Humanistic Psychology: Current Life and a Missing Piece
For a few years in the 1970s I taught a course on humanistic psychology, which then was still considered a “third force” in contrast to behavioral and psychoanalytic approaches. The emphasis was on the major figures (Maslow, May, and others) and ideas, but we also looked at the American cultural context that favored the development of humanistic viewpoints, including controversial topics such as encounter groups and altered states of consciousness. This course disappeared from our university catalog before the end of the century.
The reviewers (Louis Hoffman and Shawn Rubin) of Encountering America: Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self by Jessica Grogan are pleased that the author has attempted to separate the controversial fringe from clinical and academic contributions of humanistic psychology. The reviewers are not pleased, however, that Grogan generally ignores the current situation. The field currently is “alive and well,” they say. Membership in APA Division 32 has grown, its journal is active, and there are many viable graduate programs that emphasize the humanistic approach.
Nevertheless, the numbers still are small, and the influence seems minimal, compared with the dominance of cognitive ideas in research and therapy. Are there any examples to show that humanistic approaches have much impact these days?
The Missing Piece
Hoffman and Rubin’s review discusses early struggles with gender and race diversity issues. Religion also was an issue. The first book published in this country that used “humanistic” in the title was edited bv Francis T. Severin, a Jesuit priest at Saint Louis University (Severin, 1965). Severin also wrote a supplement for introductory psychology courses titled, “What Humanistic Psychology Is About.” Severin sat in meetings with Abraham Maslow and others when the Association for Humanistic Psychology was formed. Severin told me that as the Association developed, religious views were not well received and he resigned his membership. Psychologists interested in religious issues went on to form their own APA division (36).
Severin, F. T. (1965). Humanistic viewpoints in psychology: A book of readings. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.