This essay asks us to examine the origins and influences which developed into Carl Rogers of Person-Centred Therapy (PCT) or Rogerian Counselling. We need to understand the theoretical constructs of this therapy and the underlying philosophical influences. We are asked to discuss how Rogers responds to the psychological disorders and how this approach might be helpful in treating these disorders. We need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of this type of therapy.
Carl Rogers was a humanistic psychologist who developed Person-Centred Therapy believing that people continually strive ‘to become a person’. This type of therapy moved away from the traditional approach where the therapist was the expert and instead moved toward a non-directive approach that was based in the present even though the events of the past may have influenced individual behaviour. This encouraged the client to become fully aware of their feelings without the therapist advising or making suggestions.
Rogers was influenced by Abraham Maslows hierarchy of needs and the theory of Self-actualisation and the actualising tendency theory proposed by the holistic neurologist Kurt Goldstein. In Maslows theory the hierarchy results in self-actualisation as the pinnacle of human expression when all the psychological, safety, love/social, and esteem needs have been met.
Maslow suggested that if the basic psychological needs e.g. food, warmth, shelter, sex, etc.; safety needs e.g. security, order predictability, freedom from threat; love/social needs e.g. relationships, affection, belonging; esteem needs; esteem needs e.g. independence, recognition, status, respect from others; remain deficient in one or more of the tiers of the pyramid, self-actualisation cannot be achieved resulting in feelings of frustration, powerlessness, unhappiness and ultimately depression.
Self-actualisation, a term derived from the human potential movement, is an important concept underlying person-centred therapy. It refers to the tendency of all human beings to move forward, grow and reach their fullest potential. When humans move toward self-actualisation, they are also pro-social; that is, they tend to be concerned for others and behave in honest, dependable, and constructive ways. The concept of self-actualisation focuses on human strengths rather than human deficiencies. According to Rogers, self-actualisation can be blocked by an unhealthy self-concept (negative or unrealistic attitudes about oneself).
Rogers’ developed a set of theoretical constructs that arose from observing the growth and development of clients within the therapeutic relationship. His Personality Theory comprised of what he called the actualising tendency, the self, self-actualisation, organismic valuing, conditions of worth, the fully functioning person and Phenomenological perspective.
The Actualising Tendency
Rogers felt that these theories best described the realisation of human potential he witnessed in his interviews with clients. His theory suggests that all living organisms are constantly actualising their potentials, even if conditions are unfavourable. As an example, Rogers illustrated the concept with reference to organisms in the natural world. He wrote about a potato in the root cellar of his boyhood home: The actualising tendency can, of course, be thwarted or warped, but it cannot be destroyed without destroying the organism. I remember that in my boyhood, the bin in which we stored our winter’s supply of potatoes was in the basement, several feet below a small window. The conditions were unfavourable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout pale white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots they sent up when planted in the soil in the spring. But these sad, spindly sprouts would grow 2 or 3 feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. The sprouts were in their bizarre, futile growth, a sort of...
References: First steps in Counselling – Pete Sanders
Carl R. Rogers. Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980
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