Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) is known as the Father of Humanistic Psychology, a school of thought that focused on the potential of the individual and his need for growth and self-actualization. It is based on the fundamental belief that people are innately good, and that deviating from this natural tendency results in social and psychological problems.
Maslow’s most well-known contribution to Humanistic Psychology is the Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, humans have certain needs that must be fulfilled for healthy living. These needs motivate us to act the way we do, and in particular, in ways that satisfy the needs that are not yet fulfilled. In addition, Maslow suggested that these needs are not all equally important, but exist in a hierarchy (shaped like a pyramid), with the most important, basic needs at the bottom. For example, at the very bottom of the pyramid are things necessary for daily survival, like food and water. At the top of the pyramid is self-actualization, which is the most wonderful thing a person can achieve but is not necessary to sustain daily life.
Maslow’s work was a turning point in psychology – before him, psychologists were preoccupied with mental illness and abnormality. In contrast, Maslow focused on mental health. His humanistic psychology gave rise to other types of therapy that were guided by the same belief in man’s innate goodness and potential for growth.