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Humanistic therapies help an individual develop a stronger and healthier sense of self so that he/she can reach his/her full potential. The humanistic approach focuses on self-growth that leads to self-actualization. This includes exploring and developing a person’s creativity, freedom, strengths, spirituality, and values. Personal responsibility, freedom of choice, and self-mastery are the essential components of humanistic therapies.
In order for humanistic therapies to be meaningful and effective, the client needs to experience a genuine, nonjudgmental, and empathic bond with the therapist or counsellor. The therapist/counsellor uses open-ended responses, reflective listening, and tentative interpretations to give the client a safe setting in which to freely and fully express himself/herself.
The positive orientation of humanistic therapies has helped transform the way people regard psychotherapy. Instead of simply being viewed as a treatment for mental or emotional illness, psychotherapy has come into vogue as a method for normal, healthy people to explore their abilities and potential. Humanistic therapies give greater credit to the individual in determining and controlling his/her state of mental and emotional health. In addition, the humanistic approach not only takes into account a person’s internal thoughts and desires but also the environmental influences that affect his/her experiences.
Person-Centered Counselling, also known as client-centered therapy or Rogerian psychotherapy (pioneered by Carl Rogers), requires the authentic personal involvement between both client and therapist. It is a real relationship wherein both view each other as important and the client feels valued for himself/herself rather than for thinking, feeling, or behaving in ways others think he/she should. Self-disclosure is mutual, meaning the therapist draws from his/her own experience to express genuine understanding and empathy for the client’s situation. The message to the client is, “I feel what you’re feeling. I know what you’re going through.” When the client perceives the counsellor’s unconditional acceptance and positive regard, the client feels safe exposing his/her vulnerability and anxiety.
Unlike psychotherapy, which seeks to probe the client’s unconscious mind for memories of past events, person-centered therapy is concerned with the client’s present experience. There is no particular structure to this non-directive approach. The therapeutic relationship itself provides the means for the client to find his/her own solutions to problems or obstacles that get in the way of self-fulfillment.
Person-centered counselling bridges the gap between a client’s ideal self and his/her actual self. Its primary goals are increased self-esteem and greater openness to experience. The objectives may include lower levels of defensiveness and insecurity, less guilt and more self-understanding, more positive and comfortable relationships, and an increased capacity to fully experience and express feelings at the moment they occur.
Transactional Analysis is a method of improving communication based on the philosophy that people can change and have a right to find acceptance within themselves and their world. It examines the ways in which people develop, treat themselves, and communicate verbally and nonverbally with others. It is considered a social psychology because it helps people understand complex interpersonal transactions, especially the manipulative and often harmful – sometimes even dangerous – “ mind games” that people play to gain attention, recognition, favor, dominance, or control in the relationship.
The therapist or counsellor studies three sets of thoughts, feelings, and behaviour on the part of the client: the ones absorbed or adopted from his/her parents and other important people, those he/she learnt from childhood, and his/her current direct responses that have not been influenced by the past.
These careful observations help the counsellor and the client identify what goes wrong in the communication process by looking into the repetitive patterns that produce undesirable or unfavorable results. The client is encouraged to analyse previous decisions in order to understand how these have set the direction and pattern that his/her life has taken.
Finally, the counsellor helps the client become skilled at improving the quality of his/her communication and interaction with others and ultimately learn to trust his/her own decisions.
Transpersonal Psychology integrates psychological methods and concepts with spiritual disciplines and practices. It combines traditional and modern worldviews as well as Western and Eastern perspectives. It employs the analytical/rational intellect, direct experience, and contemplative or mystical ways of knowing such as meditation and visualisation.
Transpersonal psychology is concerned with the aspects of human experience that transcend or go beyond the personal level, such as the spiritual realm. It helps a person look past the obvious facets of his/her identity such as gender, race, body, age, and culture to discover his/her deepest core or “higher self”. The journey into a higher, more spiritual consciousness is essentially a search for a deeper meaning to one’s existence. It enables a person to access an enhanced capacity for wisdom, creativity, compassion, and unconditional love.
It is considered by many to be the highest mode of self-realization as it has been known to bring about a deep sense of peace and contentment. It may also motivate individuals to move beyond satisfying their own personal desires and find purpose in serving or working for the greater good of humanity.
Existential Therapy is a philosophical method of therapy which is based on the belief that inner conflict is a result of a person’s confrontation with the realities and paradoxes of life. It views human issues such as love, loss, death, finitude (the concept that all things come to an end), fate, freedom, responsibility, meaninglessness, suffering, evil, and the loneliness of isolation as being at the root of psychological problems. Although it offers no ultimate answers, existential therapy optimistically embraces human potential while realistically acknowledging human limitations. It focuses on the positive potential for good and growth that is inherent in the human condition.
Instead of scientifically and objectively evaluating and analysing existence, existential therapy advocates subjective interpretation by describing and understanding things in order to grasp their essence. Poetry is one method of subjectively interpreting and gaining insight into one’s life experiences. Imagination and emotion are likewise explored. Existential therapy also introduces the themes of free will, choice, personal and social responsibility, and courage in facing rather than escaping the anxieties of existence. It helps a person make sense of his/her existence by looking for value and meaning in one’s life through living intuitively, passionately, and creatively from the depths of one’s being.
In specific terms, existential therapy helps the client understand and find freedom or relief from excessive anxiety, alienation, apathy, shame, addiction, despair, depression, guilt, anger, rage, embitterment, violence, madness or psychosis, purposelessness, and nihilism. (Nihilism refers to the total destructiveness which springs from the belief that all values are baseless.) It counters these negative conditions by promoting meaningful, life-enhancing experiences such as love, caring, relationships, commitment, courage, will, power, self-actualization, authenticity, acceptance, transcendence, spirituality, presence, and awe.
Gestalt Therapy focuses on helping a person fully experience his/her present situation rather than going back in time to talk about past events. The therapist does not interpret the experience for the client. Instead, both of them work together to help the client understand himself/herself.
The German term “gestalt” refers to how something or someone is formed or “put together” in a certain pattern or configuration. Gestalt therapy aims to help the client figure out his/her unique configuration; in short, gain self-awareness so that unresolved interpersonal issues can surface and immediate needs can be met. The inability to express and meet needs as they arise can result in a feeling of being overwhelmed or imprisoned by problems and difficulties.
In Gestalt therapy, the client learns to recognise and acknowledge his/her repressed needs by identifying current sensations and emotions. He/she is encouraged to satisfy these needs so that they can fade into the background of one’s consciousness to make room for other issues that need to be resolved. This constant flow of needs is viewed as normal, and a well-adjusted person is able to satisfy them.
One powerful technique used to assist a client in accepting and asserting his/her buried feelings and needs is role-playing. For example, a client can pretend to talk to an inanimate object such as a chair as though it was a real person to communicate what he/she is feeling and express what needs to be said.
Gestalt therapy requires a registered Gestalt therapist trained in this special type of treatment.
The ultimate goal of Gestalt therapy is to identify the people connected with the client’s unresolved interpersonal issues and engage them (or their images/substitutes) in interaction that will lead to resolution. It is an experiential therapy and values awareness of present-moment experience over analyzing the past. Gestalt techniques can be used in individual or one-on-one therapy with either a child or an adult client as well as in couples and family therapy.
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