A Reply to Hansen's Cultural Humanism

By Lemberger, Matthew E. | Journal of Humanistic Counseling, October 2012 | Go to article overview

A Reply to Hansen's Cultural Humanism


Lemberger, Matthew E., Journal of Humanistic Counseling


Hansen (2012b) responds to the author's (Lemberger, 2012) critique of his humanistic vision by dividing their arguments as either individual or cultural in design. In this reply, the author contends that the individual cannot be extracted from her or his culture and, therefore, what is sufficient for a humanistic counseling culture must also be sufficient for each individual inspired by humanism.

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Before I submitted my initial article (Lemberger, 2012) in response to Hansen's (2012a) extension of the humanistic vision, I was confident that he would retort in a manner that would challenge me deeply. In kind, Hansen's (2012b) rejoinder not only challenged me but also left me vexed for some time. In his rejoinder, Hansen (2012b) acknowledges that he and I share in our understanding of humanism as a philosophy but are divided in how we believe this philosophy should be expressed. To unravel this philosophic impasse, he reasons that our disagreements are divided between what he calls his "cultural critique" (p. 178) and my "individualistic perspective" (p. 178) for humanism. I am vexed because I consider culture as the primary unit of humanism. Also, I believe that my response article is consistent with this belief. This said, I believe that Hansen (2012b) is correct in that my response had been crafted at the individual humanist level. How then could I write an article for the individual humanistic counselor while maintaining the belief that culture is ubiquitous? Simply put, as a humanist, I believe that the individual self is indivisible from the cultural self.

HUMANISM AND THE CULTURE

Humanistic theorists and counselors have a long history in conceptualizing the individual self as part of a larger cultural milieu (e.g., Adler, 1938; Rogers, 1951). More recently, prominent humanists have highlighted the inseparableness of the individual from one's relationship to the surrounding environment (e.g., Division 32 Task Force, 1997; Hansen, 2007; Scholl, 2008). Assuming that humanistic philosophy is defined by the relational structure of the self within environment, or culture (Lemberger, 2010), it seems unreasonable to proffer different humanistic values and behaviors for the individual humanistic counselor from the collective culture of humanistic counselors. In fact, I believe that the only way for Hansen's (2012a) original thesis to hold true is if he were to redefine humanism rather than simply extend it.

According to Cain (2001), who attempted to provide the defining attributes for humanistic counseling, an individual must be understood as being able to construct meaning for himself or herself and possess the ability to pursue his or her own goals. If there exist specific cultural prescripts for humanism, such as those proposed by Hansen (2012b), then how can the counselor create meaning beyond the meaning assigned by the culture? Equally, how could a counselor or client create a personally relevant goal if she or he is limited by what has been defined as a humanistic goal (e.g., the humanities, qualitative research)? What makes humanism a unique paradigm is that the individual has the capacity to define the cultural experience rather than the culture defining what is pertinent or useful to that individual.

My argument in response to Hansen's (2012a) humanistic vision is less about the division between what is culturally or individually appropriate and, instead, is simply divided between how or what humanism is as a philosophy for counselors. I believe that Hansen (2012a) prescribed a series of what humanism should be precepts to defend against the scientific ideology. Alternatively, I respond that the type of scientific ideology that Hansen warns against is, in fact, problematic, but only because of how we express our counseling behaviors and not what form in which those behaviors appear. For example, imagine an individual counselor who decides that she will work with a client using a manualized treatment protocol that has been supported by a series of quantitative evaluations related to the efficacy of that treatment approach.

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