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  • Writer's picturebencrumpler

Some thoughts on the Person-Centred approach to therapy

Updated: May 27


A little about the Person-Centred approach to therapy and why I think it is so important, plus what really resonates with me.


Developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1950s, the person-centred approach recognises that human beings possess an inherent tendency to reach their full potential. However, life experiences, particularly those affecting our sense of value, can hinder or distort this ability.


In person-centred therapy, the therapist seeks to understand the individual's experience from their perspective. It is crucial for the therapist to genuinely value the client as a whole person and remain open and authentic. This acceptance helps the client feel understood and enables them to gain insight into their own emotions. By reconnecting with their inner values and sense of self-worth, clients can find their own path towards personal growth and progress. For me this is key, as I think it is invaluable to learn truly about ourselves and learn how to use this knowledge going forward. It often puts me in mind of the proverb about if you teach a man to fish, it is far better than to give them a fish, because they are then able to be self-sufficient, this is one of the reason why I love the person-centred approach, because it is so empowering.


The core objective of person-centred therapy is to facilitate self-actualisation, which encompasses personal growth and the improvement of relationships. Clients are encouraged to explore and utilise their own strengths and personal identity. The therapist provides crucial support throughout this journey.


In the person-centred approach, the therapist does not assume the role of an expert. Instead, the client is viewed as the expert on themselves, and the therapist encourages them to explore and understand their own experiences and challenges. Which again resonates with me, because it feels egotistical for me to feel I have some authority or am elevated above my clients, this is not what I feel.


An essential aspect of the self-actualisation theory is the creation of a psychological environment where individuals feel physically and emotionally safe. Three conditions are believed to contribute to this environment, particularly in the therapy room (although as equally when doing Walk and Talk therapy)


Congruence: The therapist must genuinely express their own thoughts and feelings.


Empathy: The therapist strives to understand the client's experience.


Unconditional positive regard: The therapist is non-judgmental and values the client unconditionally.


Several factors can hinder an individual's ability to flourish, such as low self-esteem, lack of self-reliance, and resistance to new experiences. The person-centred approach recognises that a person's social environment and relationships significantly influence these factors. Therefore, therapy is conducted in a neutral and comfortable setting, allowing the client to feel at ease, authentic, and open to self-discovery.

By providing a safe and supportive environment, person-centred therapy helps clients understand past experiences that have influenced their self-perception and guides them toward positive change. Additionally, the approach can assist clients in:


Bridging the gap between their idealised self and actual self.


Enhancing self-understanding and self-awareness


Releasing feelings of defensiveness, insecurity, and guilt


Developing greater self-trust


Cultivating healthier relationships


Improving self-expression


Achieving overall personal growth


The benefits of person-centred therapy extend to individuals of all ages, addressing various personal issues. Many people find this approach appealing because it allows them to maintain control over session content and pace without fear of evaluation or assessment.


The non-directive nature of person-centred therapy is particularly beneficial for those who have a strong desire for self-exploration and addressing specific psychological patterns. It has shown effectiveness in overcoming problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, grief, and other mental health concerns. These issues can significantly impact self-esteem, self-reliance, and self-awareness, and person-centred therapy helps individuals reconnect with their inner selves to overcome limitations.


While originally developed as a psychotherapeutic approach, person-centred counselling is also applicable in other areas that require building strong relationships, such as teaching, childcare, and patient care. It is not limited to qualified counsellors, as many people incorporate person-centred principles in their daily work and relationships.


The theory behind the person-centred approach challenges the idea of the therapist as an expert. Instead, it emphasises our innate tendency to seek fulfilment in personal potentials (self-actualisation). By facilitating this process, the approach helps clients recognise their capacity for self-healing and personal growth.


Another key concept is self-concept, which refers to the organised set of beliefs and perceptions individuals hold about themselves. Self-concept plays a crucial role in our overall experience and shapes our perception of the world. Person-centred counselling acknowledges that self-concept can be displaced when individuals excessively strive for acceptance and belonging from others.


As we naturally desire positive regard from those around us, it becomes easier to conform to accepted and simplified versions of ourselves. Over time, our identity can become intertwined with the ideals imposed by others, leading to a disconnection from our authentic selves. Person-centred counselling aims to facilitate self-actualisation and personal growth by providing a supportive environment where clients can strengthen their own identity and separate it from imposed notions of how they should be.


In someways the concepts seem fairly simple but it is so very powerful and enlightening to learn what is truly important to ourselves and how we are best suited to live by our own values, if we really wish to be happy and content. I have always valued people’s autonomy and do not believe that people should be told what to do, as an I inherently believe, as Carl Rogers did, that individuals have all the tools they need to lead their best life, however they choose and whatever their goals are.


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