Humanistic Psychology vs Positive Psychology

Humanistic Psychology vs Positive Psychology

Psychology is a broad topic focusing on the human mind and experience. In understanding it better, people are able to effectively help one another become the best they can be. However, unless someone is deeply interested in psychology, chances are the best they know is outdated research from long dead researchers such as Freud, who has been debunked in most psychological fields even if he was one of the founders.

In more modern times, there are two phrases that get tossed around frequently and are worth taking a look into. These are Humanistic and Positive Psychology. Keep reading to learn more about them.

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What Is Humanistic Psychology?

Humanistic Psychology is a holistic branch of psychology that is guided by the principle that people are inherently good and just need some help focusing on their feelings, experiences, and understanding of themselves in order to solve disconnection problems within themselves. It is in reference to the study of the uniqueness of people and their person as a whole.

Here are some of the basic principles of humanistic psychology:

  1. Humans supersede the sum of their parts
  2. Humans have a uniquely human context in their existence and cosmic ecology
  3. Humans are conscious beings—they are aware of being aware

The biggest thing is that Humanistic Psychology focuses deeply on what it means to be human. It also believes that everyone has some good in them, but some people might need more help to recognize this.

What is the Difference Between Humanistic Psychology and Positive Psychology?

The primary difference between Humanistic Psychology and Positive Psychology is that the latter tends to focus more heavily on the overall study of psychology and the human experience, whereas humanistic psychology tends to be more of a therapy method.

They both have the same source, though Humanistic is a slightly more modern approach that is more applicable in therapy settings. That said, often times these terms are used interchangeably as they are so close.

Examples of Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic psychology rejected assumptions of deterministic approaches to psychological therapy such as behaviorist perspective and psychodynamic approaches. It is a more modern concept of psychology, focusing on the person at hand and how to best bring them up to their best self.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is a supportive therapy where the psychologist sits back and listens to their patients talk. From there, they give non-judgmental feedback to help support and improve their patient’s lives. This in particular is useful for those who are working through various issues including grief and depression. It is typically what people think of when they think of psychology sessions. To know what exactly does a psychologist do on a daily basis read through this article.

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Sensitivity Training

Sensitivity training is a psychological tool and perspective meant to teach individuals that other people are just like them as people. This form of training literally helps people learn how to be more sensitive and caring, seeing others as real people with their own needs, wants, and feelings.

It helps to break down the barriers between irrelevant biases based on differences such as:

  • Physical and mental capabilities
  • Culture
  • Skin color
  • Theological beliefs (or lack thereof)
  • Sexuality
  • Gender expression and identity

This is sometimes seen in the workforce when teaching people how to interact with one another in a healthy environment as adults. It is especially useful when someone has emotionally removed themselves from a situation as well, or have specific disorders that make it difficult to feel and understand empathy.

Client-Centered Therapy

Client-Centered Therapy is a technique to focus entirely on the individual rather than what has helped with other people. Despite the fact it has been looked down upon for its anti-scientific approach, it is widely used due to the fact every person is different and has different ways to come at their own problems.  This allows the practitioner to modify their methods based on the current need rather than sticking to a specific playbook.

Examples of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology was coined by Abraham Maslow to pay greater attention to both the positive and negative parts of the overall human experience. The point is to make a good life overall and to address what makes life worth living. It is mostly used in relation to the overall study of the human experience, however it also can be used in a therapy session just like the more modern variant.

Focusing on Strengths

It’s easy to get swept up in personal faults and the heartbreak of the world at large. Therefore, spending some time to focus on what someone is good at and trying to work on those helps to get a better sense of self, which can then help to find new ways to approach problems.

Skill Development

Working on skills and abilities helps to make someone feel more productive and confident in their abilities. This is a more hands-on approach to therapy that involves more active work on developing oneself. Learning how to do things better, especially those that are falling behind, really helps to build up confidence and function.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of therapy that works on slowly restructuring how someone thinks and acts. It involves a lot of various techniques to help work on unwanted behaviors and thought processes. It has seen widespread success with many different kinds of patients and their needs, especially if more traditional methods and talk therapies are unsuccessful.


Both Humanistic and Positive Psychology focus on the person at hand, though usually on varying scopes. They both come from the same concept coined by Abraham Maslow where the point is to make the human experience one worth living. Both of these terms are often used interchangeably, however Positive Psychology came first and Humanistic Psychology is a more modern adaption to the concept.