What is Person-Centered Counselling

This is a model proposed by Carl Rogers. It involves allowing the client to speak freely while the therapist actively listens to them, reflecting and conveying understanding when appropriate. It is held that the organismic self, the natural self, is seeking to heal itself and that given the opportunity to explore their issues, people will come to therapeutic change. Rogers’ states in his book On Becoming A Person: “it is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried”.


Core conditions

Carl Rogers developed the idea of the ‘necessary and sufficient’ conditions for therapeutic change. These core conditions are to be held in the therapy sessions throughout as to foster and develop a space where the client will be comfortable to explore their issues.

The core conditions of the person-centred therapy are:

  • Psychological Contact: This condition states that the therapist must be present in their relationship with the client. For this, the therapist will practice true active listening as a skill.
  • Empathy: The therapist shares their empathic understanding through reflection of the client’s experience and recognises their emotional experience without getting emotionally involved their self, as in sympathy
  • Congruence: The therapist is to be honest and genuine with himself and the client as well as practicing awareness of self and other.
  • Unconditional Positive regard: The client’s experience and perspectives should be received and accepted without judgement. This allows the client to proceed without experiencing someone else’s idea surrounding their experience so they can focus on their own. It also allows the therapist to truly be present with the client.
  • Client experience of incongruence: The client experiences incongruence between their perceptions and their experience. This will lead to healing and a striving towards becoming congruent in their self.
  • Client perception: The conditions above are perceived by the client and can therefore foster a relationship of openness and trust.

If these conditions are met, Roger’s believed that people would begin to heal themselves and start to self-actualise.

Self-actualising tendency

“The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism.” [Carl Rogers (2012). “Client Centred Therapy (New Ed)”, p.353, Hachette UK]

Deep within Person-centred counselling is the idea of self-actualisation. This idea was put forward by Abraham Maslow. Maslow proposed people have a hierarchy of needs; that our needs are prioritised via necessity. Atop the hierarchy is the idea of self-actualisation, when a person develops towards their full potential. This will lead them to seek experiences they enjoy, explore and develop themselves as people and get satisfaction out of life. If this tendency leads to the person achieving actualisation, they will become what Rogers describes as a fully functioning person. A fully functioning person will display the following traits:

  • An openness to experience and an accurate perception of their subjective reality
  • They will understand the importance of living in the present, understanding that the past is just memories and the future is yet to happen.
  • A trust in their own organismic self and nature; trusting their own thoughts and feelings
  • A recognition of their own person freedom and the responsibility that comes along with that free to make correct and valuable decisions
  • Provides a creative contribution to the world through their vocation, relationships or artistic pursuit

Conditions of worth

As we grow up, we can learn that love and positive regard from others in often not unconditional, but conditional to another person’s value system. Our families, social circles, teachers, leaders and media all give us ideals to live to and values in turn determine how we are rewarded and how valuable we are seen to be. Conditions of worth congruent with our own value systems are good for helping us be people we see as valuable ourselves. However, it can be the case that these values are introjected, meaning that we can be holding our own value to what someone else thinks, not ourselves. This is an example of personal incongruence and can lead us to be untrue to ourselves and our nature.

Strengths of the Person-Centred Model of Counselling:

  • The Therapeutic Alliance – Person centred therapy focuses on having a strong therapeutic alliance with client and therapist. This is through the fostering of the necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change – Being non-judgemental, employing accurate empathy and authenticity are great conditions that a therapist can employ in any form of therapy
  • Positive view of development – the idea that people can develop and heal through self-direction. This perspective help people to become more trusting of their organismic self and lead to more self-reliant and independent persons.

Limitations of the Person-Centred Model of Counselling

  • Therapist reliant on not strategy reliant as the model tends to lack structure, more-so reliant on the therapist upholding the core conditions and the personality of the therapist. This can be quite difficult in situations where empathy and unconditional positive regard are difficult, such as when working people who are abusers
  • Lack of intervention – Not asking questions and lack of leading or offering advice may leave some clients wanting for direction or opinion. Other models that involve interventions highlight solutions to incongruence and techniques for changing undesired behaviour rather than relying on the onus and initiative of the client.

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