5th November 2013 Essay 1: ‘Evaluate the claim that Person–Centred Therapy offers the therapist all that he/she will need to treat clients’. In this essay I will look at the benefits and the disadvantages of person-centred therapy and consider whether it provides sufficient tools for the therapist to be effective in the treatment of the client. Looking at the underlying theory (self-actualisation, organismic self, conditions of worth etc), and the originators of it, namely Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, I shall consider its strengths and weaknesses and look at the way in which Rogers explains and responds to psychological disorders to explore to what extent his approach might be useful in their treatment. Person-centred therapy first came into being in the 1930s and 40s with work by Dr Carl Rogers which he based, in part, on work by Abraham Maslow. Both were considered to be the founders of humanistic psychology which was also based on phenomenology. Maslow developed the idea of a ‘hierarchy of needs’ that suggested we are motivated by a series of needs that exist from birth. Each of these needs, the most basic of which is survival, has to be fulfilled. Our ultimate aim, after our physical needs have been met, and a sense of belonging and esteem achieved, is self actualisation (that is the complete fulfilment of one’s potential). ‘The central truth for Rogers was that the client knows best.’1 He believed that it was a counsellor’s task ‘to enable the client to make contact with his own inner resources rather than to guide, advise or in some other way, influence the direction the client should take’. 2
5th November 2013 Essay 1: ‘Evaluate the claim that Person–Centred Therapy offers the therapist all that he/she will need to treat clients’.
Many clients seek therapy because they are lost or stuck and they cannot see the way forward. They have lost all sense of esteem because they behave, unconsciously, according to a set of rules or what we might term ‘conditions of worth’ that were dealt out to them by their parents or carers in their childhood. These are often outdated for the adult self but because the client has not yet recognised this they continue to play out in their everyday life, in the ‘here and now’. If a person considers themselves to be useless, inept, worthless, they will continuously seek out validation for that claim, seeking approval for their actions yet never feeling that they wholly achieve this. This self-concept of worthlessness has taken hold over the years and is internalised so that it becomes, by the time a client seeks help, something so destructive and hidden it will take a lot of patience and effective listening on the part of the counsellor to enable the client to feel safe enough to begin, and continue, self-disclosing. Such people are not aware of their real selves anymore; they are cut off from what, in person-centred terms is known as the organismic self. They have become so dependent on approval that they behave in ways that will elicit this in detriment to what is really needed for their psychological well-being and this, in turn, can impact on their physical health. Because the client is so terrified of not gaining positive approval and fears being rejected it can mean that the person-centred approach takes a long time to get
5th November 2013
Essay 1: ‘Evaluate the claim that Person–Centred Therapy offers the therapist all that he/she will need to treat clients’.
anywhere. The ‘conditions of worth’ have been imposed so strictly the time frame of a counselling session, usually 50 minutes, is only long enough to break through a little, and then a counsellor may have to start all over again in the next session as the client has once again retreated into the safer behaviour of the ‘here and now’....
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