Person Centred Therapy

Person Centred Therapy

Carl Rogers

Person Centred or Client Centred Therapy was developed as a reaction to the medicalisation of people’s problems, and in opposition to the idea that the therapist is an expert. Carl Rogers (1902-87) believed that, because of a tendency in all humans to “self actualise”, the client would lead the therapy in the best direction, if given the right conditions. It is the therapists’ job to provide these conditions. The “core conditions” are congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. The emphasis is on the direct influence of the relationship between client and therapist, where each person’s perception of the other being important.

In practice, it is hard for a therapist to be purely person centred. Such a therapist must avoid direct challenges to the client, so that the client can freely express their feelings without fear of judgement. The therapist also needs to make sure that the client perceives the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathy, which is hard for some clients.

The influence of Person Centred Therapy

Person Centred Therapy made a large contribution to the field of therapy by reminding practitioners to be respectful of client’s views, and to behave with modesty in regard to their own “expert” knowledge. This lesson was much needed in the field of therapy in the 1940s and 50s, when clients were being told, by the “expert”, what was wrong with them. Person Centred Therapy had such a popular appeal that therapy itself broke free from its origins within the medical establishment. A new field of “counselling” was born and non-medics were trained as counsellors.

Person Centred Therapy has been influential within all other therapy approaches, which have adapted to acknowledge the importance of the core conditions. It is frequently used as a starting point for the training of new counsellors.

My training in Person Centred Therapy

When I studied for the Advanced Diploma in Counselling (1989-90) Person Centred Therapy was the main component of the course.
I have used Natalie Roger’s Creative Connection process. This involves flowing between different modes – movement, art and writing – so that expression can come through the body, heart and mind. (Natalie Rogers is Carl Rogers’ daughter.)

Recommended reading

Client Centred Therapy. Carl Rogers, 1951.
On Becoming a Person. Carl Rogers, 1961.
The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing. Natalie Rogers, 1993.