What is ... Person-Centered Therapy?
As much as I believe in the power of therapy, I also believe in the power of education.
So, each of the blogs entitled “What is…” are dedicated to further your knowledge in the field of psychology. We’ll begin our educational journey with the most influential (in my opinion) counseling model. Person-centered therapy also happens to be the therapy model that I most closely identify with as a therapist.
“So I find that when I can accept another person, which mean specifically accepting the feelings and attitudes and beliefs that he has as a real and vital part of him, then I am assisting him to become a person: and there seems to me great value in this” (Rogers, 1961).
Carl Rogers is the founder of person-centered therapy. Person-centered therapy is rooted in the “view of human experiencing, [and] it places faith in and gives responsibility to the client in dealing with problems” (Corey, 2001, pg. 8). So, when I’m working with a client, I believe that he or she has the knowledge and ability to overcome whatever it is that brought them to my office. Person-centered therapy also considers the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Rogers believed that it is within this relationship built on genuineness, unconditional acceptance and positive regard, and empathy are the tools that determines the success of the therapeutic relationship.
Here’s what I like about that, being a Christian, I am charged as a (person-centered) therapist to show every single client that walks through my office door Christ’s unconditional love. To me, it really doesn’t matter if you have the same faith as I do, because I am still going to do my best to show you what it is like to be in a relationship with someone who accepts you unconditionally. Corey (2001) notes that “this approach is perhaps best characterized as a way of being and as a shared journey in which therapist and client reveal their humanness and participate in a growth experience. The therapist can be a guide on the journey because he or she is usually more experienced and more psychologically mature than the client. However, it is important to realize that the therapeutic relationship involves two people, both of whom are fallible” (pg. 174).
Rogers (1961) noted that one of the first things he learned about psychotherapy and relationships was this truth: “I can trust myself.” He goes on to state, “One of the basic thing which I was a long time in realizing, and which I am still learning, is that when an activity feels as though it is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing” (pg. 22). How many times have you, have I, given up on something because of what other people said. I know that I learned somewhere in my earlier years that I felt like my opinion wasn’t valued and that I should trust what others have to say, rather than my own intuition. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink (2005) talks about the importance of considering our instincts.
When it comes to the task of understanding ourselves and our world, I think we pay too much attention to those grand themes and too little to the particulars of those fleeting moments. But what would happen if we took our instincts seriously? What if we stopped scanning the horizon with our binoculars and began instead examining our own decision making and behavior through the most powerful of microscopes? I think that would change the way wars are fought, the kinds of products we see on the shelves, the kinds of movies that get made, the way police officers are trained, the way couples are counseled, the way job interviews are conducted, and on and on.
Corey, G. (2001). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. New York: Back Bay Books.
Rogers, C. R. (1961). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
For more information about humanistic psychology (person-centered is part of this field) or the person-centered approach you can check out the below websites.
The Association for Humanistic Psychology - www.ahpweb.org
Center for Studies of the Person – www.centerfortheperson.org
The Association for the Development of the Person Centered Approach – www.adpca.org