Person-Centred Therapy

By | May 1, 2021 | |

Person centered therapy is a form of non-authoritative approach in psychotherapy and counselling in which special emphasis is put on emphasizing the uniqueness of human beings, which isn’t only merely a theoretical assumption but also an underlying critical ethic that the practitioners believe in.

The therapists’ responsiveness and the client’s specific wants and needs are given a special priority, and thus the client is allowed to take a lead in discussions. The process of client centred therapy allows the client to discover his or her own solutions, wherein the therapist acts as a compassionate facilitator. The client’s experiences, sentiments, ideas and thoughts are acknowledged without any judgement and with an accepting, unconditionally positive attitude. The therapist does not try to move the conversation in any particular direction, and guides the client’s therapeutic process without trying to disrupt or interfere with the flow of self-discovery and increasing self-awareness of the client. 

This approach was parented by Carl Rogers, who passionately advocated the usage of the word “client” instead of “patient” for the individual seeking therapy. He emphasized the fact that the client who seeks such assistance is in control of their own destiny and must overcome their own difficulties. By using the term client, it is implied that the client is himself or herself in control over the process of client-centred therapy, and not the other way around. 

A similarity between the ideas of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and Rogers’ approach is that they both believed that insights and lasting changes are born out of the therapeutic relationship. Rogers’ disagreed with the psychoanalytic view in terms of his belief that clients must be encouraged to focus on their subjective understanding of their present instead of unconscious motives that are alien to them, or a third person’s opinions or analysis of their circumstances. Another major difference is that in psychoanalysis, the therapist controls the direction of therapy whereas in person centred therapy, the therapist is believed to play the role of  a non-directive, unconditionally accepting enabler who facilitates the process of change and development in the client. 

Core Conditions of Person Centred Therapy

Three basic core conditions in person centred therapy reflect the attitude of the therapist towards the client. They are followed with great sensitivity and discipline in this approach. They are as follows:

  1. Congruence With The Client: The therapist must be genuine with the client instead of putting up a front or an unnecessary façade in the process of client centred therapy. All in all, the therapist must remain authentic and true to himself or herself throughout the course of the treatment. 
  2. Unconditional Positive Regard: The therapist must accept the client as they are and make sure the client feels valued and comfortable as themself. The therapist remains careful in always maintaining a positive attitude and unconditionally giving away warmth to the client. 
  3. Accurate Empathy: The therapist, through his training, develops an ability to sensitively and effectively understand the client and his or her feelings and is able to perceive the client’s internal frame of reference to the extent possible. 

These core conditions set person centred therapy apart from many approaches and give it a unique quality in its process of trying to emphasize and non judgmentally understand the client’s uniqueness and enable the process of self-development and self-discovery in an organic manner. 

Effectiveness of Client Centred Therapy

Numerous research papers confirm that the core conditions and principles of client centred therapy, that are congruence, unconditional positive regard and accurate empathy, prove to be very beneficial for the clients. This approach, as per the findings of a study, to be especially effective for individuals with common mental health concerns or conditions such as depression, anxiety and mood disorders. It might even be helpful for those experiencing severe symptoms. However, it is also criticized by many psychologists and researchers, as some studies suggest that the core factors utilized in person centered therapy might not be effective on their own. 

Tips for Counsellors on Person Centred Therapy

  1. Make sure that you have set appropriate boundaries and have ruled out the topics of conversation for every session. Also make sure that the client is informed on the duration of the treatment. 
  2. Do not be judgemental, period. If you pass the slightest of judgement or a negative opinion on what the client is talking about, they may lose that sense of comfort or might not ever be able to regain it with you. That means that they may not tell you about their problems or experiences wholly, authentically and honestly, which will render the whole process ineffectual. 
  3. Do not make any decisions for them, and do not try to drive the conversation in any particular direction. Let the client speak his or her own mind and hear them out with patience. Some clients might come to you with a tendency to shirk the responsibility of making their own decisions and choices in life. However, you must remind them that it is them and only them who can decide for themselves. 
  4. Accept them as they are, even when they are displaying negative emotions and it is making you feel uncomfortable. Your client might have negative feelings or opinions about you, themselves or their close friends and family. They may act out, and you will have to work with that. Give them warmth, peace and genuine calmness from your end, as these are crucial elements for their growth and development. 
  5. Be mindful of how and what you speak. Keep all kinds of verbal and nonverbal cues in your mind when you are trying to communicate with the client. 
  6. In the end, know that the client knows best for himself/herself. They will open up to  you about their own problems in their own time, and you must not try to pinpoint problems or their solutions for them. 

Client centred therapy has proved to be an effective treatment for many problems and its principle theories have impacted the field of psychology and contributed to various approaches, and other fields including medicine and education in innumerable ways. The narrative that Rogers passionately advocated that every human being has the capacity to fulfill his or her own potential transformed the earlier traditionally prototypical model of a therapist as the expert to an empowering one wherein empathy, warmth, and a non-directive approach is given the much needed emphasis. This positively affected the climate of the discipline of psychotherapy, helping the practitioners to learn, recognize and respect human potential to facilitate change.

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