This is statement summarizes the basic hypothesis and therapeutic conditions that distinguish the person-centered approach from other approaches. Rogers (1960, p33) believed that if the therapist can provide a certain kind of relationship, the client would discover within himself/herself the capacity to use the relationship for growth and change for the development of personal growth. So what are the characteristics of the therapeutic relationship that Rogers believed to be essential?
These are congruency, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. Rogers’ (1957) said that a therapeutic relationship can occur if there are two people in psychological contact, the client is experiencing in congruency or is anxious, the therapist is congruent or integrated in the relationship, the therapist experience unconditional positive regard and acceptance for the client as well as an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and strives to communicate this experience to the client.
He further believed that no other conditions are necessary, if all this conditions are present overtime, constructive personality change will occur. Rogers’ provide a brief summary of the core conditions he believed to be essential in a therapeutic relationship in his book A Way of Being (Houghton Mifflin, pp 115-117). “The first element could be called genuineness, realness or congruence. The more the therapist is himself or herself in the relationship, putting up no professional front or personal facade, the greater is the likelihood that the client will change and grow in a constructive manner.
This means that therapist is openly being the feelings and attitudes that are flowing within at the Counseling and Psychotherapy Page # 2 moment. The term transparent catches the flavor of this condition: the therapist makes himself or herself transparent to the client; the client can see right through what the therapist is in the relationship; the client experiences no holding back on the part of the therapist. As for the therapist, what he or she is experiencing is available to awareness, can be lived in the relationship, and can be communicated if appropriate.
Thus, there is a close matching or congruence between what is experienced at the gut level, what is present in awareness, and what is expressed to the client”. “The second attitude of importance in creating a climate for change is acceptance, or caring, or prizing – what I have called ‘unconditional positive regard’. When the therapist is experiencing a positive acceptant attitude toward whatever the client is at that moment, therapeutic movement or change is more likely to occur.
The therapist is willing for the client to be whatever immediate feeling is going on – confusion, resentment, fear, anger, courage, love, or pride. Such caring on the part of the therapist is nonpossesive. The therapist prizes the client in a total rather than a conditional way”. “The third facilitative aspect of the relationship is empathic understanding. This means that the therapist sense accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the client.
When functioning bets, the therapist is so much inside the private world of the other that he or she can clarify not only the meanings of which the client is aware but even those just below the level of awareness. This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know”. Congruence implies that the therapists are true, that is they are genuine, integrated and authentic during the therapy session.
They are without pretensions, what their inner feelings and the external expression of it are one and the same and they can honestly articulate their feelings, thoughts, reactions and attitudes that are present in the relationship with the client. The therapist who is congruent conveys the message that it is not only permissible but desirable to be oneself, he. /she presents themselves as transparent to the client and thus refuses to encourage an image of herself as superior, expert and omniscient (Mearns and Thorne, 1992 p15.
). Person-centered therapy emphasizes that therapy will not progress if the therapist feels one way about the client but behaves in a different way. So that if the therapist either dislikes or disapprove of the client but pretends that he/she accepts the client. Therapy will not work. Counseling and Psychotherapy Page # 3 The unconditional positive regard of the therapist to the client tells us that it is of the utmost importance that the therapist’s caring be nonpossesive.
If the act of caring is rooted in the therapist’s need to be liked and appreciated, constructive change in the client is inhibited. Therapists should give importance and genuinely accept their clients without placing conditions on their acceptance. It should not be an attitude of “I’ll accept you when…”, rather it should be “I’ll accept you as you are”. Therapists should let their clients know that they value their clients as they are and that clients have the freedom to feel and experience an array of emotions without fear of losing their therapists acceptance of them.
When the therapist is able to embrace this attitude of acceptance and nonjudgmentalism, the client is more able to feel safe, to explore negative feelings and to move into the core of his anxiety or depression, he is more likely to face himself honestly without the ever present fear of rejection or condemnation (Mearns and Thorn, 1992 p15. ). However, acceptance is the affirmation of the client’s rights to have their own beliefs and feelings, it is not the approval of all behavior.
One of the fundamental tasks of the therapist is to understand client’s feelings and experiences perceptively and precisely as they are presented during the therapy sessions. The therapist tries to feel the client’s subjective experience in the here and now. The aim is to persuade clients to go deeper within them and experience their inner selves to recognize and resolve the unease that is present within them. Empathic understanding suggests that the therapist should be able to feel what the client is feeling without becoming lost in these feelings.
It is also necessary to recognize that empathic understanding goes beyond the act of identifying the presenting feelings of the client but rather should include those feelings deep and less Counseling and Psychotherapy Page # 4 experienced feelings. Therapists’ empathy brings about a more profound understanding of the self in the part of the client and an elucidation of their beliefs and worldviews. Rogers (1980) asserts that when the therapist can grasp the clients’ private world as the client sees and feels it – without losing the separateness of their own identity – constructive change is more likely to occur.
In Rogers’ perspective, the client/therapist relationship should be one of equality; therapists do not keep their knowledge a secret or attempt to mystify the therapeutic process. The progression of a client’s transformation is largely dependent on the quality of this equal relationship. As clients’ experience the therapists’ accepting way of listening to them, they eventually come to listen acceptingly themselves. As they find the therapist caring and prizing them, clients begin to believe in their worth and value.
As they experience the genuineness of the therapist, clients also discard their pretensions and become real with themselves and the therapist. References Mearns, D. & Thorne, B. (1992) Person-centered counseling in action. London: SAGE Publications Limited Rogers, C. (1961) On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Rogers, C. (1980) A way of being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Rogers, C. (1986) Carl Rogers on the development of the person-centered approach. Person- Centered Review, 1(3), 257-259. Thorne, B. (1992) Carl Rogers. Newsbury Park, CA: Sage
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