Applications of Humanistic Philosophical Therapy


This essay discusses the application of Martin Buber’s I/Thou relationship, to the current practices of person-centered, Adlerian, and other humanistic practices of psychology into a therapy we will call Humanistic Philosophical Therapy.  Does an I/Thou relationship allow for the counselor to more effectively ‘live through’ an experience with their client? The I/Thou based dialogue as it applies to person-centered therapy allows for a more empathetic counseling environment, a less defined counseling style, and allows for a genuine relationship with the client by focusing on human experiences and the client’s perceptions of their current reality.

Keywords: counseling psychology, I thou dialogue, Buber, Taft, Humanistic Philosophical Therapy

Humanistic Philosophical Therapy

The Foundation

The foundation of Humanistic Philosophical Therapy is to help the client realize their own potential and help them reach their own conclusions.  HPT is based on the premise that humans are inherently good, and have the ability to make their own choices.  It allows emphasis on “the personal relationship as the crucial determinant of treatment outcomes” (Corey, 2017), and has more potential if the client has already accepted what their responsibility is, for their current situation.  HPT takes into consideration the client’s verbal and non-verbal communications, and sometimes the non-verbal communication says much more than the verbal communication.

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Apart from Carl Rogers and Alfred Adler, the foundations of this therapy are also based on the views of Jessie Taft and Martin Buber.  Rogers three characteristics of effective therapy are also effective characteristics of good interpersonal relationships in general-empathy, acceptance and genuineness.  Adler (1930) once quoted an anonymous English author, saying “one must see with the other person’s eyes, hear with his ears, and feel with his heart” (p. 164).  Taft defined her therapy “as a process in which the individual finally learns to utilize the allotted hour from beginning to end without undue fear, resistance, resentment or greediness” (Taft, 1933, p. 17).   Buber’s I/Thou philosophy, as written by Nicola Amari (Amari, 2019) allows the counselor and the client to attend every session as their most authentic, unique and whole selves, “without objectifying the other” (p. 2).  Humanistic Philosophical Therapy is an integration of empathetic or humanistic theories, social/individual psychology and philosophical ideas of the human relationship.

Therapeutic Goals

The therapeutic goals of HPT are to help the client find a sense of belonging and create mutual respect between themselves and the therapist.  Adler expressed that people who act in agreement with social interest have greater levels of self-worth, esteem, and positive thinking.  They tend to have a more optimistic view of others, seeing them as equals worthy of respect (Watts, 1998).  Humans have certain needs that need to be met, Rogers called this the need for positive regard, which “involves receiving […] love, warmth, sympathy, and acceptance” (p.556) as children, which Rogers says is not usually freely given (Hergenhahn & Henley, 2014).  The goal is for the therapist to help the client recognize those needs, and to help them benefit from the acceptance of their responsibility for meeting those needs.  HPT can be used to treat depression, panic disorders, anxieties, addiction, relationship and family issues, and for personal development.

Therapeutic Relationship

The therapeutic relationship of Humanistic Philosophical Therapy is built on changing the client’s perspective, mutual respect and a collaborative relationship. It is a mutual partnership, the therapist provides support, and the client can then learn more about themselves, and go outside of their comfort zone, adopting a more experiential attitude toward their life (, 2015).  The counseling style with HPT is less- defined, focusing on and catering to what the client needs out the relationship, and therefore different from client to client.  Rogers “maintained that each individual exists in the center of a phenomenal field” (Engler, 2014) and that each person responds to this field, and their total sum of life experiences.  Most people look at the world as ‘either or’, HBT prefers to look at everyone relationally, much like Buber’s I/Thou relationship.  In using ideas from Buber’s, I/Thou, it allows the therapist to maintain a philosophical stance, and a holistic approach (Amari, 2019).

Techniques and Methods

Rather than emphasizing the ways a person is ‘dysfunctional’, the techniques that Humanistic Philosophical Therapy uses focuses more on positive attributes of the client, and developing healthier thinking patterns and behaviors.  HPT uses the concept of family atmosphere, “which assists in determining whether or not the child will react actively or passively, constructively or destructively, in the quest toward superiority” (Engler, 2014).

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HPT uses Roger’s active listening techniques, allowing the therapist to keep the client engaged in the session.  This allows the therapist to have the client talk about themselves as they are in the moment, and what they would like to become as a result, or what their ideal self would be.  These techniques are not meant to predict or control human behavior, but to further make use of the positive, creative, and emotional side of humans.

HPT pulls from Adler’s belief in moving in the direction of change, by finding faulty assumptions of oneself and creating purposeful goals.  Some of his other treatment goals were subjective, including using relationships to explain behavior, and social connectiveness.

Cultural Considerations and Limitations

The benefit of Humanistic Philosophical Therapy is that is can be adapted cross-culturally,

The limitations of HPT are that it has the potential to cause frustration in the client, and tends to be very Western based.  HPT does have a less defined counseling style, and is not focused in experiments and research like other theories.  It also has the potential to not be challenging enough for the client, and would not be very effective in clients that need a more mentor-like therapist, or someone to give them the answers.  Clients can potentially become frustrated with the need to think very independently; those who are not capable of doing so may need to be moved on to a new therapy that would be more beneficial for them.  There is potential for abuse like there is with any form of therapy, among training students or new practitioners, to influence those who have a diverse culture to follow and adopt Westernized beliefs, even if it undermines their own beliefs.  It is important for the therapist to discuss with the client





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