Why do I practice Humanistic Client Centered therapy?
Those of us practicing client centered therapy and other forms of humanistic psychology view people with dignity, autonomy, and natural abilities; capable of determining their own behaviors and goals. Humanism was a reaction to the two dominant forces in psychology – behaviorism and psychoanalysis prominent in the 50’s. Humanism found its roots in a philosophy that emphasized self-realization. The development of humanism was also bolstered existentialism (which I address below). This counter philosophy, of respecting the individual’s autonomy and trusting in internal resources of that person, is just as relevant today. Just as in the 40’s, today’s dominant therapy philosophy with its reliance on medication and cognitive behavioral often takes power away from the individual and gives it to the therapist. It is my firm belief that since:
- it is the individual who ultimately bears the consequences of their treatment
- that all of us have untapped resources
- that each individual is the only one who can define what will bring true happiness and love to their life
I believe it is imperative to take this holistic, caring and respective stance in therapy.
The practice of Client Centered Therapy
One of the leaders in the development humanistic therapy was Carl Rogers. He called a particular stance in therapy person-centered therapy. He empirically and scientifically proved that the most relevant factor in therapeutic improvement came from rapport. Roger’s found that the therapist needed to foster just three conditions for growth to occur.
- The first condition is unconditional positive regard, which means the therapist affirms the client’s worth as a human being is not judgmental or critical.
- The second is empathetic understanding – relating to the client’s experience, emotions and thoughts from the client’s perspective.
- The third condition is congruence and refers to the authenticity of the therapist.
As a result of embracing this stance, all my clients made progress, no matter how others or themselves had given up hope. A side benefit for me is that I personally grow, as my clients grow.
My experience has been that the difficulties that most of my client’s face comes from trouble adapting to circumstances, environment, social concerns or often a medical calamity. Often they find themselves in situations they cannot or will not accept. Existential psychotherapy is based on the assumptions that there are some basic difficulties that every individual must face as part of being human. These include freedom of choice, responsibility, anxiety, guilt, meaninglessness, uncertainty and most importantly Death. Thus experiencing these things is unavoidable. If not faced with the right skills and attitudes difficulties will arise.
There are two schools in existential philosophy:
- An atheistic and more pessimistic school of thought, that we cannot avoid and must learn to cope and live with these vagaries of life
- The more optimistic school, the one I practice, which is a spiritual based one where, we can transcend the vicissitudes in this life and most likely in our concept of an afterlife.
This stance and the new life skills offered affords a wonderful path for those who have suffered some life changing event. The path ahead of them becomes wide open, the box disappears, they no longer seek to restore their past, rather they embrace a new, richer future despite grave physical, mental or social losses.