13 The Humanistic-Experiential Approach

Clinical Psychology


  1. Leslie Greenberg PhD1,
  2. Robert Elliott PhD2,
  3. Germain Lietaer PhD3,
  4. Jeanne Watson PhD4

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop208013

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Greenberg, L., Elliott, R., Lietaer, G. and Watson, J. 2012. The Humanistic-Experiential Approach. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 8:II:13.

Author Information

  1. 1

    York University, Department of Psychology, Toronto, ON, Canada

  2. 2

    University of Strathclyde, School of Psychological Sciences and Health, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

  3. 3

    Catholic University Leuven, Department of Clinical Psychology, Leuven, Belgium

  4. 4

    University of Toronto, Dept. of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology, Toronto, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


The most central characteristics of humanistic approaches to psychotherapy are defined and sub-approaches within the humanistic approach are identified. The main characteristics of the family of humanistic experiential approaches are their focus on promoting an empathically attuned relationship, in-therapy experiencing, a commitment to a phenomenological approach, a belief in the uniquely human capacity for reflective consciousness, a positive view of human functioning, and the operation of some form of growth tendency. These approaches adopt a consistently person-centered view that involves concern and real respect for each person. In this chapter the major source approaches within this orientation, Person-Centered, Gestalt, and Existential, are discussed. The emergence of contemporary experiential therapy, based on neo-humanistic reformulations of the above classic humanistic values, is presented. The traditional humanistic assumptions have been expanded to incorporate modern views on emotion, dynamic systems, constructivism, and the importance of a process view of functioning to help clarify the humanistic views of growth and self-determination. Neo-humanistic-experiential therapy is based on the importance of the relationship as a stubborn attempt by two human beings to meet each other in a genuine manner and as involving the intention to promote the deepening of the client's experience. This is seen as leading to integrative self-reorganization. Research results on the effectiveness of experiential therapy and the processes of change are reviewed.


  • relationship;
  • empathy;
  • experiencing;
  • emotion;
  • process;
  • outcome