Carl Rogers, 20th century American psychologist and the founder of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), believed that personal growth depended on the environment. He felt that everybody is different, and their views of the world and ability to manage it should be trusted. He said that people have the power to find the best solutions for themselves and be able to make changes in their lives.
This belief led him to develop client-centered therapy, which was renamed Person-Centered Therapy. It moved away from the therapist’s traditional role as the expert and leader. Instead, this process allowed the individual to use his own understanding and experiences as a way to heal. In his book “On Becoming a Person,” Rogers said people have their own resources for healing and personal growth. He wove the concepts of congruence, empathic understanding, acceptance and unconditional positive regard into therapy to improve the outcome for clients.
Rogers’ Core Conditions in PCT
Rogers said that an individual’s success in PCT relies on the following core conditions:
- Congruence in Counseling. This is the most important aspect in therapy. Unlike the therapist who lets very little of his own personality show, PCT allows the individual to know the therapist as he really is. In PCT, the therapist is authentic.
- Unconditional Positive Regard. Rogers felt people were able to grow and fulfill their potential, and they must be valued as themselves. This means the therapist has a deep and genuine care of the person. While he may not approve of some of the individual’s actions, he does approve of the individual. The therapist must have a consistent, prevailing attitude of acceptance toward the person as he is–even in lieu of the fact that he may be displeased by the person’s actions.
- Empathy. The therapist has the ability to understand the person’s feelings sensitively and accurately. He is centered on the individual in the “here and now.” The therapist must follow exactly what the person feels and communicates in order to understand what he’s feeling. Rogers said, “If I can take his world into mine, then I risk seeing life in his way…and of being changed myself, and we all resist change. Since we all resist change, we tend to view the other person’s world only in our terms, not in his. ..But, when the therapist understands how it feels to be in another person’s world, without wanting or trying to analyze or judge it, then the therapist and the client can truly blossom and grow in that climate.”
How Does PCT Work?
In PCT, the therapist uses a non-authoritative approach in order for the individual to take more of a precedence in discussions. This enables the person to discover his own solutions to problems. As a compassionate facilitator who listens and doesn’t judge, the therapist acknowledges the individual’s experience, but doesn’t take the conversation into other areas. The therapist encourages and supports the person, guiding him through the process without interrupting or intervening in his process of self-discovery.
Rogers believed that therapists who used the concepts with clients would help them to gain insight, recognize their feelings, express self-concept and achieve self-acceptance and self-actualization (the realization of a person’s talents and potential, particularly considered as a drive or need that is present in everybody). He said a self-actualized, fully functioning person had the following integral traits.
- An individual should be open to experience, where positive and negative emotions are accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, and instead, worked through.
- In existential living, people are in touch with the different experiences that occur in life without prejudging or having assumptions. People should be able to live in the present and appreciate it instead of looking back to the past or forward to the future. In other words, “live for the moment.”
- Feelings, instincts and gut reactions are trusted and the focus of attention. An individual’s decisions are the correct ones, and he should trust himself to make the right choice.
- Creative thinking and taking risks are part of an individual’s life—he shouldn’t try to “play it safe” all the time. This includes the ability to adjust, change and find new experiences, as well as abandoning conformity.
- A person lives a fulfilled life, which means he is happy and content with life, continually seeking more challenges, experiences and having a full range of emotions.
- The ability to behave reliably and make constructive choices.
Who Can Benefit from PCT?
PCT is helpful for people of all ages with a variety of issues. Some people like that it allows them to have control over the content and pace of the sessions. In addition, they don’t feel worried about the therapist evaluating or judging them. It is particularly beneficial to people with a strong urge to find out about themselves and their feelings, as well as for those who want to talk about specific psychological habits or ways of thinking.
PCT is used in the following situations:
- Gaining more confidence.
- Building a stronger sense of identity.
- Building good interpersonal relationships.
- Trusting in a person’s own decisions.
- Eating Disorders.
- Alcohol addiction.
- Personality disorders.
- PCT is also helpful for people experiencing grief, depression, abuse, anxiety, stress and other mental health conditions.
While the individual in therapy does the most talking, the therapist may repeat his words in order for him to fully comprehend thoughts and feelings. Hearing his words repeated by the therapist may cause the client to clarify their meaning or correct some of the words. The therapist may do this a few times until the person feels that he’s said what he feels and thinks exactly as he meant it. There is a reason for silence every now and then—the thoughts are being allowed to penetrate. This process leads to self-discovery and self-acceptance, as well as providing a way to heal and positively grow.
Additional Benefits of PCT
While it’s an approach to therapy, PCT is often used by people in relationships and in careers, such as teaching, childcare and patient care.