Welcome to our “What is?” Blog series! In these posts, we are introducing some of the main therapy approaches that our therapists use. This series will help you better understand the ways C.H.E.R.I.I.S.H. Counseling can support your growth! And you can always ask more questions about these approaches during your free, no-obligation phone consultation with our therapists!
This entry, we’re focusing on Person-Centered Therapy!
What Is Person-Centered Therapy?
In the 1940s, psychologist Carl Rogers, created what is known today as Person or Client-Centered Therapy. It is sometimes referred to as Rogerian Therapy, and additionally commonly associated with Humanistic Psychology. At the time of its development, Person-Centered Therapy took a somewhat different journey of healing people in comparison to the commonly used approach of psychoanalysis. A Person-Centered method takes a non-directive approach, allowing the client to lead as much as possible, often seeing the client as the expert of their own experience. This differs from the therapist taking the role of expert on a client’s life as is such with a psychoanalysis approach.
Beyond therapist interventions and skills, Rogers envisioned a way of being with clients. He thought that providing and developing a healthy therapeutic relationship would bring clients much of the healing they were seeking. This relationship building is the first goal of the therapeutic process that takes place between client and therapist. The three primary components that create this relationship are Empathy, Unconditional Positive Regard, and Congruence and Genuineness.
You are probably familiar with empathy and know much of what it means. In therapy, it is important to keep it separate from the definition of sympathy. Unlike sympathy, where one might feel sorrow or pity for others, empathy is that of a deeper understanding of another’s experience and emotions. A feeling of what another is feeling. In many therapeutic modalities, empathy is expected and remains a vital component for those seeking therapy to experience a positive outcome. In Person-Centered Therapy, honoring the client’s subjective experience is a high priority.
*BONUS: Watch Brené Brown’s explanation of Empathy vs. Sympathy for greater understanding!*
Unconditional Positive Regard
This is the process of a therapist accepting a client just as they are. Person-Centered therapists often see their clients with openness, grace, acceptance, and maintain good feelings toward them even when they wouldn’t necessarily agree with them. As humans, many naturally seek out this acceptance in all of our relationships. For some, seeing a Person-Centered therapist may be one of the first times they are being fully accepted just as they are.
Congruence & Genuineness
The concept of congruence and genuineness is that of being true and sincere to one’s self as the therapist. In this mode of therapy, a therapist’s ability to remain self-aware and include some of their own experience in the therapeutic relationship is essential to increase therapeutic effectiveness. This may look like the therapist sharing some of their own personality, feelings, thoughts, and emotions with their client rather than remaining a blank canvas. Person-Centered therapy values the therapist as a human, imperfections and all, and believes if the therapist models congruence, the client may be more inclined to adopt this characteristic as well.
Here is a short video that gives an overview of the therapist and client experience within Person-Centered Therapy.
So, if you are seeking a therapist who:
- Holds the therapeutic relationship in high regard and of the utmost importance
- Is typically a more non-directive, gentle guide throughout the therapeutic process
- Provides a sincerely accepting and understanding attitude toward you
- Actively listens and empathizes with your experience
And, if you are looking to:
- Increase your personal congruence between your ideal and actual self
- Boost self-esteem and confidence
- Develop a higher level of self-worth
- Seek a self-exploration approach
Then a Person-Centered Therapist may be the right fit for YOU!
Rogers shares a personal statement to emphasize his work on Person-Centered Therapy:
“If I can create a relationship characterized on my part:
by genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings;
by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as an individual;
by a sensitive ability to see their world and themselves as they see them;
Then the other individual in the relationship:
will experience and understand aspects of themselves which previously they have repressed;
will find themselves becoming better integrated, and more able to function effectively;
will become more similar to the person they would like to be;
will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive;
will be more understanding, more acceptant of others;
will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably.”
Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, pg. 37-38