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Self-Actualization Therapy

Dr. Mike Dadson Summarizes What is Self-Actualization and Why is it Important in the Counselling Process

Self-actualization is from the humanistic psychology (philosophy) school. It was particularly central to client focused, Person Centered Therapy developed by Carl Rogers.

Dr. Michael Dadson relates:

The idea of self-actualization in the terms of nature, think of a tree planted in your garden and what it needs to grow and thrive and develop as a healthy plant. Imagine what makes a seed start to grow and develop. The seed’s activation towards the beginning of growth is a natural reaction to the presence of the necessary conditions. The seed naturally actualize because the life energy of the seed is met with the right conditions. With the right soil, temperature and warm sunshine, it will activate the seed so that it initiates this becoming- process, where the seed will develop and then eventually grow into the very plant that it was biologically designed to be. Eventually, the seed becomes more and more of that which it was biologically designed to be. If the conditions are not optimal, the plant may not achieve its full potentiality and maturity.

When the term “Actualization”, was applied to psychology, the application incorporated human traits.

Human beings also have traits like a growing self-awareness and a growing self-determination.  This is the backbone of human of self- actualization. This is when a person engages in a lifelong process of navigating their own actualization, or self-directing their process of becoming the unique organism that they are intended to be. Not directing what I will be but rather who I will be and who I will become.

Dr. Dadson adds:

The “self-part” of “Self- Actualization” is that we get to reflect on, the process of growth as it’s occurring. We even play a role in navigating and finding the essential ingredients that we need to become. We can’t pick the kind of seed we are but we can direct our growth, find and create the internal and external environment we need become the person who we’re intended to become.

              The cooperative part is that we are designed “become”, so that’s the process of growth that we get to notice, direct and strive for. A good humanistic therapist will be able to facilitate that process, apply the ingredients that are necessary for human growth so that your own psyche can naturally emerge and you become the actual main actor in the process of your own growth.  You are finding and yielding to, but you’re not generating the energy of growth. It’s already naturally within you. Whether you like it or not, are already navigating the process of that growth.

“Carl Rogers developed Client Centered therapy. Later on, it became, known as Person Centered Therapy”, Dr. Dadson notes.

Person Centered Therapy is one of the humanistic orientations that looks at self-actualization as being an innate energy that exists within us that we’re seeking to become the best manifestation of ourselves that we can be, and that the environment can create barriers or prohibit us from being able to actualize or to become the full manifestation of our best self.

Dr. Mike Dadson declares:

When the conditions aren’t right in our environment, we fail to thrive. For example, I once hiked in Manning Park BC Canada, and climbed Frosty Mountain. There a specific point where the trees become very small. Even though they’re very, very old, they’ve never grown to a large height, because the conditions are so adverse; it’s very cold, often with snow all year.  As a result, the trees don’t get enough of the things they need to grow. Ultimately, for much of the year the tress never really get the warm conditions needed to be able to become larger and thrive. They are actualized and orientated toward growth but don’t have the necessary conditions to help them reach their potential in that environment.

              When we apply this to human nature and “self-actualization”, there are certain things that human beings need to not only survive but to thrive. If a person isn’t given enough food with needed to sustain them, malnutrition can set in, which can cause adverse impacts to our body over a lifetime. The same applies to our psychological needs. Additionally, when there is a traumatic incident, or our emotional needs are not met as children, young adults, even as adults, we can fail to thrive.

In the same way, socially and emotionally, we have needs. There are fundamental things that help actualize us or help us to grow and become more. Carl Rogers observed and theorized there are primary psychological conditions necessary for us to thrive. The first condition we need from our environment is unconditional positive regard, a non-judgmental space, a non-judging space, a space that actually accepts unconditionally, regards the person as having worth, including unconditional worth that isn’t related to a person’s behavior or their actions or their decisions.

Dr. Dadson explains:

The second condition necessary is empathy. Empathy is walking alongside another and communicating a felt sense that you know what it is like to be in anther persons state of mind.  As if you know the persons experience yourself, but acknowledging it is not your experience but theirs. Communicating an understanding of that experience such that the person feels known, understood and welcomed into the world. The empathy provides that sense of being welcomed and known, a reflective presence back that says, “I accept you and you are understood”, not just understood in a way a person thinks, but understood in a full range of how a person feels and what their inner experiences are like with a language that helps them map out their inner world.

              The third condition Rogers theorized we need from our environment  is congruence.  Congruence means that, a person is authentic. They are what they present themselves to be.  Congruence doesn’t mean that you are always you’re fully open.  That is self-disclosure and that you share everything about yourself all the time. No one can fully do that and it is unlikely to be very helpful. Congruence means what is disclosed as authentic, it is a truthful experience and it is true to that person. What I do share is congruent with who I am as a person and who I am as a therapist.

              These three conditions, Rogers argued, and then researched, are highly supported across significant studies as conditions that are essential for a person to thrive, mature and self-actualize. Self-actualization just means to engage in the process of managing self-growth, and reflecting on that own growth.  It comes with the recognition that they need to navigate life so that they internally and externally have enough of these three conditions present in their lives.  The absence of these conditions means we lack the ingredients that promote our growth.