Saturday, May 15, 2010

Humanistic psychology

Humanistic psychology was developed in the 1950s in reaction to both behaviorism and psychoanalysis. By using phenomenology, intersubjectivity and first-person categories, the humanistic approach sought to glimpse the whole person—not just the fragmented parts of the personality or cognitive functioning.  Humanism focused on fundamentally and uniquely human issues, such as self-identity, death, aloneness, freedom, and meaning. The humanistic approach was distinguished by its emphasis on subjective meaning, rejection of determinism, and concern for positive growth rather than pathology. Some of the founders of this school of thought were American psychologists Abraham Maslow, who formulated a hierarchy of human needs, and Carl Rogers, who created and developed client-centered therapy; and German-American psychiatrist Fritz Perls, who co-founded Gestalt therapy. It became so influential as to be called the "third force" within psychology, along with behaviorism and psychoanalysis.  Later, positive psychology opened up humanistic themes to scientific modes of exploration.
Abraham Maslow
Influenced largely by the work of German philosopher Martin Heidegger and Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, psychoanalytically trained American psychologist Rollo May pioneered an existential breed of psychology, which included existential therapy, in the 1950s and 1960s. Existential psychologists differed from others often classified as humanistic in their comparatively neutral view of human nature and in their relatively positive assessment of anxiety.  Existential psychologists emphasized the humanistic themes of death, free will, and meaning, suggesting that meaning can be shaped by myths, or narrative patterns, and that it can be encouraged by an acceptance of the free will requisite to an authentic, albeit often anxious, regard for death and other future prospects. Austrian existential psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl drew evidence of meaning's therapeutic power from reflections garnered from his own internment, and he created a variety of existential psychotherapy called logotherapy. In addition to May and Frankl, Swiss psychoanalyst Ludwig Binswanger and American psychologist George Kelly may be said to belong to the existential school.