The Humanistic-Existential Model and Abnormal Functioning

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  • 0:05 New Model to Explain Behavior
  • 1:20 Strengths and Weaknesses
  • 2:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ron Fritz
What is the humanistic-existential model, and how is different from prior models? Psychology greats such as Maslow, Rogers and May lead the way toward a new model of behavior that has changed the way psychologists view a client.

New Model to Explain Behavior

During the first half of the 20th century, psychologists concerned themselves with specific human problems. You went to a psychologist because you were mentally ill and needed someone to help you get better. There were three primary models used to explain abnormal behavior in this period: biological, psychodynamic and behavioral.

In the 1950s, several well-known psychologists, such as Maslow, Rogers and May, challenged the idea that all behavior could be explained and treated using the old models. The birth of humanistic and existential psychology came about to fill a void in the more popular schools of thought at that time.

Humanistic psychology emphasizes self-acceptance, personal values, personal meaning and individual choice. Existential psychology emphasizes self-determination, choice and individual responsibility. The new model combined the two and was named the humanistic-existential model. Humanistic psychologists believe that everyone has problems that hold them back from reaching their fullest potential. Where old models of psychologists concerned themselves with specific disorders, humanistic psychologists were concerned with treating the whole person.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Both humanistic and existential theories place emphasis on the importance of individual choice. Freedom of choice empowers individuals. This is considered one of the greatest strengths of the humanistic-existential model.

When a client feels empowered, that person becomes invested in his or her treatment. Behaviorists see the client as a victim of his or her environment. Psychoanalysts see the client as a victim of his or her childhood. Humanistic-existentialists see the client as someone in search of personal fulfillment.

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