Person Centred Counselling

General Information about the Person Centred approach.

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Person Centred Counselling

General Information about the Person Centred approach.

Person-centred therapy, which is also known as client-centred, or Rogerian therapy, is an approach to counselling and psychotherapy that places the direction and responsibility for the treatment process mainly on the client, with the therapist taking a supportive and non directive role.


Increased self-esteem and greater openness to experience are the goals of person-centred therapy. The therapy seeks to nurture a closer relationship between the client’s idea of themselves and their actual selves; better self-understanding; less defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity; more positive and comfortable relationships with others; and an increased capacity to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur.


Developed by Carl Rogers, an American psychologist in the 30’s, client-centred therapy departed from the formal, detached role of the therapist common in psychoanalysis. Rogers believed that therapy should take place in a supportive environment created by a close personal relationship between client and therapist. Rogers introduced the term “client” rather than “patient”, he felt it was more beneficial to have an equal relationship as opposed to that of the traditional hierarchy.

In person-centred therapy, the client determines the general direction of therapy; the therapist aids the client’s insights and self-understanding through informal clarifying questions.


The “human potential movement” defined human nature as inherently good. From its perspective, human behaviour is motivated by a drive to achieve one’s fullest potential.

Self-actualization is an important concept underlying person-centred therapy. It is the tendency for all human beings to move forward, grow, and reach their fullest potential. When humans move toward self-actualization, they tend to be concerned for others and behave in honest, dependable, and constructive ways. Self-actualization focuses on human strengths rather than deficiencies. Self-actualization can be blocked by our negative or unrealistic attitudes about ourselves, or an unhealthy self-concept or image.


The “person-centred approach” and “way of being” is considered one of the major therapeutic approaches, along with psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioural therapy,

Carl Rogers believed that the most important factor in successful therapy was not the therapist’s skill or training, but rather his or her attitude. Three interrelated attitudes on the part of the therapist are central to the success of person-centred therapy: congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy.


Congruence refers to the therapist’s openness and genuineness—the willingness to relate to clients without hiding behind a professional facade. Therapists who function in this way have all their feelings available to them in therapy sessions and may share significant emotional reactions with their clients.


Unconditional positive regard means that the therapist accepts the client totally for who he or she is without evaluating or censoring, and without disapproving of particular feelings, actions, or characteristics. The therapist communicates this attitude to the client by a willingness to listen without interrupting, judging, or giving advice. This attitude of positive regard creates a nonthreatening context in which the client feels free to explore and share painful, hostile, defensive, or abnormal feelings without worrying about personal rejection by the therapist.


Empathy – accurate empathic understanding. The therapist acknowledges and appreciates the client’s situation from the client’s point of view, showing an emotional understanding of, and sensitivity to, the client’s feelings throughout the therapy session… Empathy through good active listening, appropriate eye contact, reflection, paraphrasing, and summarising show careful and perceptive attention to what the client is saying and feeling. This approach shows that the therapist is listening carefully and accurately, and gives clients the opportunity to examine their own thoughts and feelings as they hear them repeated by another person. Clients often respond by elaborating further on the thoughts they have just expressed.


When congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy are manifested in a therapist, clients can freely express themselves without having to worry about what the therapist thinks of them. The therapist does not attempt to change the client’s thinking in any way. Even negative expressions are valuable information as legitimate experiences. With the non-directive approach, clients can explore the issues that are most important to them—not those considered important by the therapist. Based on the principle of self-actualization, this undirected, uncensored self-exploration allows clients to recognize alternative ways of thinking and feeling that will promote personal growth. The therapist merely facilitates self-actualization by providing a climate in which clients can freely engage in focused, in-depth self-exploration.


Person-centred therapy is usually a one-hour session weekly or fortnightly; however, sessions are scheduled according to the client’s needs. Termination of therapy is usually when the client feels it to be appropriate for them.


The expected results of person-centred therapy include improved self-esteem; trust in one’s inner feelings and experiences as valuable sources of information for making decisions; increased ability to learn from (rather than repeating) mistakes; decreased defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity; more positive and comfortable relationships with others; an increased capacity to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur; and openness to new experiences and new ways of thinking about life.