Assessing the Humanistic-Existential Model: Strengths and Limitations

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  • 0:07 Humanistic-Existential Model
  • 1:16 Strengths
  • 2:18 Limitations
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Much of psychology focuses on the negative parts of human experience, but the humanistic-existential model of psychology looks at the positive potential of humans. In this lesson, we'll look at the strengths and weaknesses of the model.

Humanistic-Existential Model

Ever wonder why, if psychology is supposed to make people feel better, so much of it is based on the idea that people are flawed and incomplete? Whether it's that people have a problem with their brain that's causing their psychological issues or whether it's that they have subconscious urges that they can't overcome, a lot of psychology seems to be talking about what's wrong with people.

But what about what's right with them? That's what Abraham Maslow was interested in studying. Maslow looked at people and saw all the incredible possibilities of what they could be. He founded humanistic psychology, which says that people are constantly striving to become the best version of themselves.

Often, humanistic psychology is combined with existential psychology, which says that people's thoughts and actions center on the questions 'Who am I?' and 'Why am I here on Earth?' Together, these make up the humanistic-existential model of abnormal psychology, which looks at how people can realize their fullest potential. Let's look closer at the strengths and limitations of the humanistic-existential model of psychology.


One of the main strengths of the humanistic-existential model of psychology is that it is optimistic. Instead of focusing on what's lacking in people, it looks at the potential of people to become great. The health part of mental health is stressed; that is, the focus is on what the healthiest and happiest people do and what everyone else can do to get there.

Another strength of the humanistic-existential model of psychology is that it emphasizes individuality and autonomy. Patients are encouraged to focus on their decisions, and great stress is given to free will. Therapists reinforce their patients' ability to choose and act according to their own internal compass.

There's also a strong emphasis on the individual's own experiences and viewpoint. No two people are alike, and so no two patients are expected to have the same ideas, feelings, and experiences. As a result, humanistic-existential therapy is tailor-made for each patient.


Despite the strengths, though, there are some limitations to the humanistic-existential model of psychology. For one thing, it is based on philosophical concepts that are abstract and somewhat vague. As a result, it is not empirical in nature; that is, it is non-scientific and is very hard to validate with science. This is a problem for many people because they believe that it is impossible to know how true it is or how well it works if it is not scientifically testable.

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