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Humanistic and Experiential Psychotherapies are Empirically Supported Treatments

By Travis A. Musich, PsyD Clinical Psychology Adjunct Professor

Illinois School of Professional Psychology National Louis University

A Deep Dive into Humanistic and Experiential Psychotherapies

Humanistic-Experiential Psychotherapies (HEPs) have been a cornerstone in the realm of psychological treatments for decades. Rooted in the tradition of humanistic psychology, these therapies emphasize the importance of the individual's experience and the therapeutic relationship. Let's delve into the world of HEPs and understand their significance, effectiveness, and the recent research surrounding them.

Humanistic and Experiential Therapies are Empirically Supported Treatments
Humanistic and Experiential Therapies are Empirically Supported Treatments

What are Humanistic-Experiential Psychotherapies?

HEPs encompass a range of therapeutic approaches, including Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), Gestalt, and Psychodrama. These therapies prioritize the individual's subjective experience. The therapeutic relationship, characterized by empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness, is seen as potentially curative.

A key feature of HEPs is the emphasis on in-therapy client experiencing, which involves immediate awareness that includes perceiving, sensing, feeling, thinking, and wanting. These therapies view people as meaning-creating agents, emphasizing the importance of subjective experience. They also highlight the role of an integrative or actualizing tendency in individuals, which is oriented towards growth, survival, and meaning creation.

Effectiveness of HEPs

Recent research has shed light on the effectiveness of HEPs. A meta-analysis of 91 studies conducted between 2009 and 2018 revealed several findings:

  1. HEPs were associated with significant pre-post client change.

  2. Clients undergoing HEPs showed substantial gains compared to those who received no therapy.

  3. In comparative outcome studies, HEPs were generally as effective as other therapies.

  4. Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) and Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) were found to be particularly effective, while generic supportive-nondirective approaches were less so.

HEPs have shown effectiveness in treating a range of issues, including relationship difficulties, coping with chronic medical conditions, and psychosis. However, results were more mixed for conditions like depression and anxiety.

Qualitative Outcomes of HEPs

Beyond quantitative measures, the qualitative outcomes of HEPs are equally illuminating. These outcomes can be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Appreciating experiences of self: Clients gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their own experiences.

  2. Experiencing self in relation to others: Clients develop a changed perspective on how they relate to others.

  3. Changed view of self/others: The therapy leads to a transformation in how clients view themselves and those around them.


Humanistic-Experiential Psychotherapies offer a unique approach to treatment, emphasizing the therapeutic relationship and the individual's subjective experience. Recent research underscores their effectiveness, especially in specific areas like relationship difficulties and coping with chronic conditions. As with all therapies, the key is to find the approach that resonates most with the individual and their unique needs.

Humanistic Psychotherapies of Chicago at Person-Centered Psychological Services

If you or someone you know is looking for an evidence-based and empirically supported treatment that harnesses the strengths of being human and values the relationship of the client and therapist meeting person to person, reach out to us at Person-Centered Psychological Services. Let's embark on a journey of healing, growth, and self-discovery together.

Training and Advancement in Humanistic-Experiential Psychotherapies at Person-Centered Psychological Services

Are you a student or clinician passionate about diving deep into the world of psychotherapy? Do you believe in the transformative power of human connection, empathy, and the therapeutic relationship? If so, Person-Centered Psychological Services in Chicago, Illinois, offers an unparalleled opportunity for training in humanistic-experiential psychotherapies.

Why Choose Training at Person-Centered Psychological Services?

  1. Evidence-Based Training: Our training is rooted in the latest research and findings on humanistic-experiential psychotherapies. As highlighted in the comprehensive research by Elliott et al., humanistic-experiential therapies, including person-centered therapy (PCT) and emotion-focused therapy (EFT), have shown significant effectiveness across a range of client problems. By joining our program, you'll be immersing yourself in therapies that are both evidence-based and deeply humanistic.

  2. Diverse Therapeutic Approaches: Our training covers a spectrum of humanistic and experiential therapies, from the foundational principles of person-centered therapy developed by Carl Rogers to the emotion-focused approaches that integrate person-centered and Gestalt therapies.

  3. Client-Centered Focus: At the heart of our training is the belief in the therapeutic relationship. You'll learn to cultivate empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness – the core conditions that facilitate transformative change in clients.

  4. Hands-On Experience: Our training goes beyond theoretical knowledge. You'll have opportunities for practical application, role-playing, and real-world client interactions, ensuring you're well-equipped to handle diverse therapeutic scenarios.

  5. Mentorship and Support: Our experienced therapists and educators will provide guidance, mentorship, and feedback, helping you refine your skills and grow as a therapist.

A Call to Future Therapists

Humanistic-experiential therapies emphasize the power of the therapeutic relationship, the importance of immediate awareness, and the potential for growth and self-awareness. If you resonate with these principles and are eager to make a difference in the lives of individuals seeking healing and growth, we invite you to join our training program.

At Person-Centered Psychological Services, we believe in harnessing the strengths of both the client and the therapist, meeting person to person, and journeying together towards healing. By training with us, you're not just learning a therapeutic approach; you're embracing a philosophy that values the human experience in all its richness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Humanistic and Experiential Psychotherapies

What is an example of humanistic therapy?

An example of humanistic therapy is Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) developed by Carl Rogers. This approach emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship and the therapist's ability to be empathic, genuine, and non-judgmental.

What is the humanistic therapy?

Humanistic therapy, also known as humanistic-experiential psychotherapy, is a therapeutic approach that emphasizes the importance of the individual's subjective experience, the therapeutic relationship, and the inherent worth and potential for growth in every person. It is rooted in the tradition of humanistic psychology.

What are the three humanistic therapies?

The three main sub approaches within humanistic therapy are Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), Gestalt therapy, and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT).

What does humanistic therapies focus on?

Humanistic therapies focus on the individual's subjective experience, the centrality of a genuinely empathic and prizing therapeutic relationship, and the belief that each person's experience is of central importance. The therapist aims to understand the client's world empathically, and the therapeutic relationship is seen as potentially curative.

What is the most common technique in humanistic therapy?

The most common technique in humanistic therapy is creating an empathic and prizing therapeutic relationship. This involves understanding the client's subjective experience and providing a safe, supportive environment for exploration and growth.

What are the key concepts of the humanistic approach?

Key concepts of the humanistic approach include the centrality of the therapeutic relationship, the importance of subjective experience, the view of individuals as meaning-creating agents, and the belief in an integrative or actualizing tendency within individuals oriented towards growth and meaning creation.

What is one problem with the humanistic approach?

One contention within the humanistic-experiential psychotherapies is the degree to which therapists should act as process-experts by offering ways clients can work more productively on particular types of problems. There's a debate on how directive the therapist should be in guiding the therapeutic process.

Is person-centered therapy humanistic?

Yes, Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) is a major approach within humanistic therapy.

Is Gestalt Therapy humanistic?

Yes, Gestalt therapy is another major approach within humanistic therapy.

What is the difference between person-centered and humanistic counseling?

Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) is a specific type of humanistic therapy developed by Carl Rogers. While all PCT is humanistic, not all humanistic therapies are PCT. Humanistic counseling encompasses a broader range of therapeutic approaches, including PCT, Gestalt, and Emotion-Focused Therapy, among others.

What are the three qualities of an effective humanistic person-centered therapist?

An effective humanistic person-centered therapist should possess empathy, genuineness, and non-judgmental understanding. These qualities help in creating a therapeutic relationship that is potentially curative.

Why is humanistic therapy called person-centered?

Humanistic therapies, including Person-Centered Therapy, are consistently person-centered because they involve genuine concern and respect for each individual. The person is viewed holistically, neither as a symptom-driven case nor as a diagnosis. The focus is on understanding and valuing the individual's unique subjective experience.


  • Elliott, R., & Freire, E. (2010). The effectiveness of person- centered and experiential therapies: A review of the meta- analyses. In M. Cooper, J. C. Watson, & D. Hölldampf (Eds.), Person-centered and experiential therapies work: A review of the research on counseling, psychotherapy, and related practices (pp. 1–15). Ross-on-Wye, UK: PCCS Books.

  • Elliott, R., Watson, J., Timulak, L., & Sharbanee, J. (2021). Research on humanistic-experiential psychotherapies: Updated review. In M. Barkham, W. Lutz, & L. G. Castonguay (Eds.), Bergin and Garfield's handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change: 50th anniversary edition (pp. 421–467). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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