Humanistic Therapy of Depression

The mental health of the population is becoming a topical concern for numerous countries around the world, and, as a result, the need for effective and holistic treatments arises. The field of psychology has a considerable variety of approaches, and one of the most notable ones is humanistic therapy, which focuses on the innate potential of every person. Since humanistic therapy is one of the leading theories used by counselors, it can be applied using different techniques. When treating depression, several humanistic therapy techniques can be used successfully and effectively.

Humanistic therapy is a popular approach, and therefore several definitions for it have been proposed over the years. Nevertheless, generally, humanistic therapy can be defined as the practice of providing the client with an opportunity to embrace their inner potential and achieve self-fulfillment (Dillon et al., 2018). Humanistic therapy is based on the belief that negative psychologic experiences are deviations from the actual tendencies of people who are striving for self-improvement and morally-right behavior. Humanistic therapy was first proposed by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow in the 1950s as a response to the well-established psychoanalytic and behaviorist schools (Dillon et al., 2018). Essentially, humanistic therapy focuses on bringing positivity to the day-to-day life of a person contributing to their self-fulfillment instead of addressing a certain diagnosis or past experiences.

The first technique of humanistic therapy which can help people with depression is emotion-focused therapy which is based on addressing the emotions of an individual and replacing them with positive ones. Specifically, the therapeutic change using emotion-focused therapy occurs through working with the negative emotional experience during therapy sessions (Dillon et al., 2018). Essentially, the counselor helps the client to engage in emotional processing, which implies becoming aware of one’s emotions and experiences related to them, accepting them, and assigning a certain meaning to them. The negative emotions are also referred to as maladaptive ones meaning that they prevent the person from engaging in positive activities, those which are in their best interest. In the case of depression, people can face sadness and the loss of any interest, as well as potential anxiety or apathy. According to the research by Dillon et al. (2018), feelings of shame, fear, and loneliness accompanying depression can be transformed into self-compassion to achieve a therapeutic effect. Thus, it is possible to state that emotion-focused therapy as one of the forms of humanistic therapy can be successfully used to treat depression.

Another form of the humanistic approach is experiential therapy, also known as humanistic-experiential therapy, and it also can be utilized to resolve depression problems. Humanistic-experiential therapy refers to the practice of assisting the client in the process of freeing themselves from maladaptive attitudes and assumptions which they may have and which ultimately cause their mental problem (Petre & Gemescu, 2020). At the same time, the counselor does not only focus on discussing the existing issues with the client but also undertakes efforts to help them change their perspective and embrace positive experiences. It is vital to note that every case focuses on the experiences which are relevant specifically to the client since each person is different and has encountered their own life events. A study by Petre & Gemescu (2020) demonstrates that humanistic-experiential therapy can be applied successfully in cases involving depression. Additionally, the researchers utilized graphic projective support in the form of drawings and collages to help the client to discover the source of their depression. The results of the study were positive since the client began exhibiting ewer depressive symptoms after the therapy.

Finally, the third technique of humanistic therapy is the gestalt approach which focuses on the current life of the person without addressing the past experiences. Studies show that gestalt therapy can be used to treat depression to a certain extent (Raffagnino, 2019). Gestalt therapy implies providing assistance to the client by helping them to adjust to their environment in a successful manner. Essentially, gestalt therapy focuses on the human contact concept, which is related to the idea of the need cycle. In other words, every person experiences a need when interacting with the environment, and the ultimate goal for them is to satisfy it, but certain disturbances may hinder the process. Disturbances in the need cycle can lead to dysfunctional interactions with the environment, which can cause mental problems. Gestalt therapy focuses on experimentation as one of the main methods of resolving the existing problems of people. As a result, gestalt counselors encourage the exploration of the existing disturbances of the client of the therapeutic encounter.

Humanistic therapy is an approach which has demonstrated successful application in the field of depression treatment. Humanistic therapy focuses on the idea that all people are naturally predisposed towards self-improvement and have the potential to achieve success. At the same time, mental problems such as depression which people may experience, prevent them from unleashing their potential. Research shows that humanistic therapy techniques such as emotion-focused therapy, humanistic-experiential therapy, and gestalt therapy can be utilized to treat depression.


Dillon, A., Timulak, L., & Greenberg, L. S. (2018). Transforming core emotional pain in a course of emotion-focused therapy for depression: A case study. Psychotherapy Research, 28(3), 406–422. Web.

Petre, L., & Gemescu, M. (2020). Humanistic experiential psychotherapy for depression: A case study. Journal of Experiential Psychotherapy, 23(2), 56–65.

Raffagnino, R. (2019). Gestalt therapy effectiveness: A systematic review of empirical evidence. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 7(6), 66–83. Web.

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