of unconditional positive regard. The therapist provides empathetic understanding and support, creating a safe space for clients to express their emotions and thoughts freely.
  • Existential therapy: Existential therapy draws from existential philosophy, questioning purpose, freedom, responsibility, and the search for meaning in life.

Humanistic therapists help people develop unconditional positive regard for themselves, helping them avoid feelings of inadequacy. In turn, this improves how a person views themselves and others.

Through reflective techniques and open-ended questions, therapists help people gain deeper self-understanding and awareness of their beliefs, values, and motivations.

By encouraging autonomy, people learn to trust their inner resources. They can then make decisions that align with their authentic selves and make meaningful life changes.

Choosing the right type of therapy for you

Selecting the most suitable type of therapy is crucial in fostering emotional well-being and personal growth.

Each therapeutic approach offers unique techniques, principles, and goals that cater to the person’s needs and preferences.

When choosing the right type of therapy, a person can consider the specific issues to address, their personality traits, and their comfort level with different therapies.

People can consult a mental health professional who can provide valuable guidance in determining which therapy best aligns with their goals and circumstances.

Learn more about different types of therapy.

Humanistic therapy can offer various benefits, including:

  • Self-acceptance: Humanistic therapy emphasizes unconditional positive self-regard and acceptance, increasing self-esteem and a positive self-concept.
  • Empowerment: Humanistic therapy empowers people to take an active role in their healing journey by prioritizing autonomy and personal responsibility.
  • Holistic approach: Humanistic therapy takes a whole-person view. It considers the person’s emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and unique life experiences.
  • Therapeutic relationship: The therapeutic relationship is central to humanistic therapy. Therapists provide genuine empathy, understanding, and support, creating a strong bond with clients.
  • Personal growth: Humanistic therapy focuses on self-actualization and personal development. It helps people uncover their authentic selves and realize their full potential. Through this process, people can gain clarity about their values, aspirations, and goals, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

While humanistic therapy offers significant benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Limited structure: Humanistic therapy tends to be less structured than other therapeutic modalities. Some people may prefer a more structured and directive approach. This may make the open-ended nature of humanistic therapy challenging or overwhelming.
  • Time-intensive: Achieving meaningful and lasting results in humanistic therapy may require a longer treatment duration than other short-term therapies.
  • Emotional intensity: Humanistic therapy encourages clients to explore deep emotions and experiences, which can be emotionally intense and triggering.
  • Limited focus on specific issues: Humanistic therapy is broad in scope. It may not always provide specialized treatment for specific mental health conditions or challenges.
  • Therapist-dependent: The effectiveness of humanistic therapy heavily relies on the therapeutic relationship and the therapist’s skill in providing empathy and support. People may not experience the same benefit level if they do not feel a strong connection with their therapist.

Finding humanistic therapy services involves a thoughtful and proactive approach to identifying qualified therapists who offer this therapeutic modality.

A person can start by researching humanistic therapy and its principles to understand its approach and potential benefits.

Online resources, such as the Psychologist Locator from the American Psychological Association and the National Register of Health Service Psychologists, can help people find local therapists who suit their needs.

A person can also ask their primary care doctor or trusted friends, family members, or colleagues for referrals.

When considering a therapist, a person can carefully consider the therapist’s qualifications, experience, therapeutic approach, and areas of expertise.

Many therapists offer free consultation calls. These can allow the person to speak directly with potential therapists, ask questions, and assess their personalities and therapeutic styles.

In general, humanistic therapy fees are comparable to other types of psychotherapy. Costs vary depending on the therapist’s credentials, location, experience, and specific services.

Additionally, online therapy platforms and teletherapy options may provide more cost-effective alternatives. They often offer a range of pricing plans and subscription-based models.

BetterHelp is one example, with plans costing $60–$90 weekly. Talkspace costs around $109 weekly or less.

In addition to humanistic therapies, various other modalities can support people in their mental health journey, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is an evidence-based therapy that focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors. It helps people develop healthier coping strategies and fosters lasting changes in behavior.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: Rooted in psychoanalytic principles, psychodynamic therapy explores unconscious thoughts and emotions to understand their influence on present-day experiences. It aims to foster lasting change through increased self-awareness.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies: These therapies integrate mindfulness practices to promote self-awareness, stress reduction, and emotional regulation. Two examples are mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

A person can opt for in-person or online therapy. Online therapy options offer virtual sessions and counseling services. They can provide convenience and accessibility for people with busy schedules or limited mobility.

Some virtual therapy options include:

Humanistic therapy is a compassionate and empowering approach to mental health. It prioritizes individual growth, self-awareness, and personal responsibility.

Grounded in the belief in the inherent worth of each person, this humanistic therapy fosters a safe and supportive environment for people to explore their emotions, values, and aspirations without judgment.

Through unconditional positive regard and empathy, humanistic therapy empowers people to embrace their authentic selves, leading to improved self-acceptance and increased self-esteem.