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Person Centred Counselling – What is it?

Carl Rogers developed the person-centred approach in the middle of the last century. So, what is person-centred counselling? The man himself neatly encapsulates person-centred theory.

'For constructive personality change to occur, these conditions must exist and continue over a period of time: Two persons 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 into the relationship. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client's internal 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 achieved.'

Rogers, Carl, 1957, Journal of Consulting Psychology, Vol. 21, pp. Tweet

People often feel that they cannot reach out for help because it is too difficult. The idea of frame of reference was first introduced by Carl Rogers, founder and chief theorist of person-centred therapy in 1959. Rogers believed:

"The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person." 


He went on describe how being understood helps one become more open about their difficulties. Consequently, this leads to them feeling secure enough to speak up concerning these issues.


Carl Rogers - the founder of person centred counselling

As a person centred counsellor, how do I apply the principles above?

  • At the core of person-centred counselling (PCC) is the belief that people possess an innate need to be the best they can be.
  • However, past relationships, family, work, social can feed into our sense of self which can become distorted by a need to ‘fit in’.That is to say, ‘conditions of worth’.
  • I provide a therapeutic environment where the client feels safe emotionally and physically.
  • Three core conditions help to develop and maintain the therapeutic relationship:
    1. First, empathy – I will endeavour to understand your point of view. 
    2. Secondly, unconditional positive regard – I will be non – judgemental and value you as a person;
    3. Finally, congruence in therapy – I will be genuine with you.
  • The therapeutic relationship will help you to be more like yourself – and to like yourself more.
  • PCC considers you to be the expert on yourself.

As a person-centred counsellor, I will not tell you what to do.

The last point above is worth reiterating: You are the expert on yourself.

What about the person-centred approach and development?

To demonstrate, below is a video by Mick Cooper, Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton. He does a brilliant job of outlining the person-centred theory of development.

The above is a brief outline of person-centred counselling. If it sounds like a good fit for you and any challenges you are facing, please fill in the form on the Contact page.

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