Core Beliefs

Philosophical Foundation

At the heart of any association is its basic philosophy. It is this common set of beliefs that brings the members together and gives them a common purpose.

It is in the humanistic tradition that individuals are happier and less stressed when they are able to act in a congruent manner. This means that actions in the outside world are consistent with their most deeply held inner beliefs.

In order that the UKAHPP might also aim for inner and outer consistency we have published our core beliefs. These are for the information of the general public and the guidance of members and of the Association’s administration. We strive as far as possible to practice what we preach.

The UKAHPP Statement of Core Beliefs was arrived at after a tremendous amount of research and contribution from the membership as a whole. It is not a fixed document but responds as the Association develops and learns. In its essence it represents an approach to life and work to which all UKAHPP members subscribe.

The thoughts that follow are derived from the original efforts of an UKAHPP Working Party together with feedback from the membership. Their purpose is to inform the practices of both UKAHPP as an organisation, and of UKAHPP practitioners in the application of their various humanistic disciplines. The statement is open to change and extension in the light of experience. Comments are invited from all members of UKAHPP.


The humanistic approach to psychology and therapy cannot be summarised in one single definition. The humanistic view is one of “many ways of looking”, in that root knowledge of oneself, of others and of the world is based essentially on inner experience and of experiential encounter with others and with the world. Hence humanistic theories of what it is to be a person are of necessity varied, they are different maps but none is the actual territory. Accordingly this statement of UKAHPP’s beliefs presents a variety of views, divided into two sections. Firstly fundamental beliefs, the tenets of humanistic psychology, to which all humanistic practitioners would subscribe in varying degrees. Secondly, a range of views from which the practitioner can select those they experience to be true, putting the others aside, rather than rejecting them.

Fundamental Core Beliefs

Theory of Human Nature and Theory of Self The individual is unique, while being part of the environment, including relationships with others within the larger systems of humankind, incorporating family, community and society, and with the natural world. The individual is neither intrinsically good or bad and is motivated towards self actualisation and to seek security, love, belonging and, ultimately, truth. A person is greater than the sum of their parts, which includes their body, behaviours, beliefs (secular and spiritual), thoughts and feelings (conscious and unconscious). The person is an integrated and self regulating whole, only when this balance is disturbed or incomplete do dis-ease and dysfunction arise as symptoms, rather than as causes. Accordingly each individual has a right to autonomy and self determination, subject to accepting responsibility for their own actions. Each individual also has responsibility towards others, respecting their rights and honouring difference and diversity..

The Central Premise of Humanistic Psychology

  1. Humanistic Psychology is strongly phenomenological or experiential: Its starting point is conscious experience.
  2. Humanistic Psychology is essentially concerned with a person’s wholeness and integrity.
  3. Humanistic Psychology, while acknowledging there are clear-cut limits inherent in human existence, insists that human beings retain an essential freedom and autonomy.
  4. Humanistic Psychology is anti-reductionist in its orientation.
  5. Humanistic Psychology has a strong grounding in existentialism and the premise that human nature can never be fully defined.

Engagement in the therapeutic relationship provides the client with a focus for becoming more in tune with their inner processes (including the implications of psychological distress) by fostering a greater sense of self-understanding and self-determination – in terms of life choices.

The Basic Tenets of Humanistic Psychology: Forming the basis for a theory of human nature and a foundation for therapy

  1. The individual is Unique
  2. With an inherent nature the Self
  3. An interactive Whole (mind body spirit)
  4. With potential for growth – Self-Actualisation
  5. Which is constantly unfolding – in a state of Becoming
  6. Within an Experiential and Phenomenological field – seeking congruence, the integration of experience with awareness
  7. Human Needs are fundamentally healthy – primarily good or at least neutral in nature
  8. Exercised within an interactive intra/interpersonal Relational field
  9. In the form of Love, Understanding and Choice
  10. Psychological Distress is seen as the product of thwarted or frustrated needs or need deprivation – which can inhibit an individual’s actualising tendency.
  11. Human behaviour can be Motivational or Expressive
  12. Individuals have the capacity to draw on an Internal Frame of Reference to inform a moral sense and to ascribe Meaning and Direction to life experiences in accordance with their phenomenological reality.

The Aims of Therapy and Growth

The aim of personal growth is self awareness and actualisation. This means in part:

  1. to bring oneself to a state of wholeness and completion in whatever way one experiences this;
  2. to gain sovereignty over one’s life, to be authentic;
  3. to be emotionally competent and to further one’s creativity and one’s search for truth, meaning, love and relationship with oneself and with others;
  4. to relate to others in ways that demonstrate awareness of and respect for difference;
  5. to heal past and current wounds and traumas;
  6. to achieve integrity and autonomy while acknowledging mutual interdependence with others and with the environment.

Therapy and other means of personal growth assist in these aims by bearing witness, promoting self regulation and healing, completion of unfinished business, acceptance of responsibility and love and acceptance of oneself and of others.

Outcome Studies

There is compelling evidence that Humanistic Psychology has a robust research tradition and that Humanistic practice, characterised by empathy, acceptance, collaboration and a belief in the importance of the therapeutic relationship, support the Humanistic assumption that the client is the principle driver of therapeutic change. Humanistic Psychology was affirmed by the Department of Health in 2010 as one of the four main modality approaches in the UK. A ‘Meta-analyses of Humanistic therapies, as a whole, support the hypotheses that they are efficacious and effective forms of therapy, with a large average pre-post effect size of 0.99, reducing down to 0.89 when compared against wait-list or no-therapy controls’ (Elliott, Greenberg et al., 2004; cited in Cooper, 2008: 162).

Unfortunately, UK institutions such as National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) hold in esteem an illness model of mental health and a symptom reduction research paradigm. However, reviews of psychotherapy outcome have repeatedly shown that this methodology obscurers understanding of the true benefits and significance of psychotherapy to mental health. What has been clear since the 1960s is that clients who access psychotherapy improve more than clients who do not access psychotherapy and that there is little evidence to suggest the superiority of one type of therapy or techniques over another type – as NICE guidelines suggest.

Reviews of psychotherapy outcome research (Lambert 1992; Lambert et al 1986) also suggest that:

  • 40% of outcome is accounted for by extra-therapeutic variables – factors unique to the client, their environment and circumstances
  • 30% of outcome is attributed to common client-therapist relationship factors, such as empathy, warmth and acceptance
  • 15% of outcome is attributed to techniques
  • 15% of outcome is attributed to a ‘placebo effect ‘ – improvement that results from the client knowing that they are receiving help

These figures present an intriguing argument in support of the essence of Humanistic approaches which emphasise the importance of a client-therapist relationship based on empathy, acceptance and trust in the significance of the client’s frame of reference – 70% of the above.


Cooper, M. (2008) Essential Research Findings in Counselling and Psychotherapy, London: Sage

Lambert, M.J. (1992) Psychotherapy Outcome Research. In Norcross J.C and Goldfried, M.R. (eds) Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration (pp. 94-129) New York: Basic Books

Lambert, M.J., Shapiro, D.A and Bergin, A.E. (1986) The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy. In Garfield S.L and Bergin, A.E. (eds) Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (pp. 157-212) New York; John Wiley & Sons.

The Nature of the Therapeutic Relationship

The therapeutic relationship is seen as the primary agent of change in fulfilling the aims of personal growth. It is founded upon the therapist being genuine, congruent, empathetic, open, honest, non-judgmental and accepting of the client. Contact between the core self of the client and core self of the therapist is the point of healing and growth for both parties. The relationship is “real” but this does not preclude the place of appropriate challenge, guided exploration, skilled interventions or the reality of the contractual arrangements and maintenance of boundaries. Nor does the therapeutic relationship preclude recognition of transference and resistance by the client or counter transference issues on the part of the therapist.

Views Consistent with Core Beliefs

A Diversity of Humanistic Views

Instead of firm definitions, a range views is here presented, which may be accepted or put aside, as tolerance of such diversity is itself humanistic.

Theories of Human Nature

The process of living is creative and involves interaction between the physical world, the intellectual and emotional realm (thoughts, intuitions and feelings), the spiritual (the nature of the soul), the social world (relationships, society and institutions) and the environment (politics, community and nature). We are part of the environment and inseparable from it. We cannot get outside the environment to look at ourselves and are therefore objectively un-examinable by ourselves. Hence a person supersedes the sum of his or her parts, is affected by relationships with others, is aware, has choice and is intentional. There is no split between mind and body.

Purpose of Therapy and Counselling

People are fundamentally capable of self-actualising, self-regulating and self-forming. This is the continuous and creative process of living. A humanistic practitioner enters into this process with another human being or beings and through the medium of a professional therapeutic relationship seeks to help them regain sovereignty over their lives. The need for psychotherapeutic intervention arises when interactions between or within the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual parts of a person are damaged or distorted, including interaction with the environment in which they live and with others.

Characteristics of Humanistic Practice

Humanistic practice works creatively with the dynamic between individual uniqueness and the categorising process that some find necessary to understand human beings and the world generally. The therapeutic relationship is the main or even perhaps the only medium of change rather than techniques, strategies and modalities which are only gateways to the encounter. Theory is used as metaphor to aid a needed common language. Transference and counter transference are seen as aspects of communication and are handled as such, rather than as the mainstay of the relationship.

Some principles of therapeutic practice:-

  1. The therapeutic relationship is between two (or more) autonomous human beings.
  2. Therapy is a two-way process of relationship.
  3. Each therapeutic intervention is purposeful and finely tuned, though the therapist is not always “right”.
  4. Confrontation shows the client the maladaptive attitudes, beliefs etc. that prevent him/her moving on.
  5. Therapy with the adult enables regressive issues to be contradicted in the present.
  6. Emotional competence is one goal of therapy so that the client can “own” their own emotions.
  7. Acceptance is a further goal of therapy in that the client comes to accept his/her true self.
  8. One aim of therapy is uncovering and re-educating the real self.
  9. Emphasis is on experiential learning, humans learn from experience.
  10. Congruence is sought in thought and action.
  11. Diversity is welcomed: different individuals follow different paths.
  12. Autonomy is promoted: people are free and act as independent individuals.
  13. Authenticity is sought: what is valuable in human relating is realness.
  14. Awareness is developed: we are able to become fully aware of both conscious and unconscious forces.
  15. Integrity is sought: the integration of different elements into an authentic whole.
  16. A non-judgmental and inclusive attitude is adopted.
  17. Trust is adopted. People are assumed to be good rather than bad.

Humanistic Approaches in Relation to Other Modalities

Humanistic psychology developed in the USA within the academic psychology establishment as a reaction to the behavioural and analytic emphasis of the time. Humanistic approaches are not complementary to the others but, coming later and incorporating their lessons, are developments of and advances over them. Humanistic approaches are a synthesis of analytic, behavioural, existential models. There is no evidence to support one theory of psychotherapy over another. Humanistic psychology incorporates psychoanalytic and behavioural orientations within a broader phenomenological orientation that emphasises human experience and meaning.

There are several sources of humanistic psychology as it exists today: the phenomenological tradition, the existential tradition, self-actualisation, abundance motivation, the person-centred approach, body-oriented approaches, group dynamics, peak experiences and eastern philosophy. To these might be added transpersonal influences of a more general kind.