Monday, 15 March 2010

Concepts of the Person-Centred approach

Some important concepts in the Person-centred approach are genuineness, congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathetic understanding. The need for genuineness is met when the therapist provides an example to the client of what it is to be real and authentic. The sense of congruence that develops is important for the client who is often plagued with a lack of genuineness causing anxiety. This genuineness and congruence develop through unconditional positive regard that the counsellor provides to the client. This acceptance may be the first and only time the client does not feel judged with the environment of the sessions providing the client with the safety to explore their feelings and concerns. And finally, Rogers identified accurate empathetic understanding as another critical task of therapists. The counsellor seeks to understand in the moment how the client feels about their situations and genuinely expresses this to the client to encourage them to get closer to them self recognizing and resolving the incongruity that exists. The therapist experiences the client’s situation as if it was their own, seeing the world through the client’s eyes, and doing so without becoming overly enmeshed in the feelings and emotions of the situation.

The therapist must have the ability to be appropriately challenging of their clients without intervention into their client’s self-actualisation but still remaining empathic. This is the concern with this approach is the difficulty therapists have is allowing clients to come to their own decisions without the directive from the counsellor.

The most powerful way for one to learn is through discovery, or illumination. Lessons learned through self-experience are much more effective than a third party attempting to teach the same lesson. How much more rich is the experience for a child to discover something wondrous about the world, rather than it merely being told to them in front of a TV. Rogerian therapy totally embraces the non-directive role of a counsellor. Rogerian principles assert that clients find the solutions on their own in the context of a safe and accepting environment.

Because of its emphasis on unconditional positive regard and its basic assumption that humans are fundamentally good, Rogerian therapy may be considered weak in its ability in dealing with any genuinely destructive behaviour the client may be engaged in. However, in areas of trauma where the client has been victimized by extremely disturbing events, unconditional positive regard can be a valuable tool in the counsellor’s arsenal because of its ability to create a place of great safety for the client

Rogerian Therapy

Carl Rogers developed Person–Centred Therapy based on the concepts of humanistic psychology with the basic tenet that clients are the ultimate agents of self-change for their lives. This theory emphasizes the importance of the therapeutic relationship as one built on unconditional positive regard, congruency and accurate empathy.

For clients beginning Rogerian therapy the most important fact initially is the entry of a new person (the therapist) into their psychological environment. It is the building of this relationship between therapist and client, which will facilitate change in the client. This relationship is at the forefront of the therapeutic process. For this to occur it is necessary that these 6 conditions to exist.

1. That two persons are in psychological contact.
2. That the first person, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.
3. That the second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent in the relationship.
4. That the therapist is experiencing unconditional positive regard toward the client.
5. That the therapist is experiencing an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference.
6. That the client perceives, at least to a minimal degree, Conditions 4 and 5, the unconditional positive regard of the therapist for him, and the empathic understanding of the therapist.

Rogers believed people are innately trustworthy and have great potential to understand themselves and resolve their own problems without intervention by the therapist. Like the existential approach, person-centred theory holds the same basic assumption that individuals are able to find meaning within themselves, inwardly capable of knowing best what they need to do to resolve issues. In Rogerian therapy, the client moves towards the goals of realisation, fulfilment, autonomy, self-determination, and perfection. This process occurs within a critical and intense client-therapist relationship built upon empathetic understanding and unconditional positive regard.

Therapy with clients using the person-centred model strives to develop a greater degree of independence and integration for individuals in their surroundings and the people in their lives. Clients prepare to be open to the experience of counselling, to trust in themselves, to evaluate themselves internally, and pursue a willingness towards continued growth. Fear of any of these areas requires addressing prior to moving forward with current issues, as these will impede client growth. Exploring a wider range of their own beliefs and feelings aids clients during this process, helping clients to better appreciate who they are and what they are capable of accomplishing without contamination of the views of the counsellor.

Person-centred theory does not require that the client be diagnosed in order to seek and realise improvement. Furthermore, therapists avoid being directive, taking the role that the client is responsible for his direction instead. While the counsellor-client relationship is critical and very active, the ultimate role of the Rogerian therapist is passive in nature as it merely serves to help clients to find their own path and develop their own sense of self-worth. This results in the client feeling enabled and empowered to continue improvements in the future without the need of the counsellor.