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Person Centered Therapy

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        The Person Centered approach to counseling, is primarily based on humanistic psychological concepts propounded by the highly influential psychologist Carl Rogers during the 1940s and 1950s. The basic premise of the humanistic view is that we all posses the inmate desire and potential to achieve self-actualization whereby we are able to find meaning (Corey, 2009, p. 168). Roger’s beliefs and self-discovery led to the conviction that the concepts of the psychoanalytic and behavioral approaches were inadequate, which led to the formation of a “nondirective approach” (Eremie & Ubulom, 2016) This approach avoids “placing the counsellor at the center of the counseling relationship” (Eremie & Ubulom, 2016). As cited by McLeod (2015), this is best stated directly by Rogers (1986) himself:

It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behavior - and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.

Therefore, according to McLeod (2015); unlike previous counseling approaches, the individual seeking therapy is responsible for consciously and rationally taking responsibility to improve their life with the guidance and encouragement of the counsellor. Hence, individuals in therapy are referred to as ‘clients’ rather than ‘patients’ due to the idea that the counsellor is not viewed as “an expert treating a patient”, but is seen as “equal partners” with the client (McLeod, 2015). It can then be said that the client is given the reigns and in essence leads the counseling sessions by determining for him or herself what needs to be addressed. Due to this uniqueness of each counseling relationship and Roger’s notion that the quality of the therapeutic relationship rather than the administration of therapeutic techniques is “the primary agent of growth in the client” (Corey, 2009, p. 176). McLeod (2015) references “listening, accepting, understanding and sharing” as possible techniques that are more “attitude-oriented than skill-oriented.” Techniques are seen to “depersonaliz[e] the relationship” and emphasis is placed on the person forming their own appropriate understanding of themselves and their world. Thus, the flexibility and the emphasis on client counsellor relationships of the person centered approach allows for a broad range of clientele. Person centered therapy can be used to counsel anyone willing to actively improve their life. According to McLeod (2015), Roger’s saw “everyone as a ‘potentially competent individual’ who could benefit greatly from his form of therapy.” Murphy, Crammer and Joseph (2012) view this relationship as one of mutuality, and seek to show that the therapeutic process is dependent on both what the client gives to and what the client gets from the counsellor. additionally, Murphy, Crammer and Joseph (2012) believe that counselor gains from the therapeutic process which aids in their own actualization.

         According to Corey (2009), the goal of person centered therapy is to facilitate the client in acquiring a high degree of independence and integration by focusing on the client, not the client’s problem being presented (p. 170). The aim of therapy, as believed by Rogers, is not to fix problems; but rather to focus on helping the client’s growth process to allow them to adequately cope with current and future problems (Corey, 2009, p. 170). As cited by Tursi and Cochran (2006), Rogers (1957) states that there must be six conditions that “exist and continue over a period of time” in order for “constructive personality change to occur” (p. 387). These “core conditions” of the person centered approach stated by Rogers (1957) are (1) “Two persons should be in psychological contact,” (2) the first, the client, “is in a state of incongruence,” (3) the second, the therapist is congruent, (4) the “therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client,” (5) the “therapist experiences empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference” and strives to communicate that to them, and (6) communication of therapists empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is achieved (Tursi and Cochran, 2006, p.387). Additionally, Eremie and Ubulom (2016) outline five goals of person centered counseling; (a) the counseling relationship must be focused on the client, not their problems, (b) counsellors assist clients to become fully self-actualized, (c)  counsellor helps the client to be realistic in their self perceptions, (d) counsellor aids client in becoming more confident and self-directing, and (e) counsellor encourages client to value themselves more positively. Corey (2009) states that before the client could work towards the previously mentioned goals, they must “first get behind the masks they wear, which they develop through the process of socialization” (p. 170). Roger’s believed that once these facades are put aside during the therapeutic process, the client will become “increasingly actualized”. Said person would be open to experience, trust themselves, have an “internal source of evaluation”, and be willing to continue their growth (Corey, 2009, p. 170). This provides an understanding into the general structure of the person centered theory, specifically the fundamental idea that the therapist does not create goals for their client, but rather the client has the ability to set their own goals along with the help of the counsellor as a facilitator.        

        Therefore, the role of the person centered therapist is to provide “a warm and accepting relationship” in which the counsellor listens attentively to both verbal language and nonverbal cues from the client, and is able to reflect this on to the client (Eremie & Ubulom, 2016). Likewise, Corey (2009) states that therapists “use themselves as an instrument of change.. their ‘role’ is to be without roles” (p. 171). This means that the therapist does not “get lost in a professional role,” The therapeutic climate for the client’s growth is created by the “therapist’s attitude and belief in the inner resources of the client (Corey, 2009, p. 171). From the six core conditions for personality change come three core qualities that the person centered therapist must posses as an integral part of the therapeutic process; congruence, unconditional positive regard and acceptance and accurate empathic understanding.

        Congruence implies that the therapist is genuine, their authentic self and that they are honest with their clients during therapy (Eremie & Ubulom, 2016). In accordance with Corey (2009), the congruent therapists “are without a false front,” they are open to expressing their feelings, reactions and thoughts that are “present in the relationship with the client” (p. 174). Corey (2009) goes on to point out that in order to be congruent it may be necessary to express “anger, frustration, liking, attraction, concern, boredom, annoyance, and a range of other feelings;” not meaning that it is appropriate to impulsively share all their reactions, but in interest of self-disclosure should be well-timed (p. 174).



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