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 “That man should show respect to man, irrespective of class, race or creed is fundamental to the humanist attitude to life. Among the fundamental moral principles, he would count those of freedom, justice, tolerance and happiness … the attitude that people can live an honest, meaningful life without following a formal religious creed.”

(– Pears Cyclopaedia, 87th edition, 1978)

Being a humanistic counsellor means that as a practitioner you view life through the lens of a humanistic philosophy. This is based on the belief that every person can live an honest and meaningful life by following moral values which have not been imposed by an external entity. These would have been developed through open communication and discussion which can only be achieved following self-reflection and understanding.

Another aspect to the humanistic point of view is that every individual has personal agency. Personal agency explains how each person has the potential to identify his or her own needs, and to develop those skills required to satisfy these needs and meet their personal potential. Responsibility is thus placed on the person who is able to think and understand what is happening in order to understand and acquire a deep meaning to one’s existence.

The subjective experience of each individual is what matters most, since this subjective experience is understood and interpreted according to each person. Thus no one therapeutic process will be exactly the same for different clients since therapeutic skills are dependent on:

  • What the client brings to therapy and how this is interpreted.
  • How the individual reacts to and implements any insight and knowledge gained from the therapeutic process.

This humanistic approach places importance on the personal worth of each person and views humans as creative and capable beings making choices to deal with the difficulties arising in one’s personal life. This makes it a very optimistic approach and also phenomenological, which means that personality is studied from the point of view of the individual’s subjective experience. In addition to this, humanistic counselling “is a process of becoming, a process of creating oneself, most often in association with others.” (Scholl M.B. et al, 2014) and is therefore seen to be dependent on the relationship between the client and the counsellor and it is this relationship that encourages growth. The counsellor is then able to apply diverse skills from various theoretical backgrounds which seem to fit best with the client in order to reach the desired aim more effectively.

When taking this concept and applying it to our everyday life, one can identify a number of positive assets, such as:

  • How people are better able to take on a position of being open towards the experiences of others and what it means to that person, even if it may not match with the perception of someone else who is experiencing the same thing.
  • It also helps us to become less judgemental towards others, as we realise that there is not only one way to view and experience life.
  • Improved communication and respect since there is an element of interest and empathy towards others.
  • Feeling safe enough to challenge and discuss ideas and beliefs while being willing to re-evaluate these in view of what the other person is bringing into the dynamic.

References:

Scholl, M.B. Ray D.C. and Brady-Amoon P.(2014) Humanistic Counseling Process, Outcomes, and Research. Journal of Humanistic Counseling. Volume 53, p218 – 239.

Some recommended reading:

https://www.simplypsychology.org/humanistic.html

https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/

http://www.academyanalyticarts.org/recommended-practices-bohart

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.