Person-centred therapy/counselling, is a humanistic approach that deals with the ways in which individuals perceive themselves. It was created in the 1950s by psychologist Carl Rogers.
The person-centred approach sees human beings as having an innate tendency to develop towards their full potential. This ability can become blocked or distorted by certain life experiences, particularly those which affect our sense of personal value.
The core purpose of person-centred therapy is to facilitate our ability to self-actualise – the belief that all of us will grow and fulfil our potential. This approach facilitates the personal growth and relationships of a client by allowing them to explore and utilise their own strengths and personal identity. The counsellor aids this process, providing vital support to the client and they make their way through this journey.
The therapist works to understand an individual’s experience from their own perspective. The therapist will positively value the client as a person in all aspects of their humanity, and will be open and genuine. This is vital in helping the client feel accepted, and better able to understand their own feelings. The approach can help the client to reconnect with their inner values and sense of self-worth, thus enabling them to find their own way to move forward and progress.
“The person-centred counsellor is not an expert; rather the client is seen as an expert on themselves and the person-centred counsellor encourages the client to explore and understand themselves and their troubles.” Counsellor Mary-Claire Wilson
An important part of the self-actualising theory is the establishment of psychological environment is one where a person feels both physically and emotionally free from threat. In this environment the client can work on the fulfilment of personal potentials including;
- sociability (the need to be with other people, and a desire to know and be known by others)
- being open to experience
- being trusting and trustworthy; and being curious, creative and compassionate.
To help achieve this environment, particularly in the therapy room, the counsellor will have developed a number of specific personal qualities;
- Congruence – the counsellor must be completely genuine.
- Empathy – the counsellor must strive to understand the client’s experience.
- Unconditional positive regard – the counsellor must be non-judgemental and valuing.
A number of factors can affect a person’s ability to flourish, including low self-esteem, a lack of self-reliance and very little openness to new experiences. The person-centred approach recognises that a person’s social environment and personal relationships can greatly impact these, so therapy is offered in a neutral and comfortable setting, where a client can feel at ease, authentic and open to learning about themselves.
By offering a safe, comforting environment, the client is able to understand the past experiences that have impacted the way they feel about themselves or their abilities, and take the steps to positive change.
The person-centred approach can also help the client to:
- find closer agreement between an idealised self and actual self
- achieve better self-understanding and awareness
- release feelings of defensiveness, insecurity and guilt
- have greater ability to trust oneself
- develop healthier relationships
- see improvement in self-expression
- achieve a healthy sense of change overall
Person-centred counselling can help individuals of all ages, with a range of personal issues. People find it an appealing type of therapy because it allows them to keep control over the content and pace of sessions. There is no worry that they are being evaluated or assessed in any way.
The non-direct style of person-centred counselling is thought to be especially beneficial to those who have a strong urge to explore themselves and their feelings, and for those who want to address specific psychological habits or patterns of thinking.
The approach is said to be particularly effective in helping individuals to overcome issues that can have significant impact on self-esteem, self-reliance and self-awareness. Person-centred therapy can help people to reconnect with their inner self in order to transcend any self imposed limitations.