Person-centered therapy

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Person-centered therapy
MeSH D009629

Person-centered therapy, also known as person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy, is a form of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Carl Rogers beginning in the 1940s [1] and extending into the 1980s. [2] Person-centered therapy seeks to facilitate a client's self-actualizing tendency, "an inbuilt proclivity toward growth and fulfillment", [3] via acceptance ( unconditional positive regard ), therapist congruence (genuineness), and empathic understanding. [4] [5]


It is one of the most influential and fundamental modalities of treatment in modern psychological practice, and is applied almost universally in modern psychotherapy. However, it is rarely used on its own; typically it is combined with other forms of therapy.

History and influences

Person-centered therapy, now considered a founding work in the humanistic school of psychotherapies, began with Carl Rogers, [6] :138 and is recognized as one of the major psychotherapy "schools" (theoretical orientations),[ clarification needed ] along with psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, classical Adlerian psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, existential therapy, and others. [6] :3

Rogers affirmed individual personal experience as the basis and standard for living and therapeutic effect. [6] :142–143 This emphasis contrasts with the dispassionate position which may be intended in other therapies, particularly the behavioral therapies. Living in the present rather than the past or future, with organismic trust, naturalistic faith in one's own thoughts and the accuracy in one's feelings, and a responsible acknowledgment of one's freedom, with a view toward participating fully in our world, contributing to other peoples' lives, are hallmarks of Rogers' person-centered therapy.[ citation needed ] Rogers also claimed that the therapeutic process is essentially the accomplishments made by the client. The client having already progressed further along in their growth and maturation development, only progresses further with the aid of a psychologically favored environment. [7]

Although client-centered therapy has been criticized by behaviorists for lacking structure and by psychoanalysts for actually providing a conditional relationship, [6] it has been shown to be an effective[ clarification needed ] treatment. [8] [9] [10] [11]

The necessary and sufficient conditions

Rogers (1957; 1959) stated that there are six necessary and sufficient conditions required for therapeutic change: [6] :142–143

  1. Therapist–client psychological contact: a relationship between client and therapist must exist, and it must be a relationship in which each person's perception of the other is important.
  2. Client incongruence: that in-congruence exists between the client's experience and awareness.
  3. Therapist congruence, or genuineness: the therapist is congruent within the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is deeply involved—they are not "acting"—and they can draw on their own experiences (self-disclosure) to facilitate the relationship.
  4. Therapist unconditional positive regard: the therapist accepts the client unconditionally, without judgment, disapproval or approval. This facilitates increased self-regard in the client, as they can begin to become aware of experiences in which their view of self-worth was distorted or denied.
  5. Therapist empathic understanding: the therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client's internal frame of reference. Accurate empathy on the part of the therapist helps the client believe the therapist's unconditional regard for them.
  6. Client perception: that the client perceives, to at least a minimal degree, the therapist's unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding.

Core conditions

It is believed that the most important factor in successful therapy is the relational climate created by the therapist's attitude to their client. The therapist's attitude is defined by the three conditions focused on the therapist, which are often called the core conditions[ citation needed ] (3,4, and 5 of the six conditions):

  1. Congruence: the willingness to transparently relate to clients without hiding behind a professional or personal facade.
  2. Unconditional positive regard: the therapist offers an acceptance and prizing for their client for who he or she is without conveying disapproving feelings, actions or characteristics and demonstrating a willingness to attentively listen without interruption, judgement or giving advice.
  3. Empathy: the therapist communicates their desire to understand and appreciate their client's perspective.


Rogers believed that a therapist who embodies the three critical and reflexive attitudes (the three core conditions) will help liberate their client to more confidently express their true feelings without fear of judgement. To achieve this, the client-centred therapist carefully avoids directly challenging their client's way of communicating themselves in the session in order to enable a deeper exploration of the issues most intimate to them and free from external referencing. [12] Rogers was not prescriptive in telling his clients what to do, but believed that the answers to the clients' questions were within the client and not the therapist. Accordingly, the therapists' role was to create a facilitative, empathic environment wherein the client could discover the answers for him or herself. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Carl Rogers American psychologist

Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach in psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1956.

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Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy which emphasizes personal responsibility and focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist–client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, and was first described in the 1951 book Gestalt Therapy.

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Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), previously called rational therapy and rational emotive therapy, is an active-directive, philosophically and empirically based psychotherapy, the aim of which is to resolve emotional and behavioral problems and disturbances and to help people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

Unconditional positive regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client-centred therapy. Its founder, Carl Rogers, writes:

For me it expresses the primary theme of my whole professional life, as that theme has been clarified through experience, interaction with others, and research. This theme has been utilized and found effective in many different areas until the broad label 'a person-centred approach' seems the most descriptive. The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or her self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behaviour—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.

The therapeutic relationship refers to the relationship between a healthcare professional and a client or patient. It is the means by which a therapist and a client hope to engage with each other and effect beneficial change in the client.

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History of psychotherapy

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Elias Hull Porter was an American psychologist. While at the University of Chicago Porter was a peer of other notable American psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Thomas Gordon, Abraham Maslow and Will Schutz. His work at Ohio State University and later at the University of Chicago contributed to Rogers’ development of client-centered therapy. Porter's primary contributions to the field of psychology were in the areas of non-directive approaches, relationship awareness theory and psychometric tests. His career included military, government, business and clinical settings.

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The actualizing tendency is a fundamental element of Carl Rogers' theory of person-centered therapy (PCT). Rogers' theory is predicated on an individual's innate capacity to decide his/her own best directions in life, provided his/her circumstances are conducive to this, based on the organism's "universal need to drive or self-maintain, flourish, self-enhance and self-protect". Counsellors Keith Tudor and Mike Worrall proposed that analogues of the actualizing tendency can be found in texts by various writers from antiquity onward, such as Aristotle, Lucretius, Spinoza, Sándor Ferenczi, Jessie Taft, and Eric Berne.


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  12. "Person-centered therapy" on the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders website
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