What is Person-Centred Therapy?

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

What is it?

Person-centred therapy is really what is says on the label. It is about putting the person - the client - at the centre of the treatment.

Humanistic therapies, which includes person-centred therapy, evolved in America in the 1950's with the idea that therapy could be simpler and warmer than the traditional options - which included psychodynamic therapy and behavioural psychology.

Carl Rogers, often considered the father of person--centred therapy, believed that if the client led the therapy, if the client took the therapy where he wanted it to go, then they would be helped to come up with their own understandings and their own solutions, rather than listening to the therapist's interpretations.

As Rogers put it in 1980; "It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behavior - and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided."

Person-centred therapy is based on a set of core conditions, which the therapist endeavours to always embody. These core conditions are; congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. It is the lens through which the therapist sees the client - as inherently good and worthy. The client may confessing bad things that they have done, but at their core they are still a good person.

By being congruent, the therapist isn't hiding from the client behind pleasantries - they share what they are thinking an feeling, when the timing is right. It can be difficult for the client to hear sometimes, especially in the UK where we can be polite to a fault. But the therapist is not being cruel. They are sharing with the client how the client makes them feel so that they client might understand how they are making other people feel outside of the therapy room.

For example, if the client makes the therapist feel uncomfortable, it might be that they make their colleagues or friends uncomfortable and that is something that they can work on together in order to improve the client's relationships.

What can Person-Centred Therapy help with?

The main purposes of person-centred therapy is to increase the client's sense of self-worth, and reduce the incongruence that they may be experiencing. Oftentimes people feel a massive void between who they perceive themselves to be, who they wish to be, and who they actually are.

Person-centred therapy is a popular option as it allows the client to feel a sense of control over the pace and content of the sessions. This model of therapy is particularly good at dealing with issues that relate to self-esteem, such as anxiety, depression, stress, and grief, but really can be used with any number of worries or issues.

What's different about Person-Centred Therapy?

Person-centred therapy is a non-directive and non-prescriptive form of psychotherapy. The therapist does not tell the client what to do, does not offer advice, but also doesn't silently sit and assess the client. It is a collaborative effort and exploration of the client's present-day worries.

Person-centred therapy puts the power in the client's hands. The client decides what they want to talk about, the client is often the one making their own interpretations and the therapist is the one asking the questions.

The core philosophy with this approach to therapy is that no one knows what is happening in the client's mind or life more than the client does. Therefore, the client is the expert in the room, not the therapist. This is very different from approaches such as CBT, in which the therapist is the one with the techniques and tools, which the client is the one who is there to learn.

As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at amylaunder.counselling@gmail.com

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