Humanistic Approaches to Positive Growth and Self-Acceptance




The Master Motive: Self-Actualizing Tendency

  • Self-actualizing tendency: active, controlling drive toward fulfillment of our potentials that enables us to maintain and enhance ourselves

Personality Development:

  • Valuing processing in infants: infants engage in an organismic valuing process, in which they use their actualization tendency as a criterion in making judgments about the worth of a given experience
  • The fully-functioning person: if people are able to utilize their organismic valuing processes fully, they will inevitably begin to experience personal growth and movement toward realization of their potentials; fully functioning people are self-actualizing people
  • Characteristics of fully functioning people include:
    • Openness to experience
    • Existential living
    • Trust of their organisms
    • Creativity
    • Leading an enriched life
  • Emerging persons: people of the future whose interpersonal relationships are characterized by honesty, cooperation, and concern for others; they avoid sham, facades, and hypocrisy; they welcome change and opt for growth even when it is painful to do so
  • Emerging people are characterized by:
    • Honesty and openness
    • An indifference to material possessions
    • Caring for others
    • A deep mistrust of cognitively-based science
    • A trust of their own experience and a profound mistrust of all external authority
    • Courage to change

The Social Self and the True Self:

Social self: self-concept based largely on the expectations of others

  • We have a strong need for positive regard and want to please others

True self: self-concept based on our actual feelings about our experiences

  • Conditions of worth: stipulations upon which our sense of self-worth depends; belief that we are only worthwhile if we perform behaviors that others think are good and refrain from actions that others think are bad
  • Ideal condition for development of a healthy self-concept and movement toward becoming fully functioning is unconditional positive regard: deep and genuine caring by others, uncontaminated by judgments or evaluations of our thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
    • Congruence: state of harmony that exists when there is no discrepancy between the person’s experiencing and his or her self-concept

Assessment Techniques:

Q-Sort: self-report procedure designed to measure the discrepancy between a persons actual and ideal self.

Theory’s Implications for Therapy:

Therapeutic conditions that facilitate growth

  • Client and therapist are in psychological contact
  • Client is in a state of incongruence
  • Therapist is congruent
  • Therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client
  • Therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference
  • Client perceives the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding

Theory’s Implications for Education:

According to Rogers, the educational establishment is authoritarian and bases its program on a number of faulty assumptions:

  • Students cannot be trusted to pursue their own educational goals
  • Creative people develop from passive learners
  • Evaluation is education; education is evaluation

Rogers’s recommendations to counter this nonproductive orientation:

  • Students should be able to choose their own goals and to pursue them with the help and encouragement of faculty

Theory’s Implications for Marriage:

According to Rogers, marriage is a failing institution.  Rogers opposed  traditional marriage, in which the husband is the ultimate authority and the wife occupies a more subservient role.  Rogers’ recommendations for a healthy marriage:

  • Difficulties between the partners are discussed openly
  • Communication is honest and authentic, with mutual listening
  • Partners appreciate the value of separateness
  • Women’s growing independence is valued
  • Roles and role expectations fade away, replaced by people making their own choices about their behavior
  • Either partner may form satellite relationships, which are relationships formed outside the marriage that may or may not involve sexual intimacy

Evaluative Comments:

  • Comprehensiveness: increasingly broad in scope
  • Precision and testability: hard-earned precision and adequate testability
  • Parsimony: fails to meet the parsimony criterion; too simplistic
  • Empirical validity: empirical support is generally supportive
  • Heuristic value: theory has been very stimulating and provocative to clinicians, counselors, and researchers in a number of disciplines; strong heuristic value
  • Applied value: strong applied value in education, race relations, family relationships, leadership, and counseling



Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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