Humanism was pioneered by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Centered on constructive side of human nature (resources) rather than how problems develop

Uses the metaphor of plant which if provided with the appropriate conditions, will naturally grow toward its actualization as a big tree. 

Known also as phenomenology it underscores human subjective, non deterministic perceptions which guide how our behave.

In counseling humanistic approach emphasizes on the client as the agent for self-change. 


      Humans have internal resources (assets) which can lead into self growth leading to fully functioning state.

      Individuals are trustworthy, resourceful, capable of self-understanding and self-direction.

      Individuals have the inner desire to grow/move forward and become self actualized

      The actualizing tendency is a directional process of striving toward realization, fulfillment, autonomy, self-determination and perfection. 

      A fully functioning individual is able to make constructive changes, and able to live effective and productive lives. 

      This person is able to deal with their own problems (with minimum help from other people.)

      As phenomenology, the approach underscores the client’s conscious subjective experience and emphasizes on concepts such as freedom, will power, choice, values, personal responsibility, autonomy, purpose, and meaning. 


Hierarchy of  content

      Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people to behave in certain ways.

      He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential (not what goes wrong with people)

      He believed that people possess a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards (behaviourism) or unconscious desires (psychodynamism).

Hierarchy of Needs

People are motivated to achieve certain needs which determines their behaviour. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on

This five stage model can be divided into:

Basic (or deficiency) needs (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem)

Growth needs (self-actualization).

      The deficiency, or basic needs are said to motivate people when they are unmet.

      The need to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied.

1.  Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.

2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.

3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.

4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

      Growth needs are motivating when met. One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs.

      Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.

5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

      Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization.

      Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs.

      Life experiences, including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy.


      Stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth.

      Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of.

      In self-actualization a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.

Behaviours of Self Actualization

      Accept themselves and others for what they are;

      Problem-centered (not self-centered);

      Able to look at life objectively;

      Highly creative;

      Concerned for the welfare of humanity;

      Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;

      Need for privacy;

      Strong moral/ethical standards.


 Agreed with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow, but added that for a person to "grow", they need an environment that provides them with:

      Genuineness (openness and self-disclosure)

      Acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard) and

      Empathy (being listened to and understood).

      Without these, relationships and healthy personalities will not develop as they should, much like a tree will not grow without sunlight and water.

Self Actualization

      Human behaviour is phenomenological (non deterministic) because the subjective perception of unique experiences is nearly impossible to determine.

   "As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves."

      Humans have one basic motive, that is the tendency to self-actualize - i.e. to fulfill one's potential and achieve the highest level of 'human-beingness'. 

       People will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough.

      However, the potential of the individual human is unique, and we are meant to develop in different ways according to our personality.  

      People are inherently good and creative.  They become destructive only when a poor self-concept or external constraints override the valuing process. 

      For a person to achieve self-actualization they must be in a state of congruence.

      This means that self-actualization occurs when a person’s “ideal self” (i.e. who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior (self-image). 

      Rogers describes an individual who is actualizing as a fully functioning person. The main determinant of whether we will become self-actualized is childhood experience.

Fully Functioning Person

      Rogers believed that every person could achieve their goals, wishes, and desires in life.

      When they did so self-actualization took place. People who are able be self-actualize are called fully functioning persons.

      Fully functioning person as an ideal and one that people do not ultimately achieve

Behaviours of Fully Functioning

      Open to experience (accept both +ve and –ve)  

      Existential living (live and fully appreciate the present)

      Trust feelings (feeling, instincts)

      Creativity (risk taking)

      Fulfilled life (happy and satisfied life)


      Central to Rogers' personality theory is the notion of self or self-concept.  This is defined as "the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself".

      The self is the humanistic term for who we really are as a person. 

      It is influenced by the experiences a person has in their life, and out interpretations of those experiences. 

Two primary sources that influence our self concept are:

      childhood experiences and

      evaluation by others.

We feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self. 

The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth. 

A person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in the self-image.

The humanistic approach states that the self is composed of concepts unique to ourselves.


The self-concept includes three components:

Self worth (or self-esteem) – what we think about ourselves.

Self-image – How we see ourselves, which is important to good psychological health

Ideal (ought) self – This is the person who we would like to be

Self Worth and Positive Regard

      Carl Rogers viewed the child as having two basic needs: Positive regard from other people and self-worth.

      Self-worth may be seen as a spectrum from very high to very low. 

      For Carl Rogers a person who has high self-worth, that is, has confidence and positive feelings about him or herself, faces challenges in life

      Rogers believed feelings of self-worth developed in early childhood and were formed from the interaction of the child with the mother and father.

      Rogers believed that we need to be regarded positively by others; we need to feel valued, respected, treated with affection and loved.

      Positive regard is to do with how other people evaluate and judge us in social interaction.

      Unconditional positive regard is where parents, significant others (and the humanist counsellor) accepts and loves the person for what she or he is. 

      The consequences of unconditional positive regard are that the person feels free to try things out and make mistakes, even though this may lead to getting it worse at times. 

      Conditional positive regard is where positive regard, praise and approval, depend upon the child, for example, behaving in ways that the parents think correct. 

      Hence the child is not loved for the person he or she is, but on condition that he or she behaves only in ways approved by the parent(s). 


      A person’s ideal self may not be consistent with what actually happens in life and experiences of the person.

      Hence, a difference may exist between a person’s ideal self and actual experience. This is called incongruence.

      Where a person’s ideal self and actual experience are consistent or very similar, a state of congruence exists.

      Rarely, if ever, does a total state of congruence exist; all people experience a certain amount of incongruence.

      The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth.

      Incongruence is "a discrepancy between the actual experience of the organism and the self-picture of the individual insofar as it represents that experience.

      We prefer to see ourselves in ways that are consistent with our self-image so we may use defense mechanisms 

      A person whose self-concept is incongruent with her or his real feelings and experiences will defend because the truth hurts.


Aims at assisting a client grow/becoming actualized (not on the person’s presenting problem)

Provides a climate conducive to helping the individual become a fully functioning person (helping the client gain contact with their ‘self’, self exploration, self acceptance finally self change.

Facilitates actualizing tendency in clients by helping them gain:

       i) openness to experience

       ii) trust in themselves

       iii) internal source of evaluation

       iv) willingness to continue grow


The role is rooted in counsellor ways of being and attitudes (not in techniques as in psychodynamics)

A counsellor use themselves as an instrument/catalyst of change (to create the counselling climate for growth)

By being congruent, accepting, and empathic they make the client less defensive and more open to change


Clients come to the counselor in a state of incongruence (discrepancy exists between their self-perception and their experience in reality)

They have feeling of basic helplessness, powerlessness, and an inability to make decisions or effectively direct their own lives.

As client feel understood and accepted, their defensiveness reduces, and they become more open to their experience. 

Because they are not as threatened, feel safer, and are less vulnerable, they become more realistic, perceive others with greater accuracy, and become better able to understand and accept others. 

Counselling empowers the client to be an agent if their own change (to direct their own lives instead of looking outside of themselves for answers)

With increased freedom they tend to become more mature psychologically and more actualized.


Quality of the relationship between a client and counsellor is the “necessary and sufficient conditions for personality change” (not as in psychodynamic counselling)

1. Two persons are in psychological contact. 

2. The first, or the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious. 

2. The second person, or the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship. 

4. The counsellor experiences unconditional positive regard for the client. 

5. The counsellor experiences an empathic understanding of the client’ experience and communicates this to the client. 

6. The communication to empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved.


Congruence or genuineness 

 Being real, genuine, integrated, and authentic during the counselling session

Unconditional positive regard and acceptance

 Valuing and warmly accepting clients without placing judgment and evaluation of client’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior as good or bad. 

Accurate empathic understanding

 Understanding clients’ experience and feelings sensitively and accurately as they are revealed. 


      Effective with a wide range of client problems including anxiety disorders, alcoholism, interpersonal difficulties, depression and personality disorders. 

      Applicable in crisis intervention such as unwanted pregnancy, an illness, or the loss of a loved one

       In crisis, people need to fully express themselves. 

      Sensitive listening, hearing, and understanding are essential. 

      Being heard and understood helps to calm and enables them think more clearly and make better decisions.




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