Essentially for a considerable long period, psychoanalysts dominated psychology, with their emphasis on individual behaviour being largely through the unconscious mind, and the behaviourists who viewed individual behaviour as mainly the result of their environment. However, during the middle of the twentieth century, the humanistic approach appeared which provided a view of human’s being free and generous individuals with the potential for growth and fulfilment. Moreover, the approach advocated the study of the subjective human experience (case study was preferred method as a result).
The main proponent of the humanistic approach was Carl Rodgers. Rodgers was a qualified clinical psychology and like Freud, developed most of his work while working with emotionally unstable individuals. He claimed many psychological problems develop from what he calls the “would/should” dilemma. This is referred to a conflict between what individual feel they should do (should) and what they feel is best for them (would). For example an individual may feel it is important for him to get on with some work at his office, but should spend more time with his mum. The discomfort resulting from the would/should dilemma results in anxiety.
Rodgers theory of the human personality started from the argument that individuals are good, unique, and have a basic need for positive regard – that is to be respected and accepted by others. Rodgers contended that all people are born with actualising tendency, a motive that forces us to develop into maturity as well as gaining health. Central to his theory is the concept of the perceived self, that is, the individuals’ view of themselves, developed through their life experiences.
He claimed the perceived self has an affect on one’s perception of the world and one’s behaviour. He also proposed that there is another aspect of self, the ideal self – one’s perception of how he/she would like to be. Thus a man might perceive himself as a successful well-liked psychologist but with drawbacks as a husband. His ideal self might persist that he be as successful as possible in both being respected and a good husband. Rodgers claimed that once the perceived self and ideal self become compatible the individual can expect to experience good mental health. It is when a serious disparity occurred that psychological problems develop.
During his work, Rodgers developed a form of therapy that he called client-centred therapy, where the clients have the enthusiasm and motivation to help themselves. The facilitator (therapist in other therapies) attempts to create a warm, accepting environment. In contrast to other psychological therapies, the facilitator is not an expert and the therapy is nondirective. The purpose of the therapy is help clients explain their thoughts on particular problems and from their thoughts, helping them gain further insights into them. The greater understanding helps the clients understand their own strengths and limitations and usually achieves increased self-esteem.
The key principal in the therapy is that the clients’ gain more control of their problems and that they find satisfactory solutions to them. Rodgers and other humanistic psychologists often use group therapy. They believe this allows individuals to express their problems to others, and they advocate the insights and advice they receive from others helps them to understand how they are perceived.
Rodgers and one of his top proponents, Abraham Maslow, claimed that self-awareness and the ability to come to terms with oneself as the adequate ingredients for a healthy psychological mental state. They both saw humans as being determined to accomplish their maximum potential – to fulfil the most amount of personal growth available within their individual limitations. However, while Rodgers was continually emphasising the significance of self-concept, Maslow was extremely interested in the motives that drive individuals. Maslow contended that there were two types of motivation –
1. Deficiency motivation – The importance to decrease physiological tensions such as hunger and thirst. 2. Growth motivation – The importance of satisfaction requirements such as the need to be loved and esteemed. Maslow from his study produced a hierarchy of needs which he claimed were innate. The needs are the bottom of the hierarchy need to be fulfilled in order for the needs further up to be satisfied.
Victor Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905. His personal theories were greatly influenced by Freud’s assumptions about mental illnesses. During the Second World War he was exposed to the threat of Nazi Germany and spent three years suffering in a concentration camp, an experience that had a philosophical effect on his later theory. He published a book in 1992 entitled “mans search for meaning”, promoting the development of a theoretical framework which he called Logotherapy.
Fundamentally Logotherapy supports many of the humanistic assumptions. In relation to Rodgers who claimed individuals have the freedom to manipulate their own life, Frankl accepted the view but also contributed the view that there are certain circumstances when the freedom is limited. He believed that when he was in the concentration camp other individual’s imprisoned had a choice in their attitudes towards the experience.
In addition he also believed the definition of a given experience could only be determined by person having the particular experience. In order to understand an individual’s behaviour it is necessary to understand the meaning recognized to that individual. Frankl theory was primarily based on his view that the foremost purpose in life was to find meaning in a world that appears to be meaningless. Meaning, of course, referring to an individual’s understanding of immediate experiences and the attitude that he takes towards the experience.
In Logotherapy Frankl explained that its purpose was to help patients become fully conscious of there own responsibilities. The therapist does not judge the patient, but attempts to help them discover their personal values. This is very much like Rodgers client-centred therapy, however the key difference is to do with Rodgers belief that all individuals are good and health beings.