Differences between two psychological

23 Mar 2015

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The purpose of this document is to define the differences between two Psychological approaches- specifically that of the Humanistic and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The Humanistic Perspective

The Humanistic approach to Psychology emphasises the importance of the individual as a whole person. The therapy is lead by the individual with guidance from the therapist.

There are two key figures that shaped the Humanistic approach - Abrahams Maslow, who was responsible for the term "Self actualisation" and Carl Rogers, who was responsible for the term "Client- centred therapy".

  • Focuses on the higher motivation of humans
  • Individual subjective experience - How the individual sees the world
  • Individuals are motivated to achieve personal growth and free will
  • Personal growth - Self awareness of emotions, and motivations
  • Holistic approach- looks at the whole person
  • Actualisation

Humanistic therapy is based on a pyramid of self actualisation. The pyramid is defined by the fact that self actualisation is at the top of the pyramid and build upon the needs of hierarchy - Maslow believed that each proceeding need - needs to addressed and resolved before the individual can move on and develop to the state of Actualisation. Rogers's methods were based on his Client centred therapy, which focused on the individual conscious experience as opposed to the Therapists techniques. For this therapy to work, the three essential mental conditions needed to be met.

Humanistic Therapy is Client based. This approach of client-centred therapy encourages the actualising tendency by creating a specific climate for the duration of the therapy sessions. This climate is created by means of the therapist communicating specific attitudes toward the client. These attitudes are identified as the key three conditions that need to be met. They are congruency, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding. Based on this the therapist will, in dealing with the individual move forward in a constructive direction. The constructive forward thinking of the individual is propelled by the individual and inherent motivation in that being the actualising tendency.

The logic for client-centred therapy and the person-centred approach in interpersonal interactions rests on the actualising construct in the following ways:

That the actualising tendency is the basic and sole motivation of individuals. The actualising tendency is directed specifically to achieve the aim of increasing the individual ability to differentiate and bring about an understanding of the complexity; resulting in individual growth, development and ultimately fulfilment of the individual's potentials to become a balanced whole person.

The effects of this sole motivational tendency on the individual's experiences and behaviours can be changed, distorted or stunted by interaction with unfavourable, inadequate or destructive environmental circumstances: Such as trauma associated with home life, domestic violence, poverty or violent early experiences. These distorted or stunted realisations of the individual create the need for psychotherapy. Therefore allowing the individual to be empowered to overcome, or change their mental and physical negative habits.

Client-centred therapy is an attempt to create the ultimate optimised psychological environment for the individual by the means of the therapist providing a special kind of relationship that involves certain attitudes specific to a Humanist therapy. These attitudes are the actualisation of the individual taking responsibility and the therapist in providing a supporting guidance role. This relationship fosters the person's natural actualising tendency to function in ways that overcome the effects on the individuals self to overcome unfavourable or destructive circumstances. An example being that through therapy the individual will gain a level of self awareness that will enable them to function at a level of mental and physical completeness.

The characteristics of "Rogers Theory" of actualisation are called the self (organismic) - this theory is based on what the individual feels the centre of instincts and emotions. Challenges and difficulties occur when an individual's belief about what he or she should be conflicts with the ( organismic) self. If that difference cannot be reconciled, the individual may end up repressing the aspects of his/her personality which he/she feels to be unacceptable. Such a response is likely to happen when conditions of worth are placed upon a person who may then feel that, in order to gain acceptance, he/she has to appear to be what he/she is not. This state is likely to become worse each time a person feels judged and becomes afraid of not being loved.

The repressed part of the individual will attempt to express itself despite the efforts of the individual to suppress these negative aspects. Therefore It is this constant battle between the idea the individuals has of what they have to be , to be their real self (organismic) which makes it impossible for that individual to feel at peace and at ease.

The principle characteristics of all organisms, including the human, have this tendency in common although Rogers' term "person" is the one used for the distinctly human realisation of organismic nature. In describing this motivational principle, Rogers stated that the other main characteristics of organisms and those peculiar to individuals/persons are necessarily brought into view.

The major properties of Rogers' "actualising tendency" construct in organisms/individuals are as follows:

The actualising tendency is individual and universal (Rogers 1980). The expression of the tendency is always unique to the individual and also the presence of the tendency is a motivating tendency for all self. Rogers also believed that the the actualising tendency is holistic (Rogers, 1959). The actualisation is expressed in a specific yet variable, dynamic and changing manner through the subsystems of the whole individual while maintaining self wholeness and mental organisation.

The result of the Humanist therapy is that the individual's experience and behaviour becomes more constructive and more developed in the sense of the whole individual balance. Applying the same logic, individual's constructive growth tendency can be extended beyond psychotherapy to include any inter-individual relationship where one individual can create a climate that promotes the other individual's actualising tendency.

Cognitive Perspective

"Cognitive psychology is a discipline within psychology that investigates the internal mental processes of thought such as visual processing, memory, problem solving, and language".

Cognitive psychologists use psychophysical and experimental approaches to understand, diagnose, and solve problems, concerning themselves with the mental processes which mediate between stimulus and response.

Cognitive therapy concentrates on:

  • Focuses on internal processes
  • Behaviour is determined by conscious internal mental processes
  • Humans are like information processors, like computers
  • Should be studied scientifically using experimental methods

Ulrich Neisser was responsible for the term 'cognitive psychology' in his book published in 1967 (Cognitive Psychology), where in Neisser proceeded to provide a definition of cognitive psychology which characterised the individual internal processes as dynamic information, processing systems whose mental operations might be described in computational terms

The term "cognition" refers to all the mental processes by which the sensory input is changed, reduced, elaborated, stored or recovered, and then used. Cognitive therapy is based on the use of these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and psychotic hallucinations... Given this theoretical definition, it is such a sweeping definition, that it becomes apparent that cognition is a process which is involved in everything an individual might possibly do. Therefore it is a logical assumption that moreover; every psychological phenomenon in an individual can therefore be related to a cognitive phenomenon. However cognitive psychology includes all human activity rather than just a fraction of it, in its analysis off the individual. There is more than one established viewpoint- although many are recognised as equally legitimate and necessary - such as Jean Piaget, Albert Ellis who was a leading pioneer in the development of CBT. Noam Chomsky - who are was considered to have been significant influences of the thinking and theories relating to the cognitive state of mind. Jean Piaget is considered to be the pioneer of the "constructive theory of knowing".

Dynamic psychology, which initiates the cognitive therapy specifically with the individual's motives, rather than with any sensory input, is a case in point. Therefore instead of asking how a man's actions and experiences are as a result from what the individual may have saw, remembered, or believed, the cognitive dynamic psychologist will ask how they follow on and relate to the individuals personal goals, needs and instincts.

CBT can be very productive in opening up the potential for change. But it has its limitations, in a number of ways.

Firstly, many of the experiences that occur are before a child fully develops cognition and therefore remain the 'unknown'. Much of our early experiences and there meaning is held in the body as a "sensorimotor" process , alternatively it can be held in the "limbic system" as an emotional process and is therefore very difficult to access or assess via Cognitive Therapy. There is recent debate as to the validity of the use of Cognitive therapy, as it has its limitations and does not work for everyone, also its best used as a specific treatment plan for specific forms of treatment: Stress and Anxiety conditions respond well.

Secondly, the CBT Therapist will concentrate on changing an individual's behaviour, without considering the meaning, function or reason of the specific behaviour and its self protective function. The consequence of this is that it becomes as effective as sticking a plaster on a large open wound. This is primarily because CBT is based on a "medical model". CBT focuses on pathology: it views the individual as dysfunctional, therefore requiring therapy in order to function within 'normally'.

The negative to this approach is that it can actually reinforce one or more of the original pathology: an example being; "there is something wrong with me, I am bad person , the guilt or emotions become more unstable and the feelings of inadequacy are exhasabated, and the need to change can be a over whelming mental ordeal. Therefore the more focus placed on the changes required simply causes the resurface of the original issues within the individuals pathology.

Humanistic therapy is diametrically opposed to that of CBT and originates from a radically different philosophy. The Humanistic model asserts that we are essentially functional organisms and that our defensive inborn processes actually represent a healthy self protective choice given that the early environment we experienced, have the potential to surface as negative influences in latter life. The Humanistic therapist will seek to engage with the individual's frame of reference, including their deeply rooted affected mentality; the purpose of this is to facilitate the individual's forward move into a place of self actualised autonomy. Humanistic therapy is a collaborative journey, where the individual is the expert of their own experience, and the Humanistic therapist is the provider of the theory Cognitive psychology is radically different from the Humanistic psychological approaches in two key ways.

CBT accepts the use of the scientific method, although it ignores both and generally rejects experimental, social and cultural factors, as the unconscious mind and biological factors. It has in fact been deemed somewhat simplistic in its approach. It also considers introspection as a valid method of investigation, unlike symbol-driven Humanistic approaches of Maslov or Rogers , which has no scientific basis, and is not measurable or testable - therefore cannot be scientifically validated.

Whilst Cognitive therapy acknowledges the existence of internal mental states (such as belief, desire and motivation) there is criticism that cognitive therapy empiricism with the acknowledgement and acceptance of internal mental states by cognitive psychology is contradictory.


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  • Joanna Connor /version/01 - 04/10/09 word count = 2132

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