Humanistic Psychologist: Role, Responsibilities & Education

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Updated on July 12, 2023
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Humanistic psychology strongly emphasizes individuality, personal growth, and self-actualization. In the United States, humanistic psychologists play a crucial role in helping individuals achieve their full potential, promoting mental well-being, and fostering meaningful connections. These professionals specialize in a person-centered approach to therapy, creating a safe environment for clients to explore their emotions, values, and aspirations. By adopting a non-judgmental and empathetic stance, humanistic psychologists facilitate self-awareness, self-acceptance, and the development of healthier perspectives and behaviors.

Humanistic psychologists are responsible for conducting comprehensive assessments and employing various therapeutic approaches to assist diverse populations facing relationship difficulties, identity crises, or life transitions. With this regard, let’s dive deeper into being a Humanistic Psychologist and how to become one.

What does a Humanistic Psychologist do?

A humanistic psychologist, as a licensed professional in psychology, specializes in applying humanistic approaches to psychotherapy. Central to the humanistic view is the belief that individuals possess inherent goodness and the capacity for self-actualization, which involves discovering and utilizing their own positive traits and capabilities. These psychologists employ various therapeutic approaches, including person-centered therapy, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), Gestalt therapy, and existential-humanistic therapy.

In their practice, humanistic psychologists adopt a holistic perspective on treatment, considering the individual as a whole and recognizing the interconnectedness of their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and experiences. They emphasize the profound significance of the client-psychologist therapeutic relationship, creating a safe and trusting space for clients to explore their feelings, thoughts, and desires without fear of judgment.

Humanistic psychologists have successfully addressed various mental health issues through their therapeutic interventions. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, panic disorders, phobias, addictions, and relationship problems have all been treated by humanistic psychologists. By facilitating self-awareness, self-acceptance, and personal growth, these professionals help clients develop healthier perspectives, coping mechanisms, and behavioral patterns, ultimately promoting psychological well-being and a greater sense of fulfillment in life.

Throughout the therapeutic process, humanistic psychologists work collaboratively with their clients, empowering them to take an active role in their growth and healing. By fostering a supportive and empathetic environment, these psychologists facilitate the exploration of underlying issues, expressing emotions, and developing strategies to overcome challenges. With their expertise and dedication, humanistic psychologists significantly impact individuals’ lives, assisting them in realizing their full potential and leading more fulfilling lives.

5 Skills that a Humanistic Psychologist Should Have

A humanistic psychologist should possess diverse skills to practice within the humanistic approach to psychotherapy effectively. Here are five essential skills that are crucial for humanistic psychologists:

  1. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. Humanistic psychologists must be highly empathetic to establish a strong therapeutic alliance with their clients. This skill allows them to connect deeply with clients, validate their experiences, and create a safe and supportive environment for exploration and growth.
  2. Active Listening: Active listening is an essential skill for humanistic psychologists. It involves fully engaging with clients, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, and demonstrating genuine interest in their stories and experiences. Active listening enables psychologists to understand clients’ perspectives, emotions, and needs, facilitating effective therapeutic interventions.
  3. Non-judgmental Attitude: Humanistic psychologists must maintain a non-judgmental and accepting stance towards their clients. This attitude fosters an environment free from criticism or negative evaluations, allowing clients to feel safe and comfortable openly sharing their thoughts and emotions. By suspending judgment, psychologists create space for self-exploration, self-acceptance, and personal growth.
  4. Reflective Skills: Reflective skills involve the ability to help clients gain insights into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Humanistic psychologists use meditative techniques to encourage clients to examine their experiences from different angles and develop a deeper understanding of themselves. Psychologists promote self-awareness and facilitate positive change by reflecting and gently challenging clients’ assumptions or beliefs.
  5. Culturally Competent Approach: Humanistic psychologists work with diverse populations, and it is crucial for them to have cultural competence. This involves being sensitive to and knowledgeable about different cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values. By understanding and respecting cultural diversity, psychologists can provide inclusive and effective therapy that aligns with clients’ unique cultural contexts.

Becoming a Humanistic Psychologist

1. Taking up a Master’s Degree Program

Pursuing a master’s degree in psychology or a related field is crucial to becoming a humanistic psychologist. However, there may be some challenges along the way. One challenge is the competitive nature of graduate programs, as admission into reputable programs can be highly selective. It requires a solid academic background, relevant research experience, and compelling personal statements. 

Additionally, tuition and living expenses funding can be a hurdle, as financial support may be limited. Students may need to explore scholarships and grants or work part-time to manage their financial obligations while pursuing their degree.

2. Obtaining a Doctorate Degree

Opting for a doctorate, such as a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., provides advanced training and specialization in humanistic approaches to psychology. However, this path comes with its own set of challenges. Doctoral programs typically require a significant time commitment, lasting between four to six years, and demand extensive research and coursework. 

Balancing academic responsibilities with personal commitments can be demanding, and students may need to develop effective time management and self-care strategies. Additionally, the cost of pursuing a doctoral degree can be substantial, and students may need to navigate financial planning and potential debt management.

3. Obtaining Practical Experience

Gaining practical experience is essential for aspiring humanistic psychologists. This typically involves completing supervised clinical practicum or internships. One challenge can be securing these practical placements, as demand often exceeds the available opportunities. Students may need to network, seek out arrangements, and compete with other students for limited positions. 

Additionally, navigating the complexities of working with diverse populations and addressing sensitive topics in therapy can be emotionally demanding. Self-reflection and ongoing supervision are essential for managing personal and professional challenges that may arise during practical experiences.

4. Passing the Licensure

Obtaining licensure is a crucial milestone for practicing independently as a humanistic psychologist. However, the licensure process can present challenges. State licensure requirements vary, and understanding and meeting these requirements can be complex. Studying for and passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which assesses knowledge across various areas of psychology, can be a rigorous task. Furthermore, completing the required postdoctoral supervised hours can be time-consuming and may require finding suitable supervision opportunities. Meeting ethical standards and navigating legal regulations throughout the licensure process can also pose challenges that require ongoing professional development and awareness.

Despite the challenges, the journey to becoming a humanistic psychologist is rewarding. It offers opportunities for personal and professional growth, contributing to the field of psychology and positively impacting individuals’ lives. Aspiring humanistic psychologists can overcome these challenges and thrive in their chosen profession with determination, perseverance, and a commitment to ongoing learning.

Relevant Organizations

Several relevant organizations in the field of psychology are dedicated to advancing humanistic approaches and supporting humanistic psychologists. Here are some key organizations, along with their goals and notable projects:

1. American Psychological Association (APA)

The American Psychological Association is the largest professional organization representing psychologists in the United States. While not specific to humanistic psychology, the APA promotes the integration of humanistic principles within the broader field of psychology. Their goals include advancing psychology as a science and profession, promoting ethical practices, and advocating for the well-being of individuals and communities. 

2. Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP)

The Association for Humanistic Psychology is a professional organization that promotes humanistic psychology as a distinct and valuable approach to understanding human experience. AHP’s goals include fostering collaboration among humanistic psychologists, supporting research and education in humanistic approaches, and raising public awareness about humanistic principles. 

They organize conferences, publish journals, and offer networking opportunities for professionals interested in humanistic psychology. A notable project of AHP is its annual conference, where scholars, practitioners, and students gather to share research, present workshops, and engage in discussions on humanistic psychology.

3. Society for Humanistic Psychology (SHP)

The Society for Humanistic Psychology is a division of the APA and focuses on advancing humanistic psychology. SHP aims to promote humanistic principles in research, education, and practice and advocate for social justice and human rights. They provide resources, publish journals, and organize conferences and symposia to facilitate dialogue and collaboration among humanistic psychologists. The SHP’s projects include supporting humanistic research initiatives, promoting humanistic perspectives in psychological education, and fostering a community of humanistic psychologists worldwide.

4. International Network on Personal Meaning (INPM)

The International Network on Personal Meaning is a global organization dedicated to studying and applying meaning and purpose in life. While not exclusively focused on humanistic psychology, INPM aligns with many humanistic principles, such as the importance of self-actualization and personal growth. Their goals include promoting research, education, and practices related to meaning and purpose, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and promoting positive psychological well-being. INPM sponsors conferences, publishes journals, and supports various research projects and initiatives related to personal meaning.

Salary of a Humanistic Psychologist

As a professional in the field of humanistic psychology, it is essential to understand the salary landscape and job outlook. When exploring job titles closely related to humanistic psychology, several factors come into play. According to, the average salaries for various career/job titles related to humanistic psychology are as follows:

  • Professor: Within the field of humanistic psychology, professors earn an average salary of $119,000. This reflects the competitive compensation offered in academic settings for those specializing in this area.
  • Financial Aid Officer: While not directly involved in practicing humanistic psychology, financial aid officers earn an average salary of $37,000 in academic settings. This role can serve as a related career path for individuals interested in supporting students’ educational pursuits.
  • Supervisory Pharmacist: Although not directly within humanistic psychology, supervisory pharmacists earn an average salary of $114,000. This demonstrates the potential for higher earnings in related fields.
  • Mental Health Clinician: Mental health clinicians, who provide counseling and support to individuals, align closely with humanistic principles. They earn an average salary of $56,000, reflecting the compensation in this practice area.

While these figures provide insights into related job titles, it is crucial to consider the earning potential specifically within humanistic psychology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all psychologists, regardless of their specialization, earned a median salary of $72,580 per year as of May 2015. This figure serves as a general benchmark for psychologists and underscores the financial aspect of a career in humanistic psychology.

Examining the job outlook, the field of psychology shows promising growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% increase in employment from 2014 to 2024, which is significantly faster than the national average for most other professions. This positive job outlook indicates favorable prospects for individuals pursuing a career in humanistic psychology.

While specific salary figures for humanistic psychology can vary, reports an average national salary of $50,000 for job postings. This average is 13% lower than the average salary for all job postings nationwide, suggesting that humanistic psychology salaries may be slightly below the national average.

Key Takeaways

  • Humanistic psychologists practice humanistic approaches to psychotherapy, emphasizing individuals’ inherent goodness and capacity for self-actualization and healing.
  • Humanistic psychologists employ various therapeutic approaches, such as person-centered therapy, emotion-focused therapy, Gestalt therapy, and existential-humanistic therapy, to address various mental health issues and relationship problems.
  • To become a humanistic psychologist, one typically pursues a master’s degree in psychology, followed by a doctorate, gains practical experience through internships or supervised practice, and passes the required licensure exams.
  • Reputable organizations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP), and Society for Humanistic Psychology (SHP), support the advancement of humanistic psychology through research, education, and networking opportunities.
  • Salary figures for humanistic psychologists can vary depending on location, experience, and work setting. However, general statistics indicate that psychologists, including those in humanistic psychology, have a median annual salary of around $72,580, with specific job titles and state locations influencing salary ranges.