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The Humanistic Approach – What Types of Therapy Use It, and Is It For You?

by Andrea M. Darcy

Looking for a therapy that helps you be all that you were meant to be? The humanistic approach might be perfect for you.

What is the humanistic approach?

The humanistic approach  believes in human potential, and your capacity to grow and change in positive ways.

The “Humanistic” movement is referred to as the ‘third wave’ of therapeutic thought, arising in reaction to the first two waves of psychodynamic therapies and behavioural therapies.

The founders of the humanistic approach felt that these other schools of thought were too reductive and negative. They wanted to achieve more with therapy than just looking at what was ‘wrong’ with a client, or seeing a person as an equation instead of a unique individual.

The different therapies grouped under the humanistic umbrella are thus connected by a desire to help you be your best self.

The different types of humanistic therapy

Humanistic therapies help you recognise and develop your personal values, unique strengths, and your creativity, becoming a more capable and responsible human in the process. They include the following.

Compassion Focused

Compassion focussed therapy (CFT) helps you develop an ability to feel and act in kinder and more helpful ways to both yourself and others.

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The idea is that not only does this make day-to-day life and challenges easier to navigate, but that you’ll be less prone to self-criticism and shame.

Issues compassion focussed therapy can help with:


Phenomenological therapy helps you question your assumptions and your perspective so you can find new ways forward.

The idea is that human experience is unique and not ‘measurable’ or repeatable. So we must approach our experiences with an open mind.

By questioning what we think is true, we can learn more about ourselves, start to see new ways of doing things that are more helpful, learn from instead of judge our experiences, and break out of entrenched patterns.

Issues the phenomenological approach can help with:


Gestalt is a German word that roughly translates to ‘entire pattern’. Gestalt is therefore at heart about wholeness, about helping you be fully alive by freeing you from the blocks and old patterns that leave you dissatisfied.

The method it uses to achieve this is to help you be more fully in the present moment. It helps you look at what you are thinking, doing, and feeling right here and now, what is actually going on for you despite what you want to say is going on for you. In this way Gestalt can almost be seen as the forerunner of mindfulness therapies.

Not only does Gestalt therapy talk less about the past than other forms of therapy, it is more experiential. For example, instead of just talking about a difficult boss, your therapist might ask you to imagine the boss is in the room and have you talk to them.

Issues Gestalt therapy can help with:


A person-centred therapist creates a safe, respectful, accepting and honest space for you, allowing you to relax and uncover the inner resources you had all along.

Also called ‘people-centred’, this form of therapy is ‘client-led’. You decide what you would like to talk about, and the therapist is merely there as an authentic, supportive presence to help you find your own ways forward.

Issues person-centred counselling can help with:

Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis helps you understand the different ways you think and act, so that you can transform your relationships and thus your life.

Transactional Analysis believes that positive change in life doesn’t come about by understanding our mind, but by understanding the way we relate to others and to ourselves.

The idea is we tend to work from one of three ‘ego’ states – a child-like, parent-like, or adult-like state. By learning how we behave when in each state, we can start to change how we behave around others so that we get the results we want in life. For example, learning how to be in an adult-state instead of a child-state when dating could help you form more sturdy relationships.

It is sometimes under the humanistic umbrella as it a phenomenological therapy, interested in our individual perception, and it focuses on our potential to make better choices and find better outcomes. But it is actually sometimes classified as psychodynamic, as it stems from the ideas of Freud.

Issues transactional analysis can help with:


Existential therapy helps you break free of old ideas to identify what you deeply value and then create a life that that you feel has meaning and purpose.

Existential therapy is all about discovering what matters to you personally, then creating a life you feel happy and excited to live out. While is sometimes grouped under the humanistic umbrella as it believes in human purpose and potential, it can also be seen as it’s own school of therapeutic thought.

Issues that existential therapy can help with:


Transpersonal therapy fuses psychology with spiritual tools, helping you feel more connected and at ease with yourself, others, and the greater whole.

Transpersonal therapy believes in a holistic view of personal growth. We are not just what we think and feel or even know, we are also part of something bigger and more connected. How can you get in touch with this larger potential within you, and how can that change your relationships and help you feel more connected and purposeful?

Issues transpersonal therapy can help with: 

Would you like to try a humanistic approach?

You can find a therapist who works just with one of these types of therapies. Or, you can search for an integrative therapist, who is trained in several of the above and can use the tools the humanistic approach provides as best suits your unique issues.

Harley Therapy puts you in touch with professional and experienced therapists across the UK, including those who use a humanistic approach. 

Andrea M. Darcy health and wellbeing expert writerAndrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and advises people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy

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Blog Topics: Types of Therapy

2 Responses to “The Humanistic Approach – What Types of Therapy Use It, and Is It For You?”
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