Counselling is a complex concept and comes in over 400 different models ranging from person-centred approach to psychodynamic theory. It is a process which is conducted in a professional environment or in everyday societies on a social basis. This normally is carry out in a group environment, telephone, couples or most commonly person to person in a secure relaxed setting. A good counsellor will have many qualities ranging from active listener, non judgemental, positive and friendly manner. This essay will explore and evaluate two perspectives, the person-centred approach and the cognitive behavioural approach. It will show the differences and the similarities between them and how these techniques are used in a client environment.

Person-centred approach (PCT), which is also known as client-centred therapy, ‘third force’ or Rogerian psychotherapy was founded by Carl Rogers. Over the last 50 years the theory has been developed and added to by many other professionals, like Abraham Maslow and Rollo May. Roger’s theory included three major beliefs that needed to be carried out when helping others with their ‘problems with life’. These are unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence (genuineness, authenticity and transparency) which have became to be regarded as the main

criteria when using the person-centred theory. This works extremely well in the severe mental health environment as it has a non directive approach to the issues.

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Person centred approach’s principal element of fulfilling the client’s needs is self-actualisation and the need to be valued and loved by other members of society which is to do with their overall self concept. Self concept is central to this theory and a person needs to be able to realise the potential they have within themselves. This is by improving their self esteem, self respect, self-image and ideal self which are all the different components of self process. This will help the individual to develop and encourage their own identity, self confidence and being then able to tackle their ‘problems with life’.

Abraham Maslow developed a concept on self-actualisation and suggested that everyone does have an idea on what his or hers ideal self is. If the image is the same to the ideal self you have already then have a good self esteem however if it is not then you will not. Maslow also saw client’s needs in a pyramid form and he concluded, from his psychological findings, that after basic needs to survive like food, water, shelter and safety, self esteem is the next necessities for a fulfilled life (Sanders, 2000, p. 22). If u have no or low self esteem, nothing else matters until this can be changed for the better. Self concept and self esteem are very much linked together and if one is low then the concept of your self will not be positive.

The relationship between the counsellor and the client is very important in this approach as the client will take centre stage in their own helping process. The counsellor will be non judgemental and unconditional so to enable the client to explore their positive or negative thoughts and feelings, without danger of rejection or disapproval. The client will be guided to initiate self healing which is located within them. This is provided by ‘core conditions that are necessary to exist and continue over a period of time’ which the counsellor does in a non authoritative way (McLeod, 2008).

The relationship has no power figure and will be relaxed and open at all times. There are six conditions in the model which Rogers’ formulated as the ‘necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change’ (McLeod, 2008, p. 182). These core conditions will help to smooth the progress of self-actualisation and development. In other counselling approaches the core condition give a framework to direct the therapy however counsellors can feel restricted and unable to bring change to the individual.

Cognitive behavioural approach (CBT) is another counselling approach that uses the core conditions of displaying unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence. The cognitive behavioural main concept is by ‘practically’ solving the problem by motivation in goal setting. By changing the behaviour to a positive to give the client tools to succeed and feel better about themselves and life. The techniques used will range from relaxation, re-conditioning through verbal or non verbal actions (mindfulness) and distraction method. Cognitive behavioural is use in

mild or severe cases of mental illness whether it is for mild OCD or for severe. It is also used in drug or alcohol abuse, depression or anxiety as well as sleeping or relationship difficulties.

CBT was originally developed out of behavioural and cognitive psychology with the thinking that ‘all habits and beliefs which people exhibit must be learned’ (McLeon, 2008, p. 133). All habits and beliefs that are negative are a learnt action, which these actions, if affecting the person needs to be analysed, assessed and turned into positive behavioural patterns. The approach will help clients to re-learn new behaviour and change the configuration of their thinking and/or behaviour.

To change the relationship between thinking and behaviour, Albert Ellis developed the Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT). Ellis was a psychoanalyst and he believed that analytic therapy did not address the irrational thinking that underpins so much distress and mental ill health. The counsellor will help the client recognise when they are distressing themselves and then change their thinking. REBT believes that everyone has their own set of rigid beliefs and values that can disturb them and make individual’s mentally unhealthy. In this type of therapy the counsellor will teach the client to distinguish these rigid beliefs and give them the tools to replace them with preferences.

The differences between these two approaches are that the person-centred approach enables the individual to develop and grow in their own way and time.

Whereas cognitive behavioural approach will have a more ridged approach with goal directing and the client will achieve these to fulfil their self process. This essay has evaluated the two different approaches of person-centred and cognitive behavioural approaches. It shows that on the surface they do seem similar however one is mainly directed by the client (person centred approach) and the other is focused lead by the counsellor by goal setting (cognitive behavioural approach).


Burnard, P. (1999). Practical Counselling and Helping. London: Routledge.

Evans, G. (2007). Counselling Skills for Dummies. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

McLeod, J. (2008). Theory and Practice of the Person-Centred Approach. In J. McLeod, & D. Langdridge (Ed.), D171 – Introduction to Counselling (pp. 170-205). Milton Keynes: The Open Univeristy.

McLeon, J. (2008). From Behaviourism to Constuctivism. In J. McLeod, & D. Langdridge (Ed.), D171- Introduction to Counselling (pp. 132-166). Milton Keynes: Open University.

Milne, A. (2003). Teach Yourself Counselling. Abingdon: Bookpoint Ltd.

Sanders, P. (2000). First Steps in Counselling. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS books.

Willson, R., & Branch, R. (2006). Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy for Dummies. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


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