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Carl Rogers and Person centered counselling

This page is for those who wish to know a bit of the theory behind this form of counselling. It is not necessary to understand any of the 'Person Centered' theory to benefit from the counselling! Read only if you are curious. Otherwise skip this page and get in touch to arrange to meet!

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers author and originator of person centered counselling

Carl Rogers author and originator of person centered counselling

Person centered counselling is a humanistic form of therapy based on the ideas of Carl Rogers who was one of the most important therapists of the 20th century. Carl Rogers was one of the first psychologists to use a scientific approach to evaluating the effectiveness of psychotherapy. He was interested mainly in what can be shown to work. The core of his theory is the idea that the relationship between the client and the therapist is the deciding factor in terms of bringing about psychological healing. He outlined what that ideal therapeutic relationship would be like. These ideas have since been demonstrated to be accurate by subsequent research.

Person centered theory

Carl Rogers believed people have within them the capacity to heal themselves and to find answers for their problems. What they need are the right conditions. The drive to grow towards wholeness Rogers called the Actualising Tendency.

Rogers taught that no special psychological knowledge other than the basic training is needed to be a good therapist. What is needed is a special kind of person, someone with life experience, empathic, non-judgemental and transparent (congruent). This person only needs to have a deep understanding of the ideal counselling relationship as exemplified by the presence of the 'necessary and sufficient conditions'.

The therapeutic conditions necessary for a client to make progress Rogers called the Six Necessary and Sufficient conditions. The three most significant of these (the 'Core Conditions') are

  1. ' Empathy' on the part of the counsellor. This empathy must be recognised felt by the client
  2. Lack of judgement - in other words, the therapist should avoid making judgements about the client or his actions. This leads to trust and a feeling of acceptance
  3. 'Congruence'. He or she should be 'authentic, transparent, down to earth and honest and behave accordingly. In other words, "what you see is what you get"!

Rogers developed the idea that in childhood we learn that approval from others is often dependent on certain behaviours. Approval may be 'conditional' on behaving in what parents or others feel are acceptable ways. These Rogers called 'conditions of worth'. Sometimes these conditions of worth are constricting and even damaging as we grow. Therapy is usually a process of discovering and examining our conditions of worth.

Person centered practice

The person centered, or Rogerian, counsellor wishes the client to feel safe and 'valued'. A therapy session should not feel strange or unusual. 

Sessions are client-led. In other words the client is as much 'in charge' as the therapist. The relationship is collaborative and both client and therapist are experts. This may feel strange at first but clients quickly warm to this idea and discover that it gives them the freedom open up and explore their thoughts and emotions comfortably.

The therapist tries, as far as possible, to avoid assuming a special or authoritative role in the room (like a doctor or psychiatrist might). He/ she does not diagnose or prescribe solutions. The therapist listens actively and tries to 'walk in the client's shoes' and share in the client's experience.A therapy session is like a deep conversation between two persons with mutual respect.

The good person centered therapist will, however, challenge the client's thoughts when appropriate and in a supportive and helpful way.

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