What are the key characteristics and concepts of humanistic theory, psychodynamic theory and cognitive-behavioural theory?
Humanism is a holistic approach to psychology which places emphasis on the process and goal of ‘self-actualisation’. Self-actualisation involves the fulfilment of a person’s needs and the full realisation of their potential. Core to the humanist approach is unconditional positive regard, which involves taking a non-judgemental, accepting approach with clients during therapy in order to provide the most fertile ground for them to flourish and grow.
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Psychodynamic theory explains many behaviours as resulting from inner conflicts between a multitude of conscious and unconscious psychological forces. Core to the theory is the conflict between primal impulses (id) and moderating impulses (superego). A key aspect of psychodynamic analysis is the idea of ‘defence mechanisms’ – unconscious means by which persons can pacify unpleasant feelings and impulses, though not eliminate them.
Cognitive-behavioural theory combines cognitive and behavioural approaches in psychology. Like behaviourism, this theory sees negative stimuli as generating avoidance behaviours and an emotional response, but it also posits a relationship between these aspects and what is referred to as ‘maladaptive thinking’ – the cognitive component of the theory. It is believed that by consciously questioning and challenging these patterns of thought, change can be effected in emotions and behaviour.
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