Featured Article

Looking ahead

Div. 32 President Krishna Kumar will lead the division in 2015, exploring the state of contemporary humanistic psychology.

By V. Krishna Kumar

Being elected president of a foremost society such as ours is a distinct honor; serving as one is clearly a very humbling experience. Warren Buffet advises, “hang out with people who are better than you are” (as quoted by Zweig, 2014, p. B9). I say without hesitation, I am truly awed by the significant talent that surrounds me in the society, especially, the diverse groups of members on our executive board who have made many contributions to the society and to humanistic psychology. These distinguished individuals are passionate about the society and humanistic psychology, the place of humanistic psychology in psychology and the role it can play in the broader society to make a difference in our everyday lives.

Thanks to the efforts of our board and committees, under the leadership of Brent Robbins, we have had three major events in the past few months: the annual Society for Humanistic Psychology (SHP) conference, a global summit to discuss alternatives to the current psychiatric diagnostic system with participants from around the country, the U.K. and Australia and the APA Annual Convention. I was pleased to see that these events were extremely well received. I look forward to working with our members to continue our mission to advance humanistic and existential psychology as major forces in psychology. The theme for our next APA Convention in Toronto is “Contemporary Humanistic Psychology: Beyond Maslow, May, and Rogers.” In choosing the theme, my main intention was to promote humanistic psychology as a dynamic evolving field of study with new developments and advancements of value to psychological theory, research methodology, clinical practice and culture. The next annual SHP conference is currently being planned at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Humanistic psychology is not just a specialty area such as developmental or social psychology; it is also a school of thought whose influence can be seen in many areas of psychology, mainly psychotherapy and, to a lesser extent, medicine, education and business management. Although humanistic psychology is widely recognized as a particular psychotherapeutic modality, its core concepts are regarded as fundamental to any therapy. Moss (2001) notes: “Psychologists and therapists of all orientations, even the most behavioral ones, are more aware today of humanistic dimensions of personal change” (p. 16). Further, similar to cognitive and behavioral psychologists, humanistic psychologists are also interested in studying and understanding a wide range of human and animal behavior, but they do so in the larger context of cultural and environmental factors from their unique humanistic and existential perspectives. So there is no limit to the scope of what humanistic and existential psychologists can study. In the “new world” called the Internet, there is a fertile area for research from humanistic psychology perspectives, where governments and private companies gather large amounts of personal data and sometimes conduct experiments unbeknownst to their users. Rudder (2014), president and co-founder of OkCupid, notes:

Online, you have friends, lovers, enemies, and intense moments of truth without a thought for who's watching, because ostensibly no one is—except of course, the computers are recording it all. Once aggregated and anonymized, that data, whether from controlled tests or shared directly by users, can tell us how we can live our lives. (p. C3)

Humanistic psychology has much to contribute to improving our everyday lives, including on the Internet. I close optimistically by quoting Pierson (2001):

It is my hope that we reunite as worldwide humanistic community—and discipline of psychology—joined by our investment in the study of “human being” and commitment to “human becoming.” (p. 669)

References

Moss, D. (2001). The roots and genealogy of humanistic psychology. In K. J. Schnieder, F. T. Bugental, & J. F. Pierson (Eds.), The handbook of humanistic psychology: Leading edges in theory, research, and practice (pp. 5-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Pierson, J. F. (2001). Closing statement. In K. J. Schnieder, F. T. Bugental, & J. F. Pierson (Eds.), The handbook of humanistic psychology: Leading edges in theory, research, and practice (pp. 669-671). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Rudder, C. (2014, September 6-7). When websites spy on private lives. Wall Street Journal, p. C3.

Zweig, J. (2014, September 6-7). Can peers burn holes in your portfolio? Wall Street Journal, pp. B1, B9.