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Humanistic Psychology and Community Psychology

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The post modern era of psychology constitutes of the period in which the new theories and researches were developed and founded in psychology from 1960s onwards.

Humanistic psychology

Humanistic psychology relates to an approach which studies the whole person and the uniqueness of each individual. The movement grew in opposition of the two theories in psychology, the theory of behaviourism and psychoanalysis. Humanistic movement became popular in the U.S in the 1960s. The association for humanistic psychology was found in 1962. Carl Jung, Rollo May, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers are some of the pioneers of this theory.

Humanistic psychologists believe that behaviourists are over concerned with the scientific study and analysis of the actions and behaviours of the people. Humanistic also disagree with the determinist orientation of psychoanalysis which postulates that one’s early experiences and drives determine one’s behaviours. Humanistic psychology begins with the existential assumptions that phenomenology is central and that people have free will. Personal agency is the humanistic term for the exercise of free will. It refers to the choices we make in life, the paths we go down and their consequences.

The American psychologist Abraham H.Maslow, considered one of the leading figures of humanistic psychology, proposed a hierarchy of needs or drives in order of decreasing priority or potency but increasing sophistication: physiological needs, safety, belongingness and love, esteem and self-actualization. Only when the more primitive needs are met can the individual progress to higher levels in the hierarchy. People reaching self –actualization will have fully realized their potential.

The concept of the self is a central focal point for most humanistic psychologists. In the “personal construct” theory of American psychotherapist Carl Rogers, individuals are said to perceive the world according to their own experiences. This perception affects their personality and leads them to direct their behaviour to satisfy the needs of the total self. Rogers stressed that, in the development of an individual’s personality, the person strives for “self actualization, self maintenance and self enhancement.

American existential psychologist, Rollo May emphasized humans as beings who do the experiencing and to whom the experiences happen. To May, the awareness of one’s own mortality makes vitality and passion possible.

Both Rogera and Maslow regarded personal growth and fulfilment in life as a basic human motive. This means that each person, in different ways, seeks to grow psychologically and continuously enhance themselves. This had been captured by the term self-actualization, which is about psychological growth, fulfilment and satisfaction in life. However, Rogers and Maslow both describe different ways of how self actualization can be achieved.

Central to the humanistic theories of Rogers and Maslow are the subjective, conscious experiences of the individual. Humanistic psychologists argue that objective reality is less important than a person’s subjective perception and understanding of the world. Because of this, Rogers and Marlow placed little value on scientific psychology, especially the use of the psychology laboratory to investigate both human and animal behaviour.

Some criticism exists regarding this theory. It is often seen as too subjective; the importance of individual experience makes it difficult to objectively study and measure humanistic phenomena. How can we objectively tell if someone is self-actualized? The answer, of course, is that we cannot. We can only rely upon the individual’s own assessment of their experience. Another major criticism is that observations are unverifiable; there is no accurate way to measure or quantify these qualities.

Community psychology

Community psychology is the study of human behaviour in its multiple ecological, historical, cultural and socio-political contexts. Community psychology is ashift away from the broader field of psychology’s internal, cognitive and nuclear family emphasis towards the incorporation of greater attention to the role of social systems and structures in human functioning.

Community psychology began to emerge in the United States during the 1950s and its development was influenced by the sociopolitical climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Civil rights, peace activism, feminism, the antipoverty movement, and environmental awareness provided the context for defining the field. Fundamental to its development was the idea that psychology should not only focus on treating people once problems have emerged but also play a significant role in addressing social conditions (e.g. poverty, racism) that increase the risk of disease and distress.

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Humanistic psychology and Community psychology. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from
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