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  • Tom Dunsdon

The person-centred approach.

Hi guys and welcome to my latest blog post, I know its been a while since I wrote one so first let me apologise for that, but things have been a bit busy of late and that’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. So, in this post we are going to look at the Person-centred approach to counselling.

The person-centred approach to counselling belongs to the humanistic school of therapy and is the model of counselling based on the work of Carl Rogers who was born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. Rogers was the fourth of six children, he was a high achiever in school from an early age and could already read and had a good level of writing before he was five years old (some may say the same level I’m at now!), so he was able to skip kindergarten and first grade and started his schooling in the second grade. After leaving school, Rogers went to study Psychology having first tried agriculture and theology which for various reasons, he decided were not for him.

After leaving education and continuing his work within the psychological field, Rogers began to develop his person-centred approach, this was first called the person-centred way of helping but is now called person-centred counselling.

So now we have a better understanding of where Person-centred counselling came from, let’s have a brief look at some of the key ideas and core beliefs held within it. The first core belief, and some may say the main core belief of the person-centred approach, is that every individual holds a need to be the best person they can be; this is to say that every human has a need to grow and fulfil their potential. Rogers believed that for therapy to be successful there needed to be six core conditions in place within the therapy session. Nowadays this is more often shorten to three but Rogers believed there needed to be six (it is worth noting that Rogers never actually referred to these as core conditions and that is a label which has been gained over the years).

These conditions are:

Therapist–client psychological contact: a relationship between client and therapist must exist and it must be a relationship in which each person's perception of the other is important. We now more commonly refer to this as rapport.

Therapist congruence or genuineness: the therapist is congruent within the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is deeply involved—they are not "acting"—and they can draw on their own experiences now referred to as self-disclosure to facilitate the relationship.

Therapist unconditional positive regard: the therapist accepts the client unconditionally, without judgment, disapproval, or approval. This facilitates increased self-regard in the client as they can begin to become aware of experiences in which their view of self-worth was distorted by others.

Therapist empathic understanding: the therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client's internal frame of reference. Accurate empathy on the part of the therapist helps the client believe in the therapist's unconditional regard for them.

Client perception: that the client perceives, to at least a minimal degree, the therapist's unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding.

Client incongruence: that incongruence exists between the client's experience and awareness.


Another key concept to the person-centred approach as briefly mentioned above in the core conditions, is conditions of worth. By this Rogers meant the way we see value in ourselves, for example it is common in today’s world for us to value ourself by what we produce instead of who we are, and the person centred approach allows an individual to look in detail at how they value themselves and how they believe the world values individuals as a whole.

So now we know a little bit more about the theory behind person-centred therapy, how does this look in the therapy room?

Well as a therapist who first trained in the person-centred approach, although now I use an integrative model, including CBT, psychoanalysis, coaching techniques, and hypnotherapy, I would say it looks something like this:

A person-centred therapist does not interpret or offer advice as may be expected from other models of therapy, but allows the client to lead the session and to go where they wish to, with the understanding that a client knows what is right for them and will over time work towards resolutions and understanding of their own issues, and this understanding will furthermore allow them to facilitate the changes they wish to make to their own life. This is facilitated by the therapist knowledge and employment of the core conditions as mentioned above as well as their use and understanding of active listening and other skills that have been picked up and refined over time. For me, the key to a successful therapeutic relationship when working from any model is rapport, and as you can see from the above, the person-centred approach has this at its very core. For me, when working from a person-centred approach, it is about creating that safe space for a client to explore their problems and process them allowing their self-development and understanding to blossom in a safe, secure and supportive environment.


Well guys that’s about it for this blog post, I hope you have enjoyed reading this very brief oversite of the person-centred approach to counselling, as you have seen this is (definitely) not a comprehensive guide to this model of therapy and there is so much more information and detail to this approach than contained within this blog post, this is more designed to let you know what some of the key facts and ideas are with this approach. With that said, I hope you have found this an enjoyable read and as ever any feedback, positive or negative is welcome.

Until next time,

To your best life,

Tom.

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