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Exploring the power of person-centered therapy

Exploring the power of person-centered therapy

Person-centered therapy (PCT) is a powerful approach to counseling and psychotherapy that centers on the individual, creating a safe and empathetic environment where clients can explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. At the heart of person-centered therapy lies the belief that each person has the capacity for self-discovery and personal growth, and this therapy offers a non-judgmental, supportive space for that journey.

Thriveworks is committed to delivering high-quality therapy, offering individuals the opportunity to work through challenges, enhance their self-esteem, and achieve personal growth through the person-centered approach. Keep reading below to learn more about this therapeutic approach, and how it can help you meet your goals in and outside of sessions with your therapist.


What Is Person-Centered Therapy?

Person-centered therapy is a contemporary therapeutic approach with its roots tracing back to the pioneering work of the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers. At the heart of this method lies a fundamental premise: that the therapist refrains from acting as an expert with all the answers.

Instead, the therapist plays the role of a compassionate and attentive listener. This approach fosters a crucial shift in the therapeutic dynamic, where the client is actively encouraged to embark on a journey of self-discovery, seeking their answers and insights. In essence, person-centered therapy hinges on two key elements that empower this transformative process:

  • Unconditional positive regard and congruence: In person-centered therapy, two pillars stand as guiding elements. The first is “unconditional positive regard,” which involves the therapist offering wholehearted acceptance and a non-judgmental attitude toward the client. In parallel, “congruence” underscores the importance of the therapist being authentic and transparent in their interactions. This authenticity ensures that the therapist’s demeanor is one of genuineness and openness throughout their work with the client.
  • Empathy: Another integral component of person-centered therapy is empathy. This essential aspect allows the therapist to fully comprehend and emotionally connect with the client’s feelings, experiences, and viewpoints. By empathizing with the client’s unique journey, the therapist forges a deeper bond, ultimately nurturing the client’s ability to explore their inner world.

Person-centered therapy operates on the principle that the therapist’s embodiment of these key elements transforms them into a compassionate and supportive partner, accompanying the client on their distinctive path towards self-discovery and improved self-esteem. The overarching goal is to empower the client, enabling them to access their inner wisdom and recognize their answers and insights. 

In essence, Person-centered therapy functions as a structured framework that empowers clients to embark on a profound voyage of self-understanding, self-acceptance, and personal growth, deepening their connection with both their inner selves and the world around them.

The Core Principles of Person-Centered Therapy

Person-centered therapy is built upon a set of fundamental principles that emphasize the following:

  1. Self-actualization: At the heart of person-centered therapy is the belief that people possess an inherent drive for self-actualization, a concept introduced by humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow. Self-actualization is the process of becoming the best version of oneself, realizing one’s full potential, and achieving personal growth and fulfillment. It’s not about fixing what’s “wrong” with an individual but about facilitating their journey toward self-actualization.
  2. The importance of positive self-perception: A negative self-perception can act as a significant barrier to personal progress and self-actualization. Person-centered therapy recognizes the critical role self-esteem and self-image play in a person’s life. To promote self-actualization, person-centered therapists strive to create an environment where clients can develop a more positive self-perception, cultivating feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance.
  3. Humanism and positive self-esteem: Person-centered therapy is firmly rooted in humanistic psychology, a school of thought that aims to support and nurture positive self-esteem and self-image. Humanism places a strong emphasis on the value and potential of every individual. Person-centered therapy aligns with this perspective by focusing on the positive aspects of an individual’s self-concept, self-worth, and self-image, thus nurturing the conditions for self-actualization.

In essence, person-centered therapy operates on the belief that by creating a therapeutic environment that values and promotes self-esteem and self-worth, individuals can embark on their unique journeys of self-actualization. By acknowledging the strengths and resources individuals already possess, person-centered therapy encourages personal growth and the realization of one’s full potential.

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Benefits of Choosing Person-Centered Therapy

Some of the key benefits of choosing person-centered therapy include:

  1. Lifelong skills: Person-centered therapy isn’t just about solving immediate issues; it’s about fostering skills that can stay with you throughout your life. By promoting self-awareness, positive self-regard, and emotional resilience, person-centered therapy equips clients with the tools and strategies they need to navigate life’s challenges long after their sessions with a therapist have concluded. 

This focus on skill-building empowers individuals to independently manage their well-being.

  1. Client empowerment: Central to person-centered therapy is the idea that clients have the inner resources and capacity to discover their own truths and make meaningful life choices. Therapists who use client-centered therapy practice unconditional positive regard, which means they provide unwavering acceptance and support. 

This empowerment encourages clients to explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and their lives.

  1. Human connection: Human beings have an innate need to be seen and understood by others. Person-centered therapy recognizes the profound importance of the therapeutic relationship, where the therapist’s genuine empathy and unconditional positive regard create a safe space for clients to express themselves openly.
  1. Corrective experiences: In person-centered therapy, clients may have the opportunity to reframe past negative experiences in a more positive and constructive light. By learning to view challenging life events in a corrective manner, individuals can transform adversity into a source of personal growth and resilience
  1. Non-dependency: Person-centered therapy encourages self-reliance. The goal is not to create a lifelong dependency on therapy or the therapist but to provide individuals with the skills and insights they need to manage their well-being independently. 

Clients learn to become their own experts, making choices that align with their true selves.

In summary, person-centered therapy offers a therapeutic experience that promotes personal growth and lasting change. Its focus on skill-building, empowerment, genuine human connection, and corrective experiences can significantly benefit individuals seeking to understand themselves better and develop the skills needed to navigate life’s challenges with confidence and resilience.

Person-Centered Therapy vs. Other Approaches

Below is a comparison of other highly popular counseling methods and their core principles: 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT):

  • Focus: CBT is centered on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors to alleviate symptoms.
  • Techniques: It employs structured techniques and exercises to challenge and reframe maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.
  • Therapist’s role: CBT therapists often take an active role, providing specific strategies and homework assignments.
  • Applicability: CBT is highly structured and goal-oriented, making it effective for specific issues such as anxiety, depression, and phobias.

Family systems therapy (FST):

  • Focus: Family systems therapy explores the dynamics and interactions within family units as contributors to individual problems.
  • Techniques: Techniques may include genograms, systemic mapping, and communication skill-building.
  • Therapist’s role: Therapists work with the family as a whole and may address relational patterns and roles.
  • Applicability: It is ideal for addressing family conflicts, communication issues, and relationship dynamics.

Existential therapy:

  • Focus: Existential therapy explores themes related to the human condition, such as freedom, responsibility, meaning, and existential anxiety.
  • Techniques: It doesn’t rely on specific techniques but encourages clients to confront life’s existential questions.
  • Therapist’s role: Therapists in this approach help clients explore their existential concerns and choices.
  • Applicability: Existential therapy is well-suited for individuals grappling with questions about life’s purpose and existential challenges.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT):

  • Focus: DBT is designed to help individuals manage intense emotions and improve interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Techniques: DBT incorporates techniques like mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance.
  • Therapist’s role: DBT therapists provide specific skills training and coaching.
  • Applicability: It’s particularly effective for individuals with borderline personality disorder and emotion dysregulation.

Narrative therapy:

  • Focus: Narrative therapy explores how individuals construct their identities and stories. It helps clients reframe and rewrite their narratives.
  • Techniques: It employs narrative techniques such as externalization and re-authoring.
  • Therapist’s role: Therapists collaborate with clients to deconstruct problem-saturated narratives and create alternative stories.
  • Applicability: Narrative therapy is beneficial for individuals seeking to redefine their life narratives and break free from problem-focused stories.

The choice of therapy depends on the nature of the client’s issues, their goals, and their personal preferences. Person-centered therapy distinguishes itself through its non-directive, empathetic, and client-focused approach, making it particularly suitable for those who value self-exploration and personal growth in a supportive, non-judgmental therapeutic environment.

Is Person-Centered Therapy Right for You?

Here are some guidelines to help you determine if person-centered therapy is the right fit for you:

  • You seek a supportive, non-judgmental space: If you are looking for a therapeutic environment where you can express yourself openly without fear of judgment, person-centered therapy may be a good choice. Person-centered therapy emphasizes unconditional positive regard, which means the therapist provides acceptance and support, fostering a safe space for self-exploration.
  • You desire self-exploration and personal growth: Person-centered therapy is particularly effective for individuals who wish to embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. If you’re motivated to gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and experiences and are open to exploring your inner self, person-centered therapy aligns well with these goals.
  • You value autonomy and independence: This approach promotes self-reliance and empowerment. If you prefer a therapeutic approach that empowers you to become your own expert in managing your well-being, person-centered therapy’s focus on fostering your inner resources and self-direction is a significant advantage.
  • You seek genuine human connection: For many people, a genuine, empathetic connection with a therapist is a crucial part of the healing process. If you value human connection and the importance of being seen and understood, person-centered therapy provides a therapeutic relationship characterized by authenticity and empathy.
  • You want to build lasting life skills: Person-centered therapy emphasizes building life-long skills rather than just addressing immediate concerns. If you’re interested in developing self-awareness, emotional resilience, and positive self-regard that can stay with you throughout your life, this approach aligns well with your aspirations.
  • You are open to corrective experiences: In Person-centered therapy, you may have the opportunity to reframe past negative experiences in a more positive and constructive light. If you’re open to viewing challenging life events in a way that fosters personal growth and resilience, person-centered therapy can provide you with a transformative experience.
  • You don’t seek dependency on therapy: If your goal is to develop the capacity to manage your well-being independently and avoid long-term dependency on therapy, person-centered therapy’s focus on self-reliance is a strong match with your objectives.

If you resonate with the principles of person-centered therapy and feel that it aligns with your goals and preferences, it may be the right choice for you. Consulting with a qualified therapist can help you explore your options and determine whether person-centered therapy is the most suitable approach to support your mental health and personal growth.

Finding a Person-Centered Therapist Near You

If you feel like the principles of person-centered therapy resonate with you, consider seeking out a Thriveworks therapist who offers person-centered therapy. Person-centered therapy places you at the heart of your healing journey, prioritizing your unique needs, feelings, and experiences. 

This approach creates a safe and supportive space for you to explore your thoughts and emotions without judgment, and it empowers you to work through challenges at your own pace. Thriveworks therapists are dedicated professionals who are committed to helping you achieve your personal growth and well-being goals. 

By choosing a Thriveworks therapist who specializes in person-centered therapy, you are taking a significant step towards finding a compassionate and understanding ally on your path to self-discovery and mental health. Your healing journey begins with you, and a person-centered therapist from Thriveworks can provide the guidance and support you need to thrive.

What Is an Example of Person-Centered Therapy?

An example of person-centered therapy in action might involve a person who is feeling stuck and wants to make changes but feels overwhelmed or unsure of how to proceed. In this scenario, a person-centered therapist would provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for the individual to express their thoughts and emotions openly. 

The therapist will then actively listen and empathize during sessions, allowing the client to explore their feelings and experiences without fear of criticism. Instead of offering direct advice or solutions, the therapist might encourage the individual to reflect on their own inner resources and intuition, asking questions like, “What do you think you should do?” 

This approach empowers the client to tap into their wisdom, ultimately helping them discover their path for personal growth and change. This is what makes person-centered therapy a powerful tool for breaking through self-doubt and fostering self-empowerment.

Person-Centered Therapy Techniques

Person-centered therapy primarily relies on the core components of empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard for the client to create a therapeutic environment that facilitates personal growth and healing. Instead of specific exercises or techniques, person-centered therapy emphasizes the qualities of the therapeutic relationship itself. 

The therapist’s empathy and authentic presence are essential for fostering an atmosphere of trust and understanding. Yet one criticism of person-centered therapy is its perceived vagueness compared to more structured therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

However, flexibility can be an advantage for those who appreciate a more client-driven and individualized approach. The unconditional positive regard for the client means that the therapist accepts and respects the client’s experiences and emotions without judgment. 

This open-ended approach allows for a wide range of reasons for seeking therapy and encourages clients to explore their unique paths to personal growth. This creates difficulty in studying person-centered therapy, which arises from its lack of standardized techniques and protocols. Since person-centered therapy focuses on the unique, individual experience of each client, it doesn’t adhere to a one-size-fits-all model. 

Consequently, research into the effectiveness of person-centered therapy can be challenging, but it remains a valuable therapeutic approach for those who benefit from a more person-centered and empathetic therapeutic relationship.

Creating a Safe Space for Healing

Person-centered therapy establishes a warm and empathetic environment that is the foundation of the therapeutic process. In this nurturing space, clients feel valued and respected for who they are, free from judgment or criticism. The therapist’s genuine empathy and unconditional positive regard provide the client with the safety and acceptance necessary for self-exploration and personal growth. 

This compassionate setting encourages open and honest communication, empowering clients to express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns, fostering a healing journey guided by their unique needs and aspirations.

Personal Growth and Self-Exploration

Person-centered therapy fosters a compassionate and empathetic atmosphere, serving as the cornerstone for the therapeutic experience. Within this supportive environment, clients are embraced without judgment or critique, allowing them to feel deeply valued and respected. 

The therapist’s sincere empathy and unwavering positive regard create a secure space, promoting candid and open dialogue that empowers clients to freely explore their thoughts, emotions, and personal growth, guided by their individual needs and aspirations.

When to Consider Person-Centered Therapy

It’s helpful to consider person-centered therapy when you’re interested in enhancing your self-esteem. It’s also well-suited for individuals who possess internal and external resources for self-improvement.

Questions to Ask Potential Therapists

When considering a potential therapist for person-centered therapy, it’s vital to ask questions that align with your needs. You can inquire about their experience with person-centered therapy, their understanding of its core principles, and their therapeutic style. Ask how they foster the therapeutic relationship, handle difficult topics, and whether they employ any specific techniques.

Inquire about their approach to client autonomy, creating a safe environment, and setting goals. These questions are meant to help you evaluate the therapist’s compatibility with your expectations, emphasizing the importance of transparent communication for a successful therapeutic relationship.

Schedule a Person-Centered Session with a Therapist at Thriveworks 

If you’re in search of a therapeutic experience that places your unique needs at the forefront, where empathy, understanding, and personal growth are given utmost priority, look no further than Thriveworks. Our highly committed therapists are prepared to offer you a nurturing, non-judgmental, and encouraging environment. 

Delve into your thoughts and emotions, fostering self-discovery and personal progress with person-centered therapy—schedule your session today.

  • Medical writer
  • Editorial writer
  • Clinical reviewer
  • 3 sources
  • Update history
Kate Hanselman, PMHNP in New Haven, CT
Kate Hanselman, PMHNP-BCBoard-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
See Kate's availability

Kate Hanselman is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She specializes in family conflict, transgender issues, grief, sexual orientation issues, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, behavioral issues, and women’s issues.

Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

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Jason CrosbyMental Health Writer

Jason Crosby is a Senior Copywriter at Thriveworks. He received his BA in English Writing from Montana State University with a minor in English Literature. Previously, Jason was a freelance writer for publications based in Seattle, WA, and Austin, TX.

We only use authoritative, trusted, and current sources in our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our efforts to deliver factual, trustworthy information.

  • Yao, L., & Kabir, R. (2023, February 9). Person-centered therapy (Rogerian therapy) – StatPearls – NCBI bookshelf. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  • Murphy, T. Et al. (2016). 12 – Psychological therapies. In Companion to Psychiatric Studies(8th ed.). Academic Press.

  • Takens, R. J. (2020, January 1). Person-centered therapy (client-centered). SpringerLink.

We update our content on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date, relevant, and valuable information. When we make a significant change, we summarize the updates and list the date on which they occurred. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  • Originally published June 14, 2017
    Author: Lenora KM

  • Updated October 13th, 2023

    Expert Author: Kate Hanselman, PMHNP

    Editorial Author: Jason Crosby

    Reviewer: Christine Ridley, LCSW

    Changes: Our editorial team, in collaboration with a provider from our contribution program, provided additional information about person-centered therapy, adding insights into the principles of person-centered therapy, how person-centered therapy differs from other therapeutic approaches, concerns related to person-centered therapy, and how individuals can benefit from this therapeutic approach.

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