Lecture: Humanistic, Group, and Family Therapies
Reading Assignment 30:
Humanistic, Group Therapy, and Family Therapy
Click for the objectives for Reading Assignment 30

The thirtieth reading assignment introduces students to a group of therapies that I, in my youth, referred to as “reaction formation therapies.” Not in the sense that Freud used the term, but rather to express that these theories were developed in response to previously established theories. I admire the individual that is able to establish a stance and is willing to stick to it, through thick and thin, to develop a comprehensive theory. I do not admire, as much, the individual that criticizes the work of others and develops their theory based on what they feel is incorrect in an existing theory. While each of these approaches to psychotherapy are great, I feel that Humanistic Therapy, Group Therapy, and Family Therapy were all motivated by displeasure with established theories.

Humanistic Therapy
Humanistic Therapies focus on the way each individual is actively aware of the experiences of oneself, relationships, and the world. This stance is in stark contrast to the Behaviorist Perspective that dominated Psychology at that time, which minimized cognitive consciousness and awareness of oneself, relationships, and the world. The aim of Humanistic Therapies is to help the individual access and understand one’s feelings to help them gain a sense of meaning in life. In Humanistic Therapies, there are two widely practiced techniques: Gestalt Therapy and Client-Centered Therapy. Humanistic Therapies focus on the individual’s strengths and offer non-judgmental counseling sessions.
Gestalt Therapy. Gestalt Therapy focuses on the skills and techniques that permit one to be more aware of their feelings. According to this approach, it is much more important to understand that they are feeling and how they are feeling rather than to identify what is causing their feelings. Previous theories spend an unnecessary amount of time making assumptions about what causes behavior. Instead, Gestalt Therapy focuses on the “here and now (Westen, 2003).” A common technique used to simulate how one feels “here and now” is the Empty-Chair Technique. This technique might be used in the event that a person loses a loved one; I just watched The Amazing Spider-Man so I will interject that into this example. Peter Parker felt responsible for the death of his Uncle Ben and, to make matters worse, was on non-speaking terms when he passed away. One might have a hard time imagining how this fictional character might feel being in such a situation. Peter might have sought psychotherapy to deal with his feelings and the Empty-Chair Technique might be ideal to help him cope. Peter might imagine his Uncle Ben is sitting in a chair right across from him, and he could role play and express his feelings as if Uncle Ben is still alive and listening. Another technique is the Two-Chair Technique, which is a similar experiential role play technique. Imagine a college student that is thinking about dropping out but is weighing their options. The two chairs could be used to symbolically address and separate his thoughts, the pros and cons, about dropping out of college.
Client-Centered Therapy. The goal of Client-Centered Therapy is to provide a supportive environment in which clients can reestablish their true identity. The world that we live in is judgmental and if we shared with the world our true identity it would judge us relentlessly. Experience with these judgments result in people establishing a public identity to navigate the judgmental world. The ability to reestablish their true identity will help the individual understand themselves as they truly are, which is important as people suppress their feelings about issues because they were not supported, socially acceptable, or would lead to unwanted judgment. The task of reestablishing one's true identity is not an easy task and the therapist must rely on two important tools to achieve such a goal: Unconditional Positive Regard and Empathy. If the therapist cannot achieve these goals with a particular client, they will likely fear further judgment and find further comfort in their public identity. These two techniques are essential in Client-Centered Therapy because it builds trust between the client and therapist by creating a nonjudgmental and supportive environment for the client.

Group Therapy
Another form of psychotherapy is Group Therapy, which has the unique ability to do what other forms of therapy cannot. It lets the client learn about other people’s experiences with the same issues. Learning directly from others can be more productive than talking to a therapist alone and this increased productivity has been referred to as Group Process. A different type of Group Therapy is the Self-Help Group. An example of a Self-Help Group is once popularly advertised Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These forms of psychotherapy also benefit from Group Process; so much so, that many of them are not led by trained professionals but rather by individuals in the same community that suffer from a similar problem.
Family Therapy. The last form of Group Therapy discussed is Family Therapy. Oftentimes, it is not useful to address one member of a dysfunctional family only to return them to their toxic home environment. As a result, some therapists have aimed to change the negative interactions among family members. An entire family could seek therapy if one or more of the family members are unproductive or destructive and it is affecting the family dynamics. For example, a family member is a compulsive hoarder and it is starting to get out of control, so the family seeks therapy in hopes of helping the unproductive family member with hoarding issues. A smaller form of Family Therapy is called Couples Therapy, which concentrates on a smaller group of people, the couple (Westen, 2003). For example, a husband cheats on his wife, but the wife is willing to go to therapy and work through it with him. The couple would be counseled on a variety of topics, probably including trust, loyalty, communication, and interaction patterns. A major factor of marital dissatisfaction and divorce is Negative Reciprocity. Oftentimes in a relationship one person in the relation may be the instigator and approach the other in a way that elicits a negative response. The person responding to the instigator might feel justified in their response, as they were approached first in a negative way. Nonetheless, the situation escalates and both persons are in an escalated argument that might have been appeased if Negative Reciprocity had not occurred and they listened to their partner vent rather than response with a similar approach; it can be very detrimental to spousal relationships.

Draft of Summary
Lewis, J. (2012, Fall). Assignment 2.3. Draft of summary submitted in partial fulfillment of Introduction to Experimental (RPS 410).

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