In this section
Person-Centred counselling/psychotherapy was the first talking therapy to be based on empirical research. In the 1940s and 50s Dr Carl Rogers and his colleagues audio-recorded therapy sessions to try and determine which therapist interventions were effective for clients. From this work, a comprehensive theory and practice was developed which has been continually expanded and refined and which is supported and validated by decades of research (e.g. recently: Cooper, Watson & Hölldampf, 2010; Elliott et al, 2013; Murphy & Joseph, 2016.)
Originally described as non-directive, this therapy moved away from the idea that the therapist was the expert and towards a theory that trusted the innate tendency (known as the actualising tendency) of human beings to develop positively and in functional ways that are constructive in their own circumstances.
Within an environment in which the client feels free from threat, both physically and psychologically, six conditions were identified as necessary and sufficient for constructive psychological development to take place:
· Two people are in psychological contact
· The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.
· The second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship.
· The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.
· The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s frame of reference and endeavours to communicate this experience to the client.
· The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is, to a minimal degree, perceived.
Person-centred therapists believe that all of a client's thoughts, feelings and behaviour are valid responses in the context of their previous and current experience and therefore will not usually diagnose or label clients. However, supported by developments in person-centred theory, they are able to work successfully with extremes of distress and disturbance. Fragile process, dissociative process and pre-therapy, and ways of working constructively with these phenomena, have replaced diagnostic labels.
In the early years of person-centred therapy, the theory and practice were developed by researchers, theorists and practitioners such as Barbara Temaner Brodley, John Schlein, Jerold Bozarth and CH Patterson in the USA and, later, Pete Sanders and Tony Merry in the UK and Peter F Schmidt in Austria. Practitioners such as Margaret Warner, Gary Prouty and, more recently, Kirshen Rundle have developed person-centred theory to describe the phenomena and processes of distress and disturbance in a way that respects the individual.
Although initially developed as an approach to psychotherapy, these ideas can be transferred to other areas where people are in relationships. For example teaching, management, childcare, patient care, conflict resolution.
Cooper, M; Watson, JC; Hölldampf, D (2010) Person-Centered And Experiential Therapies Work: A Review Of The Research On Counseling, Psychotherapy And Related Practices. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books.
Elliott, R., Watson, J., Greenberg, L.S., Timulak, L., & Freire, E. (2013). ‘Research on humanistic-experiential psychotherapies’. In M.J. Lambert (Ed.), Bergin & Garfield‘s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change (6th ed.) (pp. 495-538). New York: Wiley.
Murphy, D, & Joseph, S (2016) ‘Person-centered therapy: Past, present, and future orientations’. In D. J. Cain, K. Keenan, & S. Rubin (Eds.), Humanistic Psychotherapies: Handbook of Research and Practice, Second Edition (pp. 185 - 219). Washington: APA
Kirschenbaum, H & Henderson, V. L. (1990) (Eds.). The Carl Rogers Reader