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Client centered psychotherapy, also known as Person-Centered Therapy(PCT), was developed by the humanist psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s. He referred to it as counseling rather than psychotherapy. The basic elements of Carl Rogers' new way of therapy was to have a more personal relationship with the patient, to help the patient reach a state of realization that they can help themselves. He did this by pushing the patient towards growth, great stress on the immediate situation rather than the past. This way the person is able to use the therapy as a way to reach a better sense of self, rather than living in an irrational world.
Person-centered therapy is used to help a person achieve personal growth and or come to terms with a specific event or problem they are having. PCT is based on the principle of talking therapy and is a non-directive approach. The therapist encourages the patient to express their feelings and does not suggest how the person might wish to change, but by listening and then mirroring back what the patient reveals to them, helps them to explore and understand their feelings for themselves. The patient is then able to decide what kind of changes they would like to make and can achieve personal growth. Although this technique has been criticized by some for its lack of structure and set method it has proved to be a hugely effective and popular treatment. PCT is predominantly used by psychologists and counselors in psychotherapy.
History & Influences
Person-centered therapy, now considered a founding work in the humanistic school of psychotherapies, began formally with Carl Rogers. "Rogerian" psychotherapy is often identified as one of the major school groups, along with psychoanalytic (most famously Sigmund Freud), depth therapy which bridges from psychoanalytic through archetypal, mythographical, dream, and unconscious material to existentialists like Rollo May, and the increasingly popular Cognitive-Behavioral school. Others acknowledge Rogers' broad influence on approach, while naming a humanistic or humanistic-existentialist school group; there is large debate over what constitute major schools and cross-influences with more tangential candidates such as feminist, Gestalt, British school, self psychology, interpersonal, family systems, integrative, systemic and communicative, with several historical influences seeding them such as object-relations.
Rogers affirmed individual personal experience as the basis and standard for living and therapeutic effect. Three attitudinal requirements in an effective therapist, in his view, include empathy with the patient's emotions and perspective, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard for the patient. Both active and passive aspects of empathy in the therapist have been identified. This emphasis contrasts with the dispassionate position which may be intended in other therapies. Living in the present rather than the past or future, with organismic trust, naturalistic faith in your own thoughts and the accuracy in your feelings, and a responsible acknowledgment of your freedom, with a view toward participating fully in our world, contributing to other peoples' lives, are hallmarks of Roger's Person-centered therapy.
Rogers thought there were three selves in us: the self-concept, the ideal self, and the real self. The self-concept is the way a person sees him- or herself. The ideal self is who one would like to be or ought to be. The real self is who one actually is. Congruence is the amount of agreement between the self-concept, the real self and the ideal self. The more congruence, the more psychological health there is within the client. If a person's idea of who she/he is bears a great similarity to what she/he wants to be, that person will be relatively self-accepting. The aim of Person-centered therapy is to increase the client's congruence.
Unconditional positive regard
To create an atmosphere of psychological safety within the counseling relationship, Rogers believed the therapist should have unconditional positive regard for the client – that is, not judge the client's character. If the client feels that his/her character is being evaluated, he/she will put on a false front or perhaps leave therapy altogether. Low self-regard, or low congruence, is the result of the client's having been judged in the past. Parents, teachers, and other authority figures often act as if the child has no intrinsic value as a person unless he/she behaves the way they say he/she ought to behave. Thus, their regard is conditional. The Person-Centered therapist gives unconditional positive regard as a partial antidote for the client's earlier experiences.
The person-centered therapist should sense the client's world as if it were her or his own. However, the therapist must sense the client’s emotions without getting bound up in them. Two processes foster empathic understanding: reflection and clarification. Reflection occurs when the therapist repeats fragments of what the client has said with little change, conveying to the client a nonjudgmental understanding of his/her statements. Clarification occurs when the therapist abstracts the core or the essence of a set of remarks by the client.
Rogers took the approach that every individual has the resources for personal development and growth and that it is the role of the counselor to provide the favorable conditions (which for Rogers were congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard) for the natural phenomenon of personal development to occur. He often saw personal development as the process of a person becoming more fully themselves.
- Bruno, Frank J. (1977). Client-Centered Counseling: Becoming a Person. In Human Adjustment and Personal Growth: Seven Pathways, pp. 362-370. John Wiley & Sons.
- Rogers, Carl. On Becoming a Person. ISBN 0-395-75531-X
- Person-Centred Bibliography
- Person-Centered Bibliography in French
- Association for Person Centred Therapy Scotland
- The Association for the Development of the Person Centered Approach
- Network of the European Associations for Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counselling
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