Humanistic Therapy

NOTE: This page is for reference, definition, and information only. Wilopa Practitioners are not licensed medical personnel and do not practice the form of psychotherapy described herein.

Humanistic therapy is a psychological perspective emphasizing the client’s inherent drive toward self-actualization, the process of realizing and expressing one’s own capabilities and creativity.

Developed in the 1950s and 1960s as a reaction to more traditional and directive therapeutic approaches, humanistic therapy places the client at the center of the therapeutic process, honoring their unique experiences, values, and perspectives. In this article, we delve into the principles and techniques of humanistic therapy, exploring how this empowering and compassionate approach facilitates personal growth and self-discovery.

Humanistic therapy helps the client gain the belief that all people are inherently good. It adopts a holistic approach to human existence and pays special attention to such phenomena as creativity, free will, and positive human potential. It encourages viewing ourselves as a “whole person” greater than the sum of our parts and encourages self exploration rather than the study of behavior in other people. Humanistic psychology acknowledges spiritual aspiration as an integral part of the psyche. It is linked to the emerging field of transpersonal psychology.

Understanding Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy is grounded in the belief that individuals possess the capacity for self-awareness, self-acceptance, and positive change. It emphasizes the importance of the present moment and acknowledges the influence of personal experiences, emotions, and aspirations on an individual’s well-being. Humanistic therapists aim to create a safe, non-judgmental space where clients can explore their thoughts and feelings freely, fostering a deeper understanding of themselves and their potential for growth.

Primarily, this type of therapy encourages a self-awareness and mindfulness that helps the client change their state of mind and behavior from one set of reactions to a healthier one with more productive self-awareness and thoughtful actions. Essentially, this approach allows the merging of mindfulness and behavioral therapy, with positive social support.

One of the main goals of this therapy is to help the client gain self-awareness and work on self-improvement. This therapy emphasizes the importance of accepting responsibility for yourself and focusing on the present. It also focuses on your inherent positive traits, behaviors, and good nature. This approach emphasizes your ability to find fulfillment, healing, and maximum potential within themselves.

Key Principles of Humanistic Therapy

  1. Client-Centered Approach: Humanistic therapy is centered around the client, respecting their autonomy and valuing their unique experiences. The therapist serves as a compassionate facilitator, supporting the client’s journey of self-discovery.
  2. Holistic Perspective: Humanistic therapy views individuals as whole beings, recognizing the inter-connectedness of their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical experiences.
  3. Self-Actualization: The humanistic approach emphasizes the innate drive within individuals to reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.
  4. Authenticity and Congruence: Humanistic therapists strive to be authentic and genuine in their interactions with clients, fostering an atmosphere of trust and acceptance.
  5. Unconditional Positive Regard: Humanistic therapists offer clients unconditional positive regard, accepting them without judgment or criticism.
  6. Empathy: Empathy is a core principle of humanistic therapy, as therapists seek to understand and validate the client’s emotions and experiences.

Techniques in Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy employs various techniques to facilitate personal growth and self-awareness:

  1. Active Listening: Humanistic therapists practice active listening, giving full attention to the client’s thoughts and emotions, and reflecting back their feelings to promote understanding.
  2. Reflection: Therapists use reflective statements to help clients gain insight into their emotions and thought patterns.
  3. Open-Ended Questions: Open-ended questions encourage clients to explore their thoughts and feelings more deeply, fostering self-discovery.
  4. Gestalt Techniques: Gestalt techniques, such as role-playing and empty chair exercises, can help clients explore unresolved emotions and conflicts.
  5. Mindfulness and Presence: Therapists encourage clients to be present in the moment, cultivating self-awareness and acceptance.

Benefits of Humanistic Therapy

  1. Increased Self-Awareness: Humanistic therapy facilitates greater self-awareness, helping clients gain insight into their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  2. Enhanced Self-Esteem: By providing a supportive and accepting environment, humanistic therapy promotes improved self-esteem and self-acceptance.
  3. Personal Growth and Development: Clients are encouraged to embrace their potential for growth and self-actualization, leading to personal development and meaningful change.
  4. Empowerment: Humanistic therapy empowers individuals to take responsibility for their lives and make choices aligned with their values and aspirations.
  5. Improved Relationships: By gaining insight into themselves, clients can enhance their relationships with others, fostering deeper connections and effective communication.


Empathy is one of the most important aspects of humanistic therapy. This idea focuses on the therapist’s ability to see the world through the eyes of the client. Included in empathizing, unconditional positive regard is one of the key elements of humanistic therapy. This ensures that the therapist does not become the authority figure in the relationship allowing for a more open flow of information as well as a kinder relationship between the two.

A therapist practicing humanistic therapy needs to show a willingness to listen and ensure the comfort of the patient where genuine feelings may be shared but are not forced upon someone.

The Ideal Self

The ideal self and real self involve understanding the issues that arise from having an idea of what you wish you are as a person (ideal self), and having that differ from who you actually are (real self). The ideal self is what a person believes should be done according to  what their core values are. The real self is what is actually plays out in life.

Through humanistic therapy, an understanding of the present allows clients to add positive experiences to their real self concept. The goal is to have the two concepts of self become congruent.

Our version of humanistic therapy is neither a medical nor a clinical approach. It is a similar yet modified and enhanced holistic approach that far exceeds the capabilities and efficacy of the traditional medical counterpart.


Humanistic therapy stands as a compassionate and empowering approach to psychotherapy, recognizing the inherent worth and potential for growth within each individual. By fostering self-awareness, self-acceptance, and personal development, humanistic therapy empowers clients to embrace their authentic selves, make positive changes, and lead fulfilling lives.

As individuals embark on their journey of self-discovery, guided by the principles of humanistic therapy, they are empowered to cultivate a greater sense of meaning, purpose, and well-being, ultimately embracing the richness of the human experience.