Humanistic Psychology Critique of Mainstream Term Paper

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24). Leitner & Phillips (2003, p. 160) also stress the need for a holistic diagnosis of the human mind so that a more effective conclusion can be derived. Bugental (1963, p. 565) also decries the tendency to compartmentalize the field of psychology to make it resemble the natural sciences. More so, this is a great cause for confusion among psychology students because they end up having a fragmented view of the field and are ill-equipped to exchange ideas and insights with those specializing in the other sub-fields of psychology instead of developing a holistic view of human nature.

Narrow vision and the tendency to view psychological conditions as diseases by therapists have direct consequences for the clients. Leitner & Phillips (2003) stated that, "the stigmatization of psychiatric labels may in some cases exacerbate interpersonal problems and increase social isolation for individuals who likely have increased needs for social supports" (p. 158). As a result, the clients learn to become passive because current practices encourage them to view their experiences as disorders that they cannot treat on their own (Leitner & Phillips, 2003).

An Impersonal Approach to the Relationship between Therapist and Client

According to Bugental (1963), "the three-headed monster of the clinical team is not able, by its very nature, to meet the patient in genuine interpersonal encounter" (p. 566). This means that mainstream psychology, through the use of clinical teams and analytical diagnosis, breeds an impersonal relationship between the therapist and the client (Bugental, 1963). The tendency to view a psychological issue as a medical issue limits the understanding of the issue to its physiological and neurological aspects without addressing the human needs of the client.

Leitner & Phillips (2003) also support the above view by stating that, "the use of traditional diagnoses requires the therapist to impose labels on the client and may invalidate the client's own meanings" (p. 159). This means that even before entering into the client-therapist relationship, the client is prepared to accept that he or she acts abnormally and requires treatment to correct the abnormal tendencies. As a result, the client is forced to repress or explain away the unique experience to conform to the demands of the relationship. Even after the relationship is terminated, the client may continue to harbor feelings of inadequateness because of the belief that his mind has been abnormal and that he depends on the expert (Leitner & Phillips, 2003).

The dynamics of such an impersonal relationship also prevent the client from dealing with religious and spiritual issues that are an extremely important part of the human experience. Lukoff, Lu, & Turner (1998) describe spiritual experiences as opening the gate to a higher level of awareness. It is therefore, important for therapists to enable their clients to reach this higher level of awareness where they may interpret their own experiences and derive inferences.


The assumptions held by mainstream psychology have not proven to be effective in addressing the holistic nature of human experience. Humanistic and transcendental perspectives of psychology offer an opportunity to incorporate ideas about man as a unit as opposed to a conglomeration of individual parts and to treat his experiences as valid requiring interpretation. The central role of the therapist is replaced with that of a collaborative interpersonal relationship between client and therapist. The experiences of the client, rather than formal theories and paradigms, should be used to determine the potential for growth and development.


Bugental, J.F.T. (1963). Humanistic psychology: A new breakthrough. American Psychologist, Vol. 18, pp. 563-567. Accessed from PsycInfo Database.

DeCarvalho, R. (1990). A history of the third force in psychology. Journal of Humanistic

Psychology, Vol. 30 (4), pp. 22-44. Accessed from Sage Journals Online.

Leitner, L.M., & Phillips, S.N. (2003). The immovable object vs. The irresistible force: Problems and opportunities for humanistic psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 43, pp. 156-173. Accessed from Sage Journals Online.

Lukoff, D., Lu, F., & Turner, R. (1998). From spiritual emergency to spiritual problem: The transpersonal roots of the new DSM-IV category. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 38, pp.…[continue]

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