Born in the 1930s by American psychologist Carl Rogers, Person-Centered Therapy is a non-directive form of therapy where the client, rather than the therapist, takes the lead during sessions. It is also known as Rogerian therapy or client-centered therapy. Rogers believed that humans have an 'actualization tendency,' meaning they possess the ability and strength to manage their own world. Within each of us lies a pool of abundant resources that, when discovered and tapped into, can enable individuals to move towards self-healing.
Each person has unique experiences, and therefore, their paths to recovery are individualized. Therapists serve as guides, assisting clients in uncovering their own journey of self-discovery. In this therapy, the therapist follows the stories and cues provided by the client, listening without judgment or bias, and avoiding leading questions. The therapist becomes a pillar of support, encouraging clients to embark on their own paths while unveiling the problem and solution themselves.
As a result, client-centered therapy maintains a power balance between the therapist and the client, as the client's experiences are given equal importance to the therapist's insights. The focus is on the client's needs and their unique perspective of the world.
What are the basic principles of PCT?
There are three conditions defined by Carl Rogers to create the most growth producing and positive changes in clients:
Congruence: In the context of this therapy, congruence refers to the therapist's ability to be authentic, real, genuine, and non-phony in their relationship with the client. It is considered one of the fundamental pillars of this therapeutic approach, as it allows the therapist to interact with the client without putting up a facade. Furthermore, a meta-analysis has shown that better psychological outcomes are associated with clients perceiving their therapist as congruent and genuine in their interactions
Unconditional positive regard: This principle is another important aspect of person-centered therapy. It involves accepting the client as they are, including both their positive and negative feelings. Carl Rogers defined this as 'caring for a client as a separate person, granting them permission to have their own feelings and experiences.' It is crucial for the client to feel valued in order for them to reach their fullest potential, and therapists are encouraged to create an environment where clients feel important, validated, and loved. Research has even shown that the presence of positive regard is associated with therapeutic success (Watson & Steckley, 2001)
Empathy: Empathy serves as the foundation of a therapeutic relationship. It entails understanding the client without becoming emotionally attached. Rogers described empathy as 'the therapist's willingness and sensitive ability to understand the client's thoughts, feelings, and struggles from the client's point of view, and to adopt their frame of reference' (Rogers, 1949). Numerous studies suggest that empathy is crucial for achieving better health outcomes in therapy.
What is the outcome on the overall well-being of the client ?
It is evident that the focus of person-centered therapy is to assist clients in achieving personal growth and self-actualization, emphasizing the importance of looking within themselves for answers rather than relying on the therapist. Research has indeed found that clients are more likely to experience positive outcomes when they perceive the three basic principles (congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy) to be present in their therapeutic conversations.
Through this therapy, individuals can develop a stronger sense of self, increased confidence, and a greater trust in their own decision-making abilities, leading to overall improved well-being. Studies have demonstrated that person-centered therapy, conducted over a span of seven weeks, can contribute to reduced depressive symptoms, enhanced self-concept, and increased resilience.
Person-centered therapy has also shown effectiveness in addressing common mental health problems. It can be beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety, bereavement, work-related stress, relationship difficulties, stress management, or family-related stress.
In all, this therapy is aimed to make the client realize their own potential by creating a non-judgemental and empathetic environment and listening to the client. And as Carl Rogers rightly says, “Listening, of this special kind, is one of the most potent forces of change I know.”