Humanistic psychology (humanism) is grounded in the belief that people are innately good. This type of psychology holds that morality, ethical values, and good intentions are the driving forces of behavior, while adverse social or psychological experiences can be attributed to deviations from natural tendencies.
Humanistic therapy is a positive approach to psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s individual nature, rather than categorizing groups of people with similar characteristics as having the same problems. Humanistic therapy looks at the whole person, not only from the therapist’s view but from the viewpoint of individuals observing their own behavior. The emphasis is on a person’s positive traits and behaviors, and the ability to use their personal instincts to find wisdom, growth, healing, and fulfillment within themselves.
Some fundamental assumptions of humanistic psychology include:
Experiencing (thinking, sensing, perceiving, feeling, remembering, and so on) is central.
The subjective experience of the individual is the primary indicator of behavior.
An accurate understanding of human behavior cannot be achieved by studying animals.
Free will exists, and individuals should take personal responsibility for self-growth and fulfillment. Not all behavior is determined.
Self-actualization (the need for a person to reach maximum potential) is natural.
People are inherently good and will experience growth if provided with suitable conditions, especially during childhood.
Each person and each experience is unique, so psychologists should treat each case individually, rather than rely on averages from group studies.
Self-acceptance too often is intertwined with attempts to rationalize ourselves as being right or justified in our mistakes instead of embracing our humanity as imperfect creatures. Authentic self-acceptance requires that we are honest with ourselves about responsibility. Instead of seeking to justify our mistakes, we embrace them.
Louis Hoffman, 2014, A Cultural Crisis of Responsibility: Responding to a Denial of Our Humanity