Like the analytically based therapies humanistic and existential therapies attempt to increase a person’s awareness of underlying motivational confusions, thought processes, and emotional conflicts. Thus, like analytic therapies, their general goal is to produce insight. Also like analytic therapies, these therapies are usually talk-centered: the typical analytic session involves a therapist and a ”client” (to use Carl Rogers’s term? in a room together for an hour, with the client talking and the therapist listening. (But we will see the Gestalt therapists breaking this mold.) Despite the similarities just outlined, humanistic and existential therapists locate the source of clients’ problems in a very different set of causes than do psychoanalysts.
For humanistic and existential therapists, abnormal functioning results from a failure to reach or strive toward one’s full potential. In humanistic theories, this is often called a failure to self-actualize; that is, a failure to move toward the fulfillment of one’s natural potential as a human being and to be in close touch with who one is, how one feels and what one actually thinks. In existential theories, too, abnormality represents a failure to reach one’s full potential but this failure is rooted in one’s inability to overcome the sources of anxiety built into the existential situation of life; this is an inability to meet life assertively give it meaning, and take responsibility for one’s life, Both theories define abnormal functioning as a failure to be and fulfill oneself and the humanistic-existential approach to therapy seeks to help people get in touch with their real selves and then to make deliberate choices regarding their lives and behaviors, rather than letting outside events determine their behavior.
Many therapy approaches fall under the humanistic or existential heading. We will examine two chat are quite different in everything but their overall humanistic orientation and goals-Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy and Fritz Perls’s Gestalt therapy. Each works toward enhanced self-awareness in a different way.
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