Person Centered Therapy
What is person centered therapy?
Person centered therapy (also known as Rogerian Therapy) was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950’s. Person centered therapy differs from more traditional therapeutic approaches in the belief that, while the therapist has expertise in many areas, the client is the expert on themselves and their lived experiences. People are essentially trustworthy and have a vast potential for understanding themselves while also being able to ultimately resolve their own problems when guided properly.
This humanistic approach believes that you are essentially trustworthy and have a vast potential for understanding yourself while also being able to ultimately resolve your own problems when guided properly. Carl Rogers was one of the key major spokespersons for the humanistic psychology movement. Commonly, the person centered approach to therapy involves nondirective counseling which is ultimately a reaction against the typical and historical directive of psychoanalytic approaches that were done during individual therapy.
Generally speaking, Rogers himself did not identify that the person centered theory was a fixed and completed approach to therapy but more of an add-on to other principles that would help individuals work through their goals. Interestingly, the therapeutic process within person centered therapy tends to focus more on the person rather than the person’s presenting problems, which helps the client to become stronger, ultimately, being able to better cope with problems they are facing.
How does person centered therapy work?
6 Core Conditions
Carl Rogers identified six core conditions which he viewed were a necessary requirement for making change. These included:
- The relationship between the client and therapist must be a positive relationship built with rapport.
- The client has to be able to be vulnerable to anxiety, which leads to understanding of their conflict commonly seen between their experiences and their awareness.
- The therapist is genuine within the therapeutic relationship, which sometimes leads to therapist’s expressing and drawing on their own experience to facilitate the relationship with the client.
- The client has to trust in the therapist’s genuineness – an unconditional positive regard that the therapist accepts the client unconditionally – no judgement. They neither approve or disapprove of their client and their behaviours.
- This is then accompanied by accurate empathy and understanding of the client’s frame of reference. This ultimately supports the unconditional support for the client. This is very different than many other behavioral focused therapies which do not consider this an important component.
- Finally, it’s necessary that the client perceives the therapist to have genuine unconditional positive regard and empathetic understanding.
Once all of these core conditions are encouraged, growth and maturation can occur with the aid of this healthy environment.
The three most important interrelated core conditions identified by Rogers were:
- Congruence – the therapist relates to the client as an equal.
- Unconditional Positive Regard – the therapist does not judge the client or their actions and listens without offering advice.
- Empathy – the therapist shows the client that they respect the client’s experiences.
Person centered therapy creates a climate where you are free to express yourself without the therapist becoming involved in your expression, which suggests that you know best, rather than the counselor. Typically, the counselor does not offer interpretation or directions but rather encourages you to talk freely. Therapists avoid sharing a lot of personal information about themselves with you and tend to focus more on reflecting and clarifying the verbal and nonverbal communication that you express to them.
Some of the additional goals of therapy include becoming more open to experiences, achieving self trust, developing an internal source of evaluation, and even being willing to continue your growth within yourself.
Commonly, specific goals are not set out by the therapist. You choose your own values and goals. The therapist, as a result, can become fully involved in the relationship during the therapeutic process.
When is person centered therapy used?
Person centered therapy may be used to treat a wide variety of issues such as:
- Adolescent and teen issues
- Alcohol dependence
- Brain injury
- Caregiver stress
- Cognitive disabilities
- Compassion fatigue
- Coping with physical health issues
- Dealing with racism and discrimination
- Drug or substance use
- Eating disorders
- Grief and loss
- Interracial families and relationships
- Issues related to bullying
- LGBTQ2S+ issues
- Mental health disorders
- Out of control shopping
- Personality disorders
- Problem gambling
- Self esteem issues
- Sex compulsion/OCSB
- Sexuality and intimacy issues
- Suicidal thoughts
- Transgender issues
- Weight management
This type of therapy may be used to treat other conditions and concerns in addition to those listed above. It may also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your individual circumstances.
You should be aware that there is no treatment method that is successful for every person. What works for you, may not work for someone else.
What to expect from therapy
Put simply, you will get out of therapy what you put into it. It’s not a magic solution that will solve all your problems. It may involve you doing some real work and being completely honest with yourself and your therapist. Sometimes facing our truth is the hardest thing of all – but from that discomfort can come healing and growth.