People from all walks of life encounter problems every day – some are trivial, and others are life-threatening or have lasting impact leaving them unable to cope with further challenges. Some people turn to psychotherapy to help them confront unresolved conflicts and deal with issues that prevent them from functioning normally. One psychotherapeutic approach is Person-Centered Therapy (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2012).
Person-Centered Therapy was founded by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist who espoused non-directive therapeutic approaches that emphasized unconditional positive regard for the client or counselee. This means the therapist accepts the client, withholding any judgment, and instead, focuses on his needs as a person.
This therapeutic approach is concerned with the quest for congruence of self to achieve authenticity, ridding the person of any pretenses, and integrating the person’s public and actual selves.
The therapist has confidence and respect for the client’s subjective views and believes in his potential for self-actualization. Such positive disposition is believed to help the client to be hopeful for the future even if his past negative experiences have caused him setbacks in his personal development (Weiten & McCann, 2006).
The therapist himself should have congruence in his self before he can recognize incongruence inauthenticity in his clients. Having unconditional positive regard may pose a challenge, especially to therapists lacking in maturity and wisdom.
Hence, it is a requirement for aspiring Person-centered therapists to develop the maturity to accept clients even if their values do not agree with their own and wisdom to enable them to identify clients whose ideal self-concept is not realistic and counsel them on dealing with their real competencies and limitations.
The therapist should be trustworthy enough to develop in his clients to be open to experience, self-trust and self-esteem which are all internal sources of strength for them confront their problems and find solutions for it (Corey, 2005).
Person-Centered Therapy Interventions
A client comes to a counselor beaten by life’s struggles. He feels so helpless and unable to make wise decisions in managing his life properly. He finds refuge in therapy with a warm, trustworthy, and accepting therapist who is there for him in his seemingly lowest point. He feels safe enough to shed his mask and just be. He finds the freedom to express his innermost feelings, be they positive or negative, and is assured that he will remain acceptable.
In this kind of relationship, the client finds the opportunity to grow and overcome his feelings of failure – and commences his healing by deciding on a positive action towards self-actualization. Assessment procedures are not emphasized in the Person-centered approach.
Diagnostic screening, identification of clients’ strengths and weaknesses and several other tests at the outset of therapy may even impede the progress of therapy as the therapist-client relationship is believed to evolve from the clients’ subjective sharing of his life experiences instead of a record of information created before establishing a relationship with the therapist.
The best assessment for this form of therapy is self-assessment by the client (Corey, 2005).
However, the humanistic therapist must caution against being swayed by the emotions of his clients to justify excuses for wrong decisions, as he must always have a firm grasp of what is right and wrong. This is not to say that the therapist holds the moral compass in the therapy sessions, but he/she is in a position to influence the “awakened” client to come up with his own appropriate decisions from the therapy point forward (Corey, 2005).
Aspects of the Theory I Like/ Find Effective
What I like about this therapeutic approach is the premise that the therapists should have the ability to accurately empathize with a client’s subjective experiences on an interpersonal, cognitive, and effective level. This is essential in fully unlocking the client’s perceptions, feelings, and motivations for his behavior. The therapist’s enormous capacity to understand and accept the client no matter what communicates to the client that he is a worthy person.
If I am a downtrodden client and find myself unable to cope anymore, the comforting presence of a supportive stranger who does not judge me for the wrongdoings I have committed in my life would be a source of relief.
Being in a vulnerable state, I, as the client, would take the opportunity for catharsis with such a positive therapist whom I know will accept me unconditionally and empower me with high hopes for a better future. In being able to release my pent-up feelings, thoughts, and frustrations, the therapist and I can look at my issues objectively and together, find solutions to repair my brokenness.
The theory emphasizes the need for clients to come to a state of self-awareness, meaning they dwell on introspection and reflection and make the necessary changes towards authenticity. Sometimes, people underestimate the power of reflective practice and how it can be effective in self-improvement.
I appreciate the theory for highlighting it to the clients. They come out of therapy not only with a more positive disposition and belief in themselves but also carry on the practice of looking inwards to check if they maintain their authenticity.
How The Theory Interacts With Cultures Other Than The Dominant (Euro-American) Culture
Although some cultures may vary in terms of their perspectives on privacy, Person-Centered Therapy can work with a multicultural population of clients because of its simple but straightforward nature, bereft of any influence from specific religions, political, racial and gender biases or socioeconomic class worldviews (Powers, 2008).
Initially, clients coming from cultures valuing privacy and the belief that one must not be too trusting nor expose the skeletons in their closet, may resist the approach or find the therapist as intruding into their privacy. The Chinese, specifically, believe in “saving face” or “mianzi” in Mandarin, which means “dignity, prestige, and reputation.” Their greatest fear is losing face, so they make more effort to maintain their dignity.
They try to avoid disputes, conflicts, and embarrassment. They also value loyalty and keeping their word. They are very clannish people and go out of their way to protect the reputation of their family (Chinese Personality Traits and Characteristics, 2010). It is likely that Chinese clients are more hesitant in opening up their problems to anyone, thinking of the possible embarrassment it may bring their families.
However, the method does not ask the client to share anything that would make him feel vulnerable. The therapist uses the techniques that make the person feel valuable and important and not intimidated to open up.
On his own, the client will realize that “Openness allows us to be moved emotionally and experience reality more accurately” (Parrott III, 2003, p. 182). The success of the therapy depends on the ability of the therapist to coax the client to open up to him as well as the person’s own willingness to be helped no matter what cultural background he comes from.
What About This Theory I Would Like To Peruse In The Future
All therapists are trained to maintain their objectivity while being sensitive and supportive listeners. That in itself is difficult for me to do, especially if the client presents to be obnoxious as a result of a painful experience. Being judgmental of other people comes naturally to many, especially those who are short-sighted enough to come to conclusions without making an effort to understand what happened to the person being judged.
Open-mindedness is a value I would want to master, and I believe it is much easier to do so than the provision of unconditional positive regard. Person-centered therapists are known to be open-minded and non-judgmental as well as unconditional in accepting their clients. As a future therapist, I would want to learn that and add it to my litany of traits and skills.
Another valuable lesson I would like to learn from this theory is the achievement of congruence between one’s ideal self or how one presents himself to the world, and how he believes his self- image affects others, and one’s authentic self or the real person he is.
It takes a skilled therapist to discern such incongruence in his clients and effectively communicate to them the need to be authentic. To be free from pretenses and cover-ups is one huge burden lifted from an individual’s psyche, which makes it much easier for him to live with fulfillment and satisfaction.
Chinese Personality Traits and Characteristics (2010) Retrieved on 5 May, 2014 from http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=116&catid=4&subcatid=18
Corey, G. (2005) Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy, 7th ed. Brooks/Cole, a division of Thomson Learning Inc.
Hockenbury, D. & Hockenbury, S.E. (2012) Discovering Psychology 6th Edition. Worth Publishers
Parrott III, Les (2003). Counseling and pyschotherapy (2nd ed.), Brooks/Cole.
Powers, M. (2008) Treatment therapy person centered, Retrieved on 07 May 2014 from http://www.sciences360.com/index.php/treatment-therapy-person-centered- 18074/
Weiten, W. & McCann, D. (2006) Psychology: Themes and variations, 1st Ed., Nelson College Indigenous.