Humanistic, humanism and humanist are terms in psychology relating to an approach which studies the whole person and the uniqueness of each individual. Essentially, these terms refer to the same approach in psychology.
Humanistic psychology is a perspective that emphasizes looking at the the whole person, and the uniqueness of each individual. Humanistic psychology begins with the existential assumptions that people have free will and are motivated to acheive their potential and self-actualize.
The humanistic approach in psychology developed as a rebellion against what some psychologists saw as the limitations of the behaviorist and psychodynamic psychology.
The humanistic approach is thus often called the “third force” in psychology after psychoanalysis and behaviorism (Maslow, 1968).
Humanism rejected the assumptions of the behaviorist perspective which is characterized as deterministic, focused on reinforcement of stimulus-response behavior and heavily dependent on animal research.
Humanistic psychology also rejected the psychodynamic approach because it is also deterministic, with unconscious irrational and instinctive forces determining human thought and behavior. Both behaviorism and psychoanalysis are regarded as dehumanizing by humanistic psychologists.
Humanistic psychology expanded its influence throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. Its impact can be understood in terms of three major areas:
1) It offered a new set of values for approaching an understanding of human nature and the human condition.
2) It offered an expanded horizon of methods of inquiry in the study of human behavior.
3) It offered a broader range of more effective methods in the professional practice of psychotherapy.