Person Centered Approach
The person centered approach was founded and developed by the American psychologist Dr Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987). In an effort to understand personality and human relationships, Rogers believed that, if a safe psychological environment existed, people would naturally move towards a greater personal awareness and a fulfillment of their individual capacity, a desire to be connected, in the pursuit of on-going personal growth and development.
Within the Person Centered Approach the central belief within the therapeutic relationship is that we all have a deep capacity to “self-actualize” and over time to become “fully functioning” as suggested below:
- Experience an openness, to live each moment fully
- Trust in own judgment and ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment
- Experience freedom of choice
- Experience curiosity, creativity, feeling more free, reliable and constructive
- Have a rich, full and exciting life that suggests to experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. It involves the courage to be more fully in life.
Carl Rogers and the Person Centered Approach
For constructive personality change to occur, Rogers’ landmark paper in 1957 hypothesized that the following conditions exist and continue over a period of time.
- Two persons are in psychological contact
- The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious
- The second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship
- The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client
- The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client
- The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved
Numbers 3,4, and 5 are considered necessary and sufficient conditions, and are often referred to as Core Conditions. No other conditions are necessary. If these six conditions exist, and continue over a period of time, this is sufficient. The process of constructive personality change will follow.
Congruence — genuineness and honesty
In the therapeutic relationship, the therapist is a genuine, honest and an integrated person — the therapist does not hide behind a facade or front; that s/he is the person they are feeling themselves to be at any specific time.
Unconditional Positive Regard — respect and acceptance
The therapist is accepting and non-judgmental of the client. The therapist is acceptant of the client enabling the client to have greater capacity to explore feelings without fear of rejection or condemnation. With the counselor’s acceptance, the client has the potential of self-acceptance.
Empathy — a commitment to deeply understand the client’s world — a commitment in deeply understanding the client’s world
The most directly communicated condition, the ability of the therapist to be really present with a client. Rogers believed that if this condition is in place the therapist is experiencing an accurate, empathic understanding of the client’s own experience.
The psychological setting enables us to realize these potentials where we feel free from threat, both physically and psychologically. Rogers believed that the therapist could create this safe setting with clients and therefore help to bring about change. The therapist provides empathy, unconditional acceptance and support to the client so that they can comfortably and confidently move forward and inward on their journey of self-discovery. In person centered therapy, the therapist’s role is to create a positive relationship and to act as a model for communication. Person Centered Therapy relies on the client to be the catalyst for their own healing.