To be able to discuss Person Centred Therapy it is important to establish first what we mean when discussing this subject. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (www.bacp.co.uk) state that Person Centred Counselling ‘is based on the assumption that a client seeking help in the resolution of a problem they are experiencing, can enter into a relationship with a counsellor who is sufficiently accepting and permissive to allow the client to freely express any emotions and feelings. This will enable the client to come to terms with negative feelings, which may have caused emotional problems, and develop inner resources. The objective is for the client to become able to see himself as a person, with the power and freedom to change, rather than as an object’.
Perhaps put more simply as described in www.ncge.ie/handbook PCC ‘focuses on the here and now and not on the childhood origins of the clients’ problems’. The emphasis is on the environment created by the counsellor which is permissive and non-interventionist enabling the client to move at his own pace and in his own direction.
Person Centred Therapy was originally developed by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, amongst others, in the 1950s and as our course notes state its purpose is to ‘encourage the client to become fully aware of his feelings, without the psychotherapist advising or making suggestions. The therapist’s role is solely to offer warmth and empathy and accepting what the client says without judgement’. Rogers was of the opinion that if three core conditions empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard (there were originally six conditions) were present the client would be able to explore their own thoughts and feelings enabling them to come to their own conclusions and solutions.
Firstly, by having congruence, the counsellor responds in a genuine, open and authentic manner which sends the message to the client that it’s OK to feel and communicate feelings. However, congruence can be difficult to achieve as it involves the counsellor being very aware of their own underlying feelings. Sanders P et al (1995):67 discuss the fact that ‘in the same way that the client does not have to be totally incongruent and struggling in all aspects of their life to feel the need to help, so the therapist does not have to be completely congruent in every aspect of their being’. Rogers C (1967):69 asserts that no one can be completely congruent but that the ‘more genuine and congruent the therapist in the relationship, the more probability there is that change in personality in the client will occur.
Rogers describes empathy, the second condition, as the process of understanding another person as if you were that person. He described it as ‘a way of laying aside our own views and values in order to enter another’s world without prejudice’. By being empathic a
counsellor can help a client to explore their inner selves more deeply which makes change more likely to occur. Sanders P et Al (1995):94 discuss the fact that a counsellor cannot understand another person unless he pays them a particular sort of attention. They assert that it has to be ‘focussed and undivided’ and it is very intense in nature. Basically the counsellor has to be able to put himself in the same position as the client but it is important that he/she understands the concept that just trying to be empathic isn’t enough. The client has to experience that empathy...