The Humanistic Approach
‘THE THIRD FORCE’
Carl Rogers (1961)
Abraham Maslow (1970)
The approach assumes that every person
is unique and that psychology should
focus on the subjective feelings and
thoughts of the person.
This is described as an ideographic
approach. The focus is on each individual,
not whole populations.
All people have free will, and that their
behaviour is not determined by
unconscious forces (psychodynamic) or
People must be viewed from a holistic
point of view. Instead of reducing
behaviour and thought to smaller
elements the focus should be the whole
People are essentially good and will grow
psychologically if given positive regard at all
People strive to realise their full potential in life
– called self actualisation
People are motivated by a hierarchy of needs,
with basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy
and self-actualisation needs at the top.
Psychological therapies should be client-
centred and involve warmth, empathy and
Psychological problems are due to a
difference between a person’s perceived
self and their ideal self.
The scientific method is not appropriate
to help our understanding of people. The
focus must be on subjective experience,
known by the term phenomenology,
which is to do with a person’s own
experience of the here and now.
The self and self-concept are
fundamental, and conscious report is all
Humanists believe that every person has
active agency, this means they are able
to change and decide on their own
development. People can change their
actions and the environment in which
This means that people are responsible
for their own actions and for their own
Client Centred Therapy
In terms of this, people are encouraged
to understand how free will may be
constrained. People cannot go around
doing whatever they want all the time.
What other people want, the morals and
the laws of society, and family values, for
example, may all constrain free will.
In order to function properly in society,
the person has to understand these
constraints and learn to live with them.
Self and Self Actualisation
Ideal self vs Actual self
Unconditional positive regard
Carl Rogers (1980)
The concept of self develops and emerges
during childhood. The child develops an
awareness of the self and ‘I’ or ‘me’
As the child grows older they become
aware of their own identity, personality
characteristics, likes and dislikes, and so
The self includes all aspects of personal
experience and a sense of ‘being’.
Through the feeling of the self develops
the self-concept. The most important
part of this being the ideal self.
If there is a significant difference
between these two elements then a state
of discomfort or incongruence is said to
It is the aim of Humanistic
Psychotherapy to lessen this difference
and bring about a state of congruence.
Self - Actualisation
Both Rogers and Maslow believed that
every person has an innate tendency to
realise their full potential, or self-actualise.
This may be achieved in different ways by
different people. Some may achieve it
through religious devotion, others through
cooking, and others through writing
Hierarchy of Needs
As each need is satisfied, the person may
go up the hierarchy and attempt to
satisfy the next need. People who suffer
extreme poverty or privation may spend
all their time trying to satisfy the basic
physiological and safety needs, and may
never achieve the higher needs.
The first four needs are deficiency needs
(trying to make or achieve what is
essential to live), while the fifth need, self-
actualisation, is a growth need.
Maslow said there are 3 main
preconditions for a person to be able to
No restraints imposed by others on what
you can do;
Little or no distraction from deficiency
An ability to know yourself very well.
Key characteristics of people who
self-actualise (Maslow 1970)
Accurate perceptions of the world;
Acceptance of other people;
Good sense of humour;
Detached and needing privacy.
Maslow described the experience of self-
actualisation as having a ‘peak
Some may regard self-actualisation as a
deeply religious experience or mythical
experience that is of great significance in
Moments of self-actualisation do not
often occur in life and some people may
never achieve this.