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Book Forum: Psychotherapies   |    
Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology: A Historical and Biographical Sourcebook
Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:667-a-668. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.4.667-a
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Springfield, Ill.

Edited by Donald Moss. Westport, Conn., Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999, 457 pp., $95.00.

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This book is exactly what the title says it is. Well written, thorough, and enlightening, it provides extensive references and documents the history of the humanistic psychology movement and the people involved in its development, ongoing research, and clinical application. A definition of humanistic psychology and its goals is provided in the introduction:

Humanistic psychology began as a bold movement of creative individuals who set out deliberately to remake American psychology in the image of a fully alive and aware human being.…Humanistic psychologists criticize the emphasis of scientific psychology on the measurement, prediction, and control of behavior and protest the exclusion from psychological investigation of such basic aspects of humanness as consciousness, value, creativity, freedom, will, love, and spirit.

The first 14 chapters provide an overview, beginning with a chapter on the historical and scientific background of humanistic psychology. The major theorists and schools are discussed, including Carl Rogers’s person-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, body therapies, existential psychology, feminist psychology, and mind-body medicine. These chapters present the areas in which these approaches overlap as well as their similarities and differences. In addition, the Christian and transpersonal psychologies are well represented and placed in perspective. Throughout these chapters runs a theme of critiquing each approach and discussing research that is ongoing or needed. These chapters provide clarification of the theory behind the development and continuation of each approach to humanity at its best. The last two chapters present a cogent rationale for the continuation of these approaches. There is a excellent balance between pointing out the strengths and the limitations of each theory, supporting each comment with the literature.

The last 16 chapters are in a section titled Biographical and Critical Essays on Central Figures in Humanistic Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology. These chapters are fascinating to read because the subjects are presented with all their warts and bumps as well as their genius, creativity, and individuality. This makes for fascinating reading that leads to reflection and considered thought. The figures are a fascinating and varied group: Diana Baumrind, James F.T. Bugental, Moshe Feldenkrais, Erich Fromm, Amedeo Giorgi, William James, Sidney Jourard, Ronald Laing, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Fritz Perls, Paul Goodman, Laura Perls, Carl Rogers, Ida P. Rolf, Erwin Straus, and Ken Wilber. Taken as a whole, these chapters provide an intimate glimpse into the lives and professional hopes of bright creative thinkers and their interactions with and effects on each other as the field of humanistic psychology developed to the present day.

I feel that this book is an excellent resource for anyone who works with people and is given the privilege of assisting them reach their potential, whether as therapist, counselor, priest, or consultant.




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