Rather than viewing people as inherently flawed, with problematic behaviours and thoughts that require treatment, person-centred therapy maintains that each person has the capacity and desire for personal growth and change.
Person-centred therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940’s and 50’s. This type of therapy sees human beings as having an innate tendency to develop towards their full potential. However, this ability can become blocked or distorted by our life experiences – particularly those that affect our sense of value. Rogers strongly believed that in order for a client’s condition to improve therapists should be warm, genuine and understanding.
It diverged from the traditional model of the therapist as the expert and moved instead toward a non-directive, empathic approach that empowers and motivates the client in the therapeutic process. It is a humanistic approach that deals with the ways in which individuals perceive themselves consciously rather than how a counsellor can interpret their unconscious thoughts or ideas.
Rather than viewing people as inherently flawed, with problematic behaviours and thoughts that require treatment, person-centred therapy maintains that each person has the capacity and desire for personal growth and change, something Rogers described as ‘actualising tendency’. He said “Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behaviour¨.
The therapist avoids directing the course of therapy by following the client’s lead whenever possible. They offer support, guidance and structure so that the client can discover solutions within themselves. Unlike other therapies, the client is responsible for improving his or her life – this is a deliberate change from psychoanalysis where the patient is diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Instead, the client consciously and rationally decides for themselves what is wrong and what should be done about it.
The therapist in this approach works to understand an individual’s experience from their perspective. The therapist must positively value the client as a person in all aspects of their humanity while aiming to be open and genuine. This is vital in helping the client feel accepted, and better able to understand their own feelings. The approach can help the client to reconnect with their inner values and sense of self-worth, thus enabling them to find their own way to move forward and progress.
Rogers believed a therapist had to show concern and respect for the client’s experiential world. The core conditions for this to work are:
- Congruence – the counsellor must be completely genuine
- Unconditional Positive Regard – the counsellor must be non-judgemental and valuing of the client
- Empathy – the counsellor must strive to understand the client’s experience