High level of empathy for the patientWith humanism being an approach that emphasizes the uniqueness of the individual, one element central to its philosophy is empathy, which Ioannidou & Konstantikaki (2008) defined as the ability to understand the emotions of another person, and experience their outlook from within yourselves. Relating to that, having a high level of empathy for the patient is fitting to treat those who are suffering from depression. When applying a humanistic approach, the therapist is focused on being tuned in with the patients in an emphatic manner, which would assist them in getting in touch with their subjective emotional experience (“Client-Centered Therapy for Depression”, 2018). Depression is characterized by negative and unpleasant emotions often paving way for self-loathing, suicidal tendencies and dysthymia. Thus, empathy would play a pivotal role in guiding the patients to get in touch with their subjective emotional experience, where they would be connected with the quality of their experienced emotion and gradually be able to monitor their internal state. In addition, empathy reflected from the therapist corresponded to higher levels of individual experiencing and perceptual processing (Angus, Watson, Elliott, Schneider & Timulak, 2014). Therefore, empathy is capable of triggering depressed patients to experience their innate thoughts and emotions. Part of displaying empathy is the ability to mirror back what the patients have said, which in turn, leaves the patient feeling understood. When a depressed patient feels appreciated and heard, they would not only feel much better but also tend to isolate themselves from the element of depression itself. (“Client-Centered Therapy for Depression”, 2018). Angus, Watson, Elliott, Schneider & Timulak (2014) reported that demonstrating empathy was linked to significant diminution of self-deprecatory thoughts and self-neglect, and an improvement in attachment insecurity in an individual. Successively, these encouraging changes were correlated to favorable outcomes in brief humanistic treatments of depression. In short, despite not being accounted for as a technique per se, empathy plays a crucial role within the humanistic approach to treat depressed patients. 2. Therapeutic relationship Humanists advocate the importance of a valuable therapeutic relationship, which has been the root of its application since its establishment in the field of psychology. Nowadays, most approaches have followed suit, giving more emphasis on this relationship between the therapist and client, acknowledging its usefulness and value (Elliot et al.,2013; Angus, Watson, Elliott, Schneider & Timulak, 2014). As per the humanistic approach, an empathic and genuine therapeutic relationship plays a major role in the treatment of depression among patients in a clinical setting. A research conducted indicated that 80 % of pre-post gains for clients undergoing humanistic approach can be correlated to the quality of the therapeutic alliance within the therapy itself, as opposed to external factors such as usage of psychological tests, specific techniques and medication (Elliot et al., 2013). He adds that in a humanistic approach, the therapeutic relationship is viewed as potentially curative. Each person’s subjective experience matters and is given importance and to understand it, the therapist forms an authentic relationship with boundaries with the client. This provides the client with a “new, emotionally validating experience”. For a depressed individual who has a tendency to view the world through negativity, despair and often have low self-esteem, an emotionally validating experience will lead them to feel understood and also reaffirmed of their self-worth. At the same time, it was found that the quality of the therapeutic relationship does predict subsequent alleviations of symptoms in depressed patients (Arnow et al., 2013). This could be because a proper therapeutic relationship not only encourages authenticity and boosts the clients self-esteem but also guides the patients to utilize their strengths (Seligman, 2006). Regardless of the approach, a vital first step to treat depression is acceptance of the emotion, and with a good working alliance, the patients would gradually exhibit elements of their true self. Also, identification of assets is one element of xxxxx. Through a sincere alliance embedded within the clinical interview, the psychologist would be able to not only obtain the patient’s strengths, but assist them to capitalize on the strong points to adapt and cope with the daily struggles. Needless to say, a good relationship between the therapist and client would lead to smooth communication. With that, preconceptions are eliminated and it decreases the probability of paranoia from developing within the client (Rowan, 2005). An individual with depression would be resistant to reveal all information about themselves and feel exposed as such, since they perceive themselves as low and unworthy. So, with their trust gradually being reassured, it would lead to more openness and active involvement by the patient, which would greatly aid their treatment process. Interestingly, a study by Santiago et al. (2005), found that improvement in depressive symptoms of a patient was not only accounted by the therapeutic relationship, but also by the ability to perform situational analysis; a process with specific techniques and skills for the patient to cultivate with or without the presence of pharmaceutical drugs. The alliance, although being a major aspect in change, was not the sole reason for change. Hence, it can be concluded that a solid and genuine therapeutic alliance should be facilitated amongst other skills/techniques from the therapists point of view and experience in order to treat a depressed patient. 3. Phenomenological approach -> promote inner experiencingHumanistic approach is often based on an individual’s subjective experience, or known as the phenomenological view. It is the unique perception of an individual of their world to which they react subjectively (Corey, 2005). A core belief of humanism is that behavior is determined by the inner experience of the organism, thus leading to phenomenology being known as the science of an individual. Inner experiencing are “thoughts, feelings and emotions that are directly present in awareness before being distorted by attempts at observation or interpretation” (Lapping-Carr & Heavey, 2017). Hence, the phenomenological approach promotes inner experiencing in an individual which is an advantage when treating those with depression. Angus, Watson, Elliott, Schneider & Timulak (2014) found that the quality of inner experiencing has been linked to positive outcomes in the client, irrespective of the theoretical approach utilised. The humanistic view promotes that element of experiencing by placing importance on questioning oneself and reflection of experiences which often results in a change in perception, thoughts and emotions within the clients. It is predictable that those suffering from depression would struggle initially in terms of introspection and looking within themselves. However, with empathy, a genuine therapeutic alliance and the emphasis on subjective personal experience, they would steadily implement it, initially with the therapists help and then later, independently. This would lead to a more reflective individual who will slowly learn to accept and be in control of their emotions, thoughts and subsequently behavior. Thus, the manner in which the client processes their experience in therapy is a fundamental aspect to change, regardless of the theoretical background or treatment approaches. DisadvantagesOne downside of humanistic approach is that it is often viewed separately from the cognitive behavioral approach (CBT) where it is either one or the other. Thus, certain core aspects of CBT tend to be ignored, such as the power of human cognition. According to Hayes (2012), without addressing the component of human cognition, the core elements of humanism are unclear. In the case of depression, it is usually approaches with empathy and encouragement for the client, but it is also crucial to tackle the root of the issue; client’s negative assumption and thoughts. Humanistic approach solely is not efficient enough enough to treat depression in a patient. It should be integrated with other viewpoints sand consider other factors to devise a treatment approach that is holistic in nature. Another possible drawback of this approach is when the therapists are overly supportive of their clients, without confronting or challenging them (Corey, 2005). In addition to that, the therapists level of empathy depends largely on their attunement; their reactivity to the clients emotional moods or needs (Angus, Watson, Elliott, Schneider & Timulak, 2014). This reiterates that empathy is something to be strived for and does not stand on its own. The therapist must cultivate certain skills, such as active listening, mindfulness and congruence that strengthens their level of empathy in order to apply this approach in dealing with depressed patients. Furthermore, the therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the client is multifaceted and not as straightforward as it seems. Firstly, not all therapeutic relationships are suitable and effective. Hayes (2012) mentioned that the therapists must be aware of the skills and processes in order to create that relationship which would lead to the development of therapeutic relationships that are powerful, open and engaged. Next, some therapists may have misconceptions that focusing more on the relationship would enhance its success. They may strive too hard to create a bond with the client that they become less genuine and directive (Hayes, 2012). Unfortunately, the client would sense this incongruence and react resistantly, hindering the treatment approach. Thus, the therapeutic relationship is a crucial aspect in humanistic approach provided it is not taken for granted as a mere bond and complements other techniques or strategies that the clinician may use to treat those suffering from depression.
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