Angus, L., Watson, J.C., Elliott, R., Schneider, K., & Timulak, L. (2015) Humanistic psychotherapy research 1990–2015: From methodological innovation to evidence-supported treatment outcomes and beyond. Psychotherapy Research, 25, 330-347.
In this wide-ranging review, Angus and colleagues provide an overview of humanistic psychotherapy research from 1990-2015. For this blog I will focus on the efficacy research that they review. Humanistic psychotherapy addresses how people can come to know themselves and each other, and to fulfill their aspirations. This type of therapy emphasizes the personal, interpersonal, and contexts within which clients reflect on their relationships with the self, others, and the world. Carl Rogers is probably the best known early proponent of humanistic client centred psychotherapy. Humanistic psychotherapy focuses on a genuinely empathic therapeutic relationship to promote in-therapy client emotional experiencing, emphasizes meaning-making, and is person-centred. One of the questions raised by Angus and colleagues was: are humanistic psychotherapies efficacious. Here they mainly summarize a previous review by Elliot and colleagues (2013). In a meta analysis of 191 studies and over 14,000 clients, humanistic psychotherapies are associated with large pre to post therapy client change (g = .93) which are maintained over early (< 12 months) and late (> 12 months) follow ups. Further, in 31 studies of over 2,000 clients, those who received humanistic therapies show large gains compared to those who receive no treatment (g = .76). In 100 studies of over 6,000 clients, humanistic therapies had equivalent outcomes to other therapies (g = .01), including CBT (22 studies, g = -.06). Humanistic therapy was most effective for interpersonal/relational trauma, and depression (for which it is considered an evidence supported treatment). There is also good evidence for the efficacy of humanistic therapy for psychotic conditions. However, humanistic therapies may be less effective than CBT for anxiety problems.
Humanistic psychotherapy that focuses on a genuinely empathic therapeutic relationship that emphasizes client emotional experiencing and meaning-making is efficacious for a number of mental health problems. Rogers argued that non-judgemental acceptance, warmth, and congruence were necessary for good client outcomes, and an accumulating body of research is supporting these early propositions. The evidence for the importance of therapist empathy to improve client outcomes is particularly compelling.
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