The perspective of the person and the counselling relationship in the humanistic tradition

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Doyle, James
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MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The Humanistic tradition in counselling and psychotherapy has its roots in a broader philosophical tradition most particularly in Existentialism. The writings of Kierkegaard and Heidegger and the perspective of the person that they proposed, especially the concept of Being and Nonbeing, had a fundamental influence on the founding fathers of this third force in psychotherapy. The perspective of the person that emerged from this philosophical worldview is of an organism that accepts the existential givens of life and chooses their own essence through the exercise of courage and free will. In so doing, the person accepts responsibility for their choices. This philosophical worldview was transitioned into the field of psychotherapy by a number of theorists most notably by Maslow and Rogers, and given life and meaning in the therapeutic approaches within the Humanistic tradition most particularly Person-Cantered, Gestalt and Existential therapies. These approaches are characterised by a shared perspective of the person which distinguishes the Humanistic tradition from the other two main therapeutic traditions, psychoanalysis and behaviourism. This shared perspective is of an organism that endeavours to find meaning and fulfilment in the world through its inherent tendency to reach its potential in relationship with others. This shared perspective of the person permeates these approaches and is given life and meaning in the counselling relationship in the tradition in general, and in these approaches in particular. The importance of the therapeutic encounter in the Humanistic tradition is acknowledged, especially the Real Relationship where both client and therapist meet in a co-constructed space that is distinguished by the presence of each participant both intrapersonally and interpersonally. Each of the foundational approaches within this tradition has developed its own individual approach to the counselling relationship which is informed by the fundamental principles underpinning the Humanistic tradition. The study also considered the question of the Humanistic tradition and the concept of the unconscious and whether the former can accommodate the latter. The study concludes by considering the broader question of how a particular worldview circumvents and sets the boundary of a particular tradition and its constituent therapeutic approaches, in this instance the Humanistic tradition and the possible implications of this proposition. Author keywords: Humanistic tradition, humanistic approaches to psychotherapy, the perspective of the person, the counselling relationship, the counselling space, philosophical basis, existentialism