To many, the idea of person-centered therapy might sound strange. After all, the whole point of therapy is that it should help the person seeking the services offered by a counsellor to achieve a certain wholesome end. The intended end might vary based on the type of therapy sought; this difference in context is highly specific to the patient and their particular desires as well as the type of therapy they seek such as:
- Family therapy
- Relationship counselling
Because every counsellor has their own type of approach; one they feel works best for them as well as their patients, person-centered therapy is not exactly what every client gets. Despite that fact, this client-centered therapy style has slowly become more popular in recent times because of the type of benefits and positive effects it has on the patients.
What is Person Centered Therapy?
Also referred to as ‘client-centered counselling’, person-centered therapy is a humanistic approach towards therapy that fully focuses on how the individual perceives themselves as opposed to having a counsellor interpret it for them. It allows the client to take more of a leadership role during the sessions and in the process, discover solutions for themselves instead of being fed these answers by their counsellor.
With this approach, the counsellor acts like more of a compassionate listener and facilitator who doesn’t judge nor nudge the client in any particular direction. The therapist is mostly there to support and encourage the client while guiding him or her through the therapeutic process without interfering or interrupting the self-discovery process of the client.
A brief history of client-centred therapy
This humanistic style of therapy was proposed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s. He figured out that therapy could be much simpler, more optimistic and warmer towards the clients. His approach was meant to be a bit more humane than what was being carried out by his behavioural or psychodynamic psychology counterparts.
Carl Rogers believed that human beings behave as they do due to the way their perceive their situations. He hypothesized that since no one else could possibly know ‘exactly’ how we perceived our own situation, then we were the best experts to define and work through it ourselves. He developed this theory due to his long-term work with troubled individuals. In his time, he witnessed the fact that humans had a remarkable capacity for self-healing, personal growth and eventually self-actualization if gently guided towards these things. Hense his belief that if given the right space and guidance, we can find solutions to our own problems: person centred therapy was born.
What to expect during a person-centred therapy session
This entire process can be termed as ‘talk therapy’ with the client doing most of the talking. The counsellor, may from time to time reflect your words to you in an attempt to further understand your meaning, feelings and thoughts. This technique allows you to hear your own words coming from an outside voice. When that happens, you may seek to clarify your meaning and in doing so, may even discover more thoughts and feelings appertaining to the subject matter. By the end of the session, you will feel like you have achieved a deeper level of self-discovery; have explored different aspects of self-acceptance and have edited some of your thoughts to fit your picture of yourself internally. It is all geared towards positive self-growth and the counsellor simply facilitates the process without judgement nor interference.
How does person centred therapy work?
Carl Rogers, the American psychologist who came up with this theory believed that for it to work, three conditions had to be met:
The client must feel complete and unconditional positive regard from the counsellor. This means that the therapist has to be non-judgemental, extremely empathetic and convey feelings of understanding, confidence, trust and encouragement towards their clients. This allows the client to feel more at ease to make their own choices and decisions.
The therapist must have an empathetic understanding. This means that they must completely understand the thoughts and feelings of their clients.
The therapist must exhibit congruence. Meaning that they cannot carry any air of authority or exhibit professional superiority while dealing with the client. Instead, the counsellor must present a truly accessible personality that their clients will deem honest, approachable and transparent.
He believed that only then would the client feel comfortable enough to discover their true self within the safe space presented by the counsellor.
Who can benefit from person-centred therapy?
Although this therapeutic approach can be beneficial to clients of all ages who suffer from a wide range of personal issues, the people who benefit the most include:
- Those who have problems connecting socially
- Those who suffer from depression
- Those who have personality disorders
- Those who suffer from anxiety
- Those who have self-esteem issues
- As long as you are self-aware and realize that you have some limitations that you might want to transcend, then this kind of client-centred therapy might be worth exploring.
What to look for in a client-centred therapist
As mentioned earlier, not every therapist or counsellor has embraced this approach. If you feel like you might benefit most from it, then it would be wise to find a counsellor who actually practices it. Here are some things you should look for in the right person-centred therapist:
- A licensed mental health professional with a vast array of experience
- Someone who is a firm believer in the Rogerian approach (client-centred therapy)
- A highly educated individual with an approachable personality
- A therapist who exudes empathy
You will be able to pick up all these traits from the very first meeting with your counsellor. Remember, the Rogerian approach is all about you, the client. Therefore, you should feel comfortable enough meeting as many therapists as you need to until you find the right one for you; someone who makes you feel comfortable enough to open up and share your thoughts, feelings and emotions.