A humanistic perspective is an approach to psychology that emphasizes empathy and stresses the good in human behavior. In politics and social theory, this approach calls for human rights and equality. In counseling and therapy, this approach allows a psychologist to focus on ways to help improve an individual's self-image or self-actualization — the things that make them feel worthwhile. Humanism is an optimistic, whole-person theory that focuses on what makes each individual person unique.
Examples of Humanism in Relationships
People who apply a humanistic perspective to their relationships with others treat others with empathy and focus on what is positive.
- A friend feels like his or her life is bland and boring. A humanistic approach would encourage the person to do some soul-searching and determine what is missing. It might be a hobby, friendships or something else. Whatever it takes for the person to feel fully self-actualized is what should be sought as a potential solution.
- A humanistic approach to helping someone build self-esteem would involve encouraging a person to focus on their strengths rather than their faults. By focusing on strengths and building on them, the person is able to work toward a more satisfied and complete life.
- When friends express feeling frustration because they perceive others as being better off, using a humanistic approach would involve helping them think through and identify what is good in their lives and encouraging them to focus on what they have rather than being concerned with others.
- Rather than avoiding someone who is different from you, make a point of getting to know that individual and including him or her in activities. This might apply to a new person in class or the neighborhood, someone of a different religion or race, someone whose first language is different from yours, or any other difference.
Examples of Humanistic Parenting
Parents who use a humanistic approach focus on building their children's confidence and competence in a manner that's appropriate to who they (the children) are as human beings.
- A humanistic approach to parenting would involve helping children identify and develop their own unique talents and interests rather than pushing them to follow in the footsteps of their siblings, parents or others.
- Parents who wish to help their children develop a humanistic perspective will have open and honest discussions about inclusion and individual differences. Parents will set examples of being respectful of all people, even those whose lifestyles or beliefs may be very different.
- When parents explain the reasons behind rules or behavioral requirements to children rather than taking a "because I said so" approach, that is an example of a humanistic approach to setting limits.
- When parents encourage children to share their feelings or concerns and engage in a true dialogue with them, they are using a humanistic approach. This helps improve empathy for parents and children and lays the groundwork for kids to develop important interpersonal communication skills.
Examples of Humanism in the Workplace
Leaders who regularly exercise adaptability and flexibility with regard to meeting the needs of individual team members and their organizations can be described as humanistic.
- A company that offers a structured approach to career management, in which employees are encouraged to share their long term goals and the company provides access to relevant development opportunities, is applying humanism to its approach to employee development.
- Sensitivity training at a place of employment is an example of the humanistic perspective. Individuals are taught to value and respect their coworkers for who they are, regardless of differences. This leads to stronger workplace relationships and a more inclusive work environment.
- Companies that have recognition programs in which any employee can recommend another team member for positive behaviors is a humanistic situation that takes into account different people's needs and preferences and the different ways individuals approach work.
- When a company has an open-door policy that encourages employees to reach out to their managers or other members of the leadership team with questions or concerns at any time, that is an example of humanism at work.
Humanistic Approaches to Therapy
A humanistic approach to therapy is distinct from cognitive or behavioral approaches.
- Instead of a medicine-centered or research-centered approach to therapy, the humanistic perspective encourages an approach that focuses on the individual person, their individual needs and improving self-awareness.
- The humanistic perspective favors Gestalt therapy, a special type of therapy that encourages an individual not to allow the past to affect the present, and focuses on the here and now rather than anything else.
- Therapists using a humanistic approach don't seek to interpret what a patient has experienced. Instead, the therapist will ask questions designed to help patients come to better understand themselves.
- Group therapy for families is an example of a humanistic approach. This type of therapy allows families to talk about their relationships with one another to encourage and strengthen those relationships, especially when families are going through difficult times, such as periods of substance abuse or divorce.
Characteristics of Humanistic Theory
Now that you are aware of some examples of humanistic perspective, it may be easier to understand what humanism is all about.
- The humanistic perspective is based on the belief that people seek value, meaning and creativity in all they do.
- It understands that people have goals and that reaching these goals is very important.
- It also understands that individuals are able to make choices that affect them and others, and so those choices carry with them a sense of responsibility.
- The humanistic perspective incorporates the idea of self-help, including the notion that a person can be responsible for his or her own happiness. Likewise, an unhappy or dissatisfied person can make changes that will result in their eventual happiness and self-actualization.
- Cultural differences are not viewed in the humanistic perspective as being a result of the differences in human nature; rather, they are viewed as valid alternative ways of approaching life. This allows the humanistic perspective to underscore the value of all humans.
- In the humanistic perspective, it is generally regarded that all people have similar needs throughout the world, emphasizing the similarities between all members of the human race rather than the many differences.
- It is an approach that believes human relationships and interactions are of paramount importance.
Use a Humanistic Approach
Next time you see a problem or consider a solution, think about what someone with a humanistic perspective would do. You may find that you get better results by using a humanistic approach rather than following another path. To get prepared, spend some time exploring what empathy really is. Once you're clear on the definition, review some examples of empathy.