Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Humanism: The Foundation and Future of Professional Counseling

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Humanism: The Foundation and Future of Professional Counseling

Article excerpt

To begin the special issue and set the stage for the subsequent articles, the authors provide an overview of humanism. Specifically, the authors discuss ideological foundations, cultural barriers to the adoption of humanism, and visions for the future of humanism in the counseling profession.

As the editor (Matthew E. Lemberger) of The Journal of Humanistic Counseling (JHC) for the past 2 years, and the associate editor and a review board member before then, I have had the good fortune to review many manuscript submissions pertaining to humanism. A number of the authors who submitted manuscripts offered explications of humanism or for humanistic applications that either solidified or deepened my prior understanding of the philosophy. Other authors presented bleeding-edge assertions about humanism that challenged me to expand my conception of humanistic ideology. There has also been a third group of authors, a group who submitted manuscripts that were not clearly humanistic in design or, more precarious yet, were diametrically opposed to prevailing humanistic philosophy. Given this, I commissioned this special issue, Humanism: The Foundation and Future of Professional Counseling, to provide readers and would-be authors of JHC with a sound yet flexible guide that focuses on the defining attributes of humanistic counseling.

To be clear, I believe that JHC is the appropriate publication venue for authors to publish philosophically divergent and even controversial ideas about humanism. I also believe that humanism is a very complex and often abstruse ideology, and therefore open to myriad interpretations. Although all of this is certainly true, and I appreciate this complexity when making my editorial decisions, I do believe that certain defining attributes can be understood as patently humanistic. Just as important, as will be established by one of my coeditors of this special issue, there are ideologies that are certainly not humanistic in their character or counseling application.

I also believe that it is important that humanistic counselors possess a clear (yet flexible) understanding of the values and attributes that we ascribe to as humanistically inclined helping professionals. I believe that this is especially true in a contemporary mental health ethos that is often antihumanistic. This urgency in value awareness as a humanist is necessary if we are to remain relevant, for we are certainly on the precipice of ideological and practical extinction. Humanists cannot simply fade into the margins; we cannot relegate our beliefs as mere talking points. Humanistic ideology cannot become a relic of antiquity. Instead, we must present ourselves in a manner that is cogent and useful, if not essential, to the total profession and our client constituents.

The word humanism is very bold and comprehensive. One might assume that humanism pertains to anything and everything that is associated with the human experience. However, such an erroneous assumption would imply that a perfect and absolute understanding of the human experience could be obtained by humans and about humans. Paradoxically, one of the defining attributes of humanness is our imprecision, particularly when it comes to self-understanding or the understanding of oneself "in-the-world." This paradox reflects the concept of anosognosia (cf. Kruger & Dunning, 1999), or the inability of the self to know what one does not know about the self (or self-experience). In some ways, the belief that humans imprecisely understand the self seems diametrically out of step with the forms of humanism that place an emphasis on accurate self-reflection as a primary means of knowing or agency (cf. Bugental, 1964; Rogers, 1980). However, in other ways that are yet still consistent with humanism, imprecision in self-understanding opens up the door for creativity, continued actualization and development, and self-acceptance in the face of our inevitable fallibility. …

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