CLIENT-CENTERED THERAPY

The nondirective approach developed by Carl Rogers, in which psychotherapy is viewed as an opportunity for the patient to grow and “become a person” by realizing his own inner potentialities.The client-centered approach is based on the theory that human nature is fundamentally sound and that every individual has a capacity for self-actualization and healthy adjustment. However, that capacity may be blocked by emotional conflicts, distorted ideas, or a faulty self-image. In such cases, he is not regarded as a sick person who needs a doctor (hence the term client rather than patient), but as an individual who has rejected or lost touch with his true and unique self. In spite of this, his capacity for self-realization remains, and the object of therapy is to bring it to the fore so that he may resolve his own conflicts, correct his self-image, and reorganize his personality and approach to life.The function of the therapist is to create a situation in which this process of self-correction and personality growth can occur. To accomplish this, he must be a warm person who feels an “unconditional personal regard” for his client; he must adopt a completely accepting attitude toward whatever is revealed; and he must be capable of “empathic understanding” of his client’s inner life. Moreover, he must be able to communicate that understanding to the client through two processes, reflection and clarification. In reflection, he merely repeats what the client says, or part of what he says, in a tone that conveys understanding but neither approval nor disapproval. In clarification, he restates the kernel of what the client is trying to say. In either case the effect is to hold up a mirror to the client so that he will be able to see himself more clearly and recognize his feelings and attitudes for what they are.Rogers (1942, 1951) has found that the nondirective process takes a fairly regular course. The first interview is considered a major step for the client, since in coming for help he is already taking the initiative toward his own recovery. The therapist explains that the client himself will lead the way throughout the entire process, because this will enable him to find an answer to his own problems. This, the therapist explains, is the only way it can be accomplished, since his problems are unique to himself and must be solved in the light of his own personality and not on anyone else’s terms.The therapist then immediately establishes a permissive atmosphere by encouraging his client to feel free to bring up any topic and say anything he likes. This usually opens the way to expressions of discouragement and negative feelings toward himself. The therapist responds by echoing and clarifying the client’s comments, and this stimulates him to explore his attitudes further. In the course of this process, he gradually reveals that he has positive as well as negative feelings toward himself. The therapist subtly encourages him to express these feelings in the same way that he elaborated on his negative feelings. And by adopting an accepting attitude toward both sets of feelings, he helps his client accept himself as he is, contradictions and all.Ideally, as the process continues, the client gradually drops his defenses and faulty assumptions about himself. Self- condemnation and self-approval both recede, and a more objective evaluation takes their place. He begins to see himself, his situation, and his relationship to others in better perspective. Moreover, as he releases his emotions and gains greater insight, his tensions subside and he feels he is becoming a real person. This gives him the courage to accept aspects of his personality that were formerly repressed or disowned. Finally, he begins to set up achievable goals, and to consider the steps he must take to reach them. He then makes tentative moves in the positive direction, and when these efforts bring increased feelings of adequacy and satisfaction, his need for help decreases. The decision to terminate, like all other phases of the therapy, comes from the client, and represents a final step toward independence.The distinguishing characteristics of client-centered therapy are these: the responsibility for the direction and pace of the therapy rests with the client; the therapist’s role is restricted to accepting, reflecting, and clarifying the client’s responses; transference between therapist and patient is minimized, making it unnecessary to work through this complex relationship; diagnostic and other psychological tests are eliminated; and the entire process is based on the view that the therapy will only be an effective growth experience if the client arrives at his own interpretations of his emotional patterns and his own realization of the need for changing his attitudes and behavior.The nondirective approach has had widespread impact not only on individual verbal therapy, but on play therapy, group therapy and the training of counselors and psychotherapists, as well as on the fields of education, business and industrial administration, and religious activities. Rogersian therapists have carefully documented the changes that take place in the therapeutic process through the analysis of tape recordings and films, but definitive comparisons with other forms of therapy have yet to be made.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "CLIENT-CENTERED THERAPY," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/client-centered-therapy/ (accessed November 9, 2020).
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