Person-Centred Counselling

Three pencil drawings of Carl Rogers' face - Person-Centred Counselling - Three drawings of Carl Rogers' face

The person-centred approach

Carl Rogers originally developed the person-centred approach in the 1950s. In contrast to the psychoanalytical approaches, which were more popular at the time, he saw each individual as the best authority in their own lives. He believed that human nature is inherently good and that we all have an innate ability to move toward a more fulfilling and satisfying way of being. However, this ability can be blocked or derailed by negative life experiences, especially those which affect our sense of value and self-worth. We all have an irrepressible need for acceptance. When that acceptance is conditional on our behaving (or not behaving) in certain ways, we can become distorted from our authentic way of being. The more incongruent we become–that is, the more we are different on the outside that we truly are in the inside–the less we trust and value our inner self and the more we experience anxiety and distress in life.

Rogers believed that each of us keeps the potential to improve our lives, moving closer to being trusting and expressing our genuine self (becoming more congruent). He suggested that when a person receives a space in which they feel genuinely, unconditionally accepted and empathically understood, a positive therapeutic change will result. As we then become increasingly congruent (or authentic), we learn to trust, value and appreciate ourselves. As a result, we suffer less stress and anxiety, increased self-acceptance, self-worth and contentment in life.

Person-centred counselling

In person-centred counselling, we seek to offer a safe, nurturing, non-judgemental environment in which you, as a client, are free to explore any issues without fear of judgement, shame or rejection. Your counsellor will do their best to hear and understand what it feels like to be you; to see things from your position, as if they were in your shoes. In understanding and accepting you so wholly, and communicating that empathic understanding back to you, you can come to a greater understanding and acceptance of yourself.

Person-centred counsellors do not see themselves as ‘the expert’, aloof and distant. Rather, they aim to be themselves. To be warm, approachable and genuine in the therapeutic relationship, including all of their personality, training and experience. However, they remain focussed on you, in a way that is positive and respectful. Their responsibility is to be genuine, listen empathically, and offer unconditional acceptance of you, their client.

As the client, you are primarily responsible for the focus and direction of person-centred therapy. While your counsellor might ask some questions to help them understand your world, they would not set the agenda for the work. Instead, they would offer a nurturing, supportive environment in which you would be free to explore whatever is on your mind.

As counsellor and client work together, building a nurturing relationship, clients often discover for themselves the ‘answers’ they need. They grow in their acceptance of themselves and rediscover strengths and resources they may have forgotten they had.

If you would like to know more about how counselling might help you, please complete the contact form, call us on  0151 329 3637 or email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk. We would love to hear from you.

Further reading

If you want to find out more about person-centred theory and practice. Here are some references to get you started:
Rogers, C.R. (1951) Client Centred Therapy, Constable
Rogers, C.R. (1957) The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality ChangeJournal of Consulting Psychology, 21
Rogers, C.R. (1996) The Carl Rogers Reader, Houghton Mifflin
Rogers, C.R. (2004) On Becoming a Person, Constable
Cooper, M., Watson, J. C., & Hoeldampf, D. (2010). Person-Centered and Experiential Therapies Work: A Review of the Research on Counselling, Psychotherapy and Related Practices. PCCS Books.

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Rogers.jpg