Person-centered therapy, also known as person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy, is a form of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Carl Rogers beginning in the 1940s and extending into the 1980s. Person-centered therapy seeks to facilitate a client’s self-actualizing tendency, “an inbuilt proclivity toward growth and fulfillment”, via acceptance (unconditional positive regard), therapist congruence (genuineness), and empathic understanding.
Person-centered therapy, now considered a founding work in the humanistic school of psychotherapies, began with Carl Rogers, and is recognized as one of the major psychotherapy “schools” (theoretical orientations), along with psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, classical Adlerian psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, existential therapy, and others.
Rogers affirmed individual personal experience as the basis and standard for living and therapeutic effect. Rogers identified six conditions which are needed to produce personality changes in clients: relationship, vulnerability to anxiety (on the part of the client), genuineness (the therapist is truly himself or herself and incorporates some self-disclosure), the client’s perception of the therapist’s genuineness, the therapist’s unconditional positive regard for the client, and accurate empathy. This emphasis contrasts with the dispassionate position which may be intended in other therapies, particularly the more extreme behavioral therapies. Living in the present rather than the past or future, with organismic trust, naturalistic faith in your own thoughts and the accuracy in your feelings, and a responsible acknowledgment of your freedom, with a view toward participating fully in our world, contributing to other peoples’ lives, are hallmarks of Rogers’ person-centered therapy. Rogers also claims that the therapeutic process is essentially the accomplishments made by the client. The client having already progressed further along in their growth and maturation development, only progresses further with the aid of a psychologically favored environment.
Although client-centered therapy has been criticized by behaviorists for lacking structure and by psychoanalysts for actually providing a conditional relationship, it has been shown to be an effective treatment.
Expanding upon Rogers work theorists have since condensed the Six Necessary and Sufficient Conditions into three Core Conditions. It is believed that the most important factor in successful therapy is the relational climate created by the therapist’s attitude to their client. He specified three interrelated core conditions:
Congruence – the willingness to transparently relate to clients without hiding behind a professional or personal facade.
Unconditional positive regard – the therapist offers an acceptance and prizing for their client for who he or she is without conveying disapproving feelings, actions or characteristics and demonstrating a willingness to attentively listen without interruption, judgement or giving advice.
Empathy – the therapist communicates their desire to understand and appreciate their client’s perspective.