Origins and Evolution of Humanistic Psychology


The origins of humanistic psychology can be traced as far back as the MiddleAges when the philosophy of humanism was born. The basic belief of thisphilosophy is that every person has worth and the right to achieveself-realization through reason and rational thought.

The early humanism movement began in 15th century Europe as a protestagainst the closed-minded religious dogma of the church's scholars andphilosophers. Modern humanistic psychology emerged in about the mid-1950s as areaction by clinical psychologists, social workers, and counselors againstbehaviorism and psychoanalysis.


Early in the 20th century, psychological thinking was dominated by two philosophies: behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Behavioristic psychologistsstudy overt behaviors and believe that people are conditioned by rewards andpunishments to act in a certain manner. Behaviorists seek to manipulate humanbehavior through the use of appropriate reinforcements.

The school of psychoanalysis seeks to understand the unconscious motivationsand internal instincts that cause behavior. This view was expounded by Freudwho believed people are creatures of life and death instincts. Life instinctsprimarily involve survival and propagation; the drives of hunger, thirst, andsex fall under this category. Death instincts reflect humankind's pessimism.

Although behaviorism and psychoanalysis contributed to the understanding of human behavior, it did not include a holistic view of the individual. Humanistic psychology emerged in the mid-1950s and complemented behaviorism andpsychoanalysis with its focus on the individual as a whole person.

The field of humanistic psychology continued to grow into the second half ofthe 20th century. Some key points in the development of the field are includedin the following list: