The main therapeutic approaches – Part 2 – The Person Centred Approach

Person Centred Therapy (PCT) forms part of the Humanistic field of psychotherapy and is very different from psychoanalysis.  Rather than see people as animals as Freud suggested, Carl Rogers, the founding father of PCT suggest people were more like flowers, who, given the right conditions could grow and bloom, reaching their full potential. 

He suggested that as we go through life, we all encounter various blocks which temporarily prevent us from reaching our ultimate goal.  Some people have the experience and the awareness to bypass these blocks themselves, whereas others can find themselves stuck.  Carl Rogers believed that by providing a safe, supportive and nurturing environment, the client would be able to find a way to bypass those blockages themselves. 

Rogers believed that the client was best equipped to deal with their issues, rather than the psychoanalytic view that the therapist was the expert.  Roger’s suggested three core conditions which are central to a PCT approach:

  • Empathy – To allow a client to face and share their deep routed fears and pain, they must have faith that the therapist can recognise the importance of their emotional state and respond to them in a caring and constructive way.

     

  • Congruence – Congruence refers to the therapist’s honesty in dealing with a client.  If the client was to ask a question and then feel that the therapist was holding back or not being honest, it would severely damage the client / therapist relationship and prevent the client from being able to work through their issues.

     

  • Unconditional Positive Regard – This refers to the therapist showing warmth, compassion and understanding, no matter what the client reveals.  Many client’s will feel a sense of personal shame at things they have done or been subjected to and without unconditional positive regard, may feel unable to bring it to the therapy room for fear of ridicule or additional shaming. 

One of the difficulties with the three core conditions concerns when they come into conflict with each other.  If the therapist were a parent with a young girl and the client were a convicted paedophile that had just been released from prison, they may struggle to show unconditional positive regard for the client whilst still being congruent. 

Another of the disadvantages is the time factors involved.  The therapist has little input into the treatment, purely there to provide that nurturing and supportive environment.  As such, treatment will only progress as fast as the client is prepared to move.  Without the therapist actively challenging and stretching the client, treatment can last several years or longer.  In modern times, there are not many people who are able to commit the time or money for this length of treatment. 

In my opinion, the three core conditions form the PCT approach are essential to any form of treatment and the client should be allowed to do as much of the work as possible.  However, there are times when clients need help to see different viewpoints, different possibilities and explore new concepts and ideas which is very difficult without active involvement from the therapist.