What is Humanistic Psychology?

What is Humanistic Psychology?

Humanistic psychology is a school of thought that emphasizes looking at the whole person, prioritizes human values and potential, and focuses on topics like self-actualization, free will, compassion, and personal growth.

Core Principles

  • Viewing people as inherently good with strong potential
  • Considering psychological health in terms of growth and wellbeing rather than just illness
  • Seeing choice, creativity, self-actualization as central human qualities
  • Taking a holistic, person-centered perspective on human experience

Key Figures

Some of the key thought leaders in humanistic psychology include:

  • Abraham Maslow – Developed the hierarchy of human needs and theory of self-actualization
  • Carl Rogers – Pioneered person-centered therapy focused on fostering growth
  • Rollo May – Wrote about concepts like freedom, responsibility, anxiety and psychological health

Positive Focus

Unlike other psychologies that focus on mental illness, humanistic psychology has an affirming viewpoint that celebrates human potential. The goal is to help people reach self-actualization – their highest level of fulfillment.


Some ways humanistic psychology perspectives are applied include:

  • Humanistic Therapy: Client-centered and existential therapies
  • Education: Student-centered approaches focused on the whole learner
  • Business: Leadership styles promoting employee self-direction and growth


Some criticisms of humanistic psychology include:

  • Too optimistic about human nature and self-actualization theories
  • Lack of objective scientific standards and measurement tools
  • Difficult to systematically test humanistic concepts and treatments


Overall, humanistic psychology has made vital contributions highlighting human potential. It offers an uplifting, holistic framework focused on wellbeing, growth and free will. The influence of humanistic thought continues today through therapies, education and leadership approaches centered on self-actualization.


What are the key goals of humanistic psychology?

The key goals of humanistic psychology are understanding whole persons, supporting human growth and potential, promoting wellbeing and self-actualization.

What kind of therapies did humanistic psychology pioneer?

Humanistic psychology pioneered person-centered therapy and existential therapy. These are less directive approaches focused on clients’ inner experiences, responsibilities and capacity for personal growth.

How does humanistic psychology differ from psychoanalysis?

Unlike psychoanalysis’ focus on early childhood and the unconscious, humanistic psychology focuses more on conscious experiences, choices and growth potential in the current moment.

What are some key humanistic psychology concepts?

Some key humanistic concepts are self-actualization, creativity, free will, wholeness, existential living, person-centered perspectives, hierarchy of needs, and capacity for personal growth.

Who are considered the founders of humanistic psychology?

Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Rollo May are considered the founders and pioneers of the humanistic psychology school of thought.