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About Us

History and Archives

In its history and archives webpage, Div. 32 maintains resources related to the history of humanistic psychology.

About the Society

The society represents a constellation of "humanistic psychologies" that includes the earlier Maslowian and Rogerian, transpersonal, and existential orientations as well as the more recently-developing perspectives of phenomenological, hermeneutic, constructivist, feminist, and postmodern (social constructionist) psychologies.

We seek to contribute to theory, philosophy, and research methodologies in psychology; to epistemological and cultural diversity; to psychotherapy and education as well as organizations and management; and to social responsibility and change. In our aim to be faithful to the full range and richness of human experience, humanistic psychologists have been influential in introducing and legitimizing qualitative research methodologies as well as the study of creativity, consciousness, and culture in psychology. We seek to develop systematic and rigorous methods of studying human beings and to heal the fragmentary character of contemporary psychology through an ever-more comprehensive and integrative approach.

Our movement began as an alternative to the limitations of and disparities between experimentalism/behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Founding humanistic psychologists both subsumed the strengths and transcended the limitations of those traditions by using intersubjective methods to develop a growth-/process-oriented conceptualization of the whole person that had been inadequately available in the field. It drew from existential-phenomenological philosophy, Eastern wisdom, systems theory, gestalt psychology, organismic theory, James’ radical empiricism, post-Freudian psychodynamic psychologies, and classical and contemporary literature and art to develop a predominantly phenomenological approach to the science of human being-in-becoming. Following its establishment as the Third Force in U.S. psychology during the mid-twentieth century, humanistic psychology further evolved via elaborations on its principles by the existential, transpersonal, and constructivist movements in psychology. Today, humanistic psychology has become further refined based on an integration of these ontologies in conjunction with dialogue with parallel constructs in conventional psychology.

In the science and profession of psychology, we emphasize the individualized qualities of optimal well-being and the use of creative potential to benefit others, as well as the relational conditions that promote those qualities as the outcomes of healthy development. We seek to understand and appreciate individuals holistically, phenomenologically, and systemically; as continually evolving; and as uniquely situated in their intersecting sociocultural and eco-psycho-spiritual contexts. We assume that optimally-functioning people are consciously aware, responsibly free to make choices in accordance with their values, interdependent, goal-directed, meaning-making, and creative in relation to their experience.
Humanistic approaches to therapy involve a collaborative relationship between therapist and client that is designed to promote transformative change (versus tension reduction) by cutting through clients’ defenses and helping them forge a new worldview and behaviors that authentically express their core values. Today, the range of humanistic therapies has expanded to include not only person-centered, existential, and gestalt, but also constructivist and narrative, emotion-focused, meaning-making, focusing-oriented, systemic, and transpersonal approaches. Furthermore, humanistic therapy has influenced other systems of therapy (e.g., relational psychoanalysis, applied behavior analysis, third-wave cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, narrative therapy, etc.) in its approach to case conceptualization and its contribution of mechanisms and principles of change and experiential techniques.

The humanistic approach to research draws from existential-phenomenological philosophy as its basis for descriptive qualitative methods that supplement the quantitative methods valued by the natural science model of psychology in order to broaden the foundation for psychology as a human science faithful to its subject matter. Humanistic psychologists share a concern that the detached, unreflectively reductionistic attitude of natural science psychology, which intentionally excludes individual and relational subjectivities, lends itself to a precarious scientific ethic that serves to control and conquer—instead of understand and cooperate with—nature.

Our longstanding interest is the well-being of all persons and the importance of living life with purpose and meaning. In ever-expanding our self-conception, we invite participation from APA members, associates, and student and international affiliates who are open to the challenge of broadening and deepening the frontiers of psychology for the 21st century.
Last updated: March 2021Date created: June 2011