Evaluate the claim that Person-Centred Therapy offers the therapist all that he/she will need to treat clients.
‘Person-centred therapy’ is a description given to the humanistic approach to counselling originally developed by Carl Rogers in the mid-twentieth century. In order to evaluate the claim that this approach offers everything a therapist needs to treat any client, it is necessary to understand both the content of Rogers’ ideas and also their context: where they came from, how they are used and what alternative approaches exist. I will assess the pros and cons of person-centred therapy and to what extent it might be successful in treating a range of psychological disorders.
Carl Rogers was an American psychologist who was influenced by Abraham Maslow and his famous ‘hierarchy of needs’. Maslow and Rogers both believed that human beings are essentially striving to fulfill certain needs, ranging from basic physiological needs such as food, warmth and shelter, through social and emotional needs such as the approval of others, moving towards the ultimate goal of self-actualisation. The ‘lower’ goals need to be satisfied before an individual can truly self-actualise. Self-actualisation can be defined as the process of becoming the best self one can possibly be, often through the realisation of a spiritual or intellectual peak; Maslow believed it was a state that very few people achieved. To support his theories, Maslow famously chose to study people who he believed had already achieved this position; this was in contrast to common practice in psychotherapy up to this point, which usually focused on ‘the sick’ rather than the healthy mind.
‘It is as if Freud supplied to us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half. Perhaps this health psychology will give us more possibility for controlling and improving our lives and for making ourselves better people. Perhaps this will be more fruitful than asking “how to get unsick”.’
Maslow, 2014, p.14
Rogers believed that every person had an underlying, or organismic, self which as they moved through life, was affected by experiences and the regard of others. Like Maslow, he believed that everyone starts life off essentially morally ‘good’ (or at worst, neutral) but that a person’s ‘self-concept’ and consequently their self-worth are directed by how they experience the world, both consciously and unconsciously. In this way, a child who experiences entirely positive regard from their parents throughout childhood will be better emotionally equipped to move into adulthood and make the journey towards self-actualisation. If the journey is hampered by negative experiences which lead to poor self-perception, psychological difficulties and ultimately depression can result.
Rogers developed the idea that an individual on this journey was capable of self-healing and that it was the role of the therapist to act more as a facilitator or guide rather than a leader or ‘expert’. This represented a considerable departure from the prevailing, Freudian model of psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud is widely considered the father of psychoanalysis and in his model, often called ‘psychodynamic’, the emphasis is on the client’s unconscious, hidden meanings (often interpreted through dreams) and avoidance or repression. Freud did not believe that human beings were possessed of free will in the way in which we understand it today, but that they were driven by unconscious urges to satisfy the ‘id’, the inborn, childish and instinctive element of personality, and therefore were fundamentally illogical. In this model the role of the psychoanalyst is patriarchal, hierarchical and directive, that of an imparter of expert knowledge; the difference between this approach and the non-directive style of Rogers is evident even in the seemingly subtle difference in language used to describe the person seeking therapy. Referring to them as the...
Bibliography: Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrell, Human Givens, HG Publishing, 2013
Michael Jacobs, Psychodynamic Counselling in Action, Sage Publications, 2010
Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, Lushena Books, 2014
Carl Rogers, Client-Centered Therapy, Constable, 2003
Carl Rogers, On Becoming A Person, Constable & Robinson, 2004
Pete Sanders, First Steps in Counselling (Fourth Edition), PCCS Books, 2011
Pete Sanders, Alan Frankland & Paul Wilkins (Second Edition), PCCS Books, 2013
Chrysalis Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling, Year Two - Module One, course notes
The National Counselling Society Code of Ethics
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