“The essence of the Person-Centred therapy is the counsellor dedication to going with the client’s direction, at the clients pace in the client’s unique way of being.” (Bozarth. 1988,PG 59)
The Person-Centred Therapy operates on key issues related to the actualising tendency.
To fully understand this, an outline of Rogers’ personality theory will be discussed, including a comparison of its similarities and differences to other theories.
According to Thorne (2000, PG24), Rogers believes that the surest route to understanding a person’s behaviour is to come to a knowledge of that persons subjective awareness of himself or herself and of the world in which he or she exists.
Rogers also believes that there is only one single, basic human motive, which he called the Actualising Tendency.
The human being, from Rogers’ perspective, has an underlying and inborn tendency to maintain itself and strive towards accomplishing its structured potential. We all have an aim in life and would like to be the best that we humanly can.
There are nevertheless, constraints placed on this built in motivation or actualising tendency, such as the environment in which we find ourselves. Like a specific plant that needs a certain type of soil to thrive in, it is unlikely for it to survive in conditions that are unfavourable, or do not meet its full requirements for growth.
Rogers based most of his theory on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. These needs according to Maslow are in five major stages of personality development.
The physiological needs are responsible for our daily existence. These are the needs for water, protein, salt, sugar, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins. It could be argued that the absence of any of these agents in the system could deter the individual from further development. As new-borns our focus or entire set of need is based on the physiological.
The safety and security needs come into play, when the physiological needs have been taken care of. As infants we start recognising the need for safety, and will become interested in finding safe circumstances, stability and protection.
From a negative point of view, it could manifests itself in adults, as our fears and anxieties of creating a comfortable home in a safe neighbourhood, to secure a good job, pension or retirement plan, and insurance.
The third need is that need to belong. In children, this could be the need for acceptance amongst their peers, and in adults, the need to belong to a community, to be a valued member of your work team, have friends around you or to be involved in an intimate relationship arises. Failure to fulfil this need often leads to social anxiety and possibly loneliness.
The fourth need is the need for self-esteem, which is divided into two parts. The low self-esteem is associated with the need for the respect of others, for status, fame, glory, recognition, appreciation, dignity and even dominance. A feeling of inferiority is often portrayed in this form of esteem.
The higher form involves the need for self-respect, including feelings like confidence, competence, achievement, independence and freedom.
The final need is that of self-actualisation, which is also often referred to as growth. This stage of human personality only steps in when the other four stages have been acquired or fulfilled. It is concerned with being all that you humanly can be, demonstrating the core conditions of understanding, being genuine to yourself and others around you, and being non-judgemental.
“It is clear that it is only the organism as a whole which manifests this tendency and that Rogers was acutely aware that parts of the organism – particularly those concerned with self-perception could fundamentally inhibit or distort the growth of the total organism.” (Thorne. 1992, PG27)
According to this, there is a tendency for most individuals to actualize, but the way they often perceive themselves often hinders this tendency. The only way actualization could take place, is by being comfortable with who you are within and outside.
This is in ways, similar to Adler’s theory of personality and inferiority complex. Human beings according to Adler have built in inferiority feelings. This could either motivate us to progress, or deter us from progression, as it is also highly dependent on the environment or surroundings in which we find ourselves.
Children who help their peers at school, tend to understand their short-falls, does not depend on bullying others to gain respect or tease others to make themselves feel better, and also show a great deal of independence, are often regarded as demonstrating superior feelings, not over their peers, but for themselves.
In relation to the actualizing concept, Rogers also mentioned the conditions of worth. The infant according to him engages in an organism valuing process, which in the end leads to self-actualization. For some, this valuing process could take a completely wrong turning if an individual becomes more aware of the difference between themselves and others.
The need for positive regard is significant to personality development, and this plays a great role in the Person-Centred Therapy.
As human beings, we go through a series of conditioning as our personality develops. If for instance, we always get a reward for good behaviour at school, or get punished for playing in mud, we tend to choose the behaviours that give us positive regard in the eyes of the people that condition us. This nevertheless could be harmful to us, because we suppress our innermost feelings to please these significant others around us.
Freud in his theory of personality explains a similar theory of how the id, which acts as the pleasure principle and our unconscious drive, is kept in check by the ego (the reality principle), so that the individual can manage to cope with external reality to thrive. The superego works in conjunction with the ego as the conscience and reinforces it by negotiating reality with the id.
According to Freud, the ego and superego join forces to place unacceptable ideas and impulses out of the awareness; this is a psychic defence known as repression.
Rogers emphasises that in most people, there is a huge discrepancy between the self as perceived and the actual organism, because of their need for positive regard. Anxiety and confusion often crop up as a result of this incongruence.
In a person’s search for positive regard, they could be forced to internalise numerous conditions of worth and have very little faith in their own judgement.
Regardless of what face they choose to present to the world, they are still likely to hold themselves in low esteem and have no confidence in their capacity to make appropriate decisions. Such persons according to Rogers, lack an internalised focus of evaluation.
The distinctive and sole aim of the Person-Centred Therapy is to “facilitate personal growth through the relationship between the counsellor and the client.” (Cave 1999 PG72)
The theory is unique in its own way, because the counsellor does not intervene and has no intention of intervening. The client is given the freedom to take control of their own problems, and direct him or herself towards a solution.
The basic concept is that the counsellor trusts the actualizing tendency of the client and truly believes that the client, who experiences this trust and warmth, would eventually resolve his or her own problems.
The role of the counsellor therefore is to be an active listener, creating an atmosphere to encourage this growth to take place.
Rogers stresses that this atmosphere is dependent on the provision of three core conditions. In their presence therapeutic change will be almost inevitable.
Genuineness or congruence is the most important of these three conditions. It requires the counsellor to behave in a genuine and non-threatening manner. The idea of seeing a counsellor for the first time often poses a threat for some people, therefore it is important for the counsellor to be as real and detached to their role as they possibly can, to help the client feel at ease.
The counsellor must be aware of their own thoughts and feelings and should be able to communicate these to the client when necessary to do so. Honesty therefore plays a crucial role, but at the same time the counsellor should not act as an external locus of evaluation.
The second core condition is Unconditional positive regard. The client must be made to feel that they are being accepted for what they are without reservations from the counsellor. This condition helps to build a sense of security within the client.
The ability to see the world from the client’s perspective and understand how the client feels is the third core condition known as empathy.
The actualizing tendency is promoted when the client perceives the counsellor’s empathetic understanding and unconditional positive regard.
The Person-Centred Therapy is based on the relationship between the client and the counsellor. It is partly allowing the client the freedom to find his or her own ways of dealing with their problems. By creating an atmosphere of unconditional regard, it enables the client to develop unconditional positive self-regard, subsequently to resolve his or her own problems.
According to Cave, 1999, the non-intrusive nature of this therapy makes it one of the most ethical forms of treatment available.
Thorne 1992, states that Rogers’ therapy as compared to Freud emphasises that there is a potential for growth in every human being if psychological conditions are favourable. Freud on the other hand, was much more pessimistic about human nature and saw the instinctual drives as pushing towards the selfish satisfaction of primitive needs.
NLP is a systemic way of working. This means we see people as a system of interactions (for example physical, mental emotional and spiritual) and also see the system within a system within a system (for example, a child within a family, living in a village, living in England and so on).
NLP arose from studying the structure of an individual’s everyday experience in detail, particularly focusing on people who were considered exceptional in their field. From this NLP developed:
A set of presuppositions (guiding principles and attitudes)
A methodology for modelling (what to observe and how to ‘frame’ that)
A system of coding (the how to – a detailed description)
A series of models (different ways of understanding)
A trail of techniques (things to do)
An NLP counsellor will encourage us to interact trustingly with our unconscious, and help us learn how to do that using movements, sensations, sounds, language and visualizations. The words we use will be taken seriously and literally. By paying close attention to language, and sharing an understanding of the deeper implications of using certain words, phrases and tenses, the counsellor will help us to explore and experience different ways of thinking, and to consider alternative meanings behind our hopes, behaviours and experiences. When coming for help we will probably have explored most of the conscious solutions (those we are aware of). The NLP process is designed to help us become more aware and use all the possibilities which are within us, including the unconscious ones, which have been out of our awareness, lying dormant and unknown. (Grayson & Proctor, )
Transactional analysis (TA) is a model for understanding human personality, communication and relationships. TA got its name because it was originally developed as a way of analysing the patterns of communication – transactions – that people use when they are relating in pairs and groups, and this is still an important emphasis within the approach.
A central supposition of TA is that – with practice and appropriate training – you can reliably judge someone’s internal experience from their external behaviour. In particular, you can judge by the person’s observable behaviour whether she is ‘in the here and now’, or replaying part of her childhood, or unwarily copying the behaviours, thoughts and feelings of one of her own parent-figures.
TA therapy is most often classed among the humanistic approaches to personal change, because of its emphasis on personal responsibility, equal relationship between client and counsellor, and the intrinsic worth of the person. However, TA also shares some characteristics with the behavioural approaches, notably in its use of clear contract-making; and TA’s central theoretical ideas were drawn directly from the tradition of psychodynamic thought. (Stewart ; Tilney )
There are nevertheless implications of the person-centred therapy which according to Bozarth 1984, is seen as a functional premise that precludes other counsellor intentions.
The counsellor goes with the client, at the client’s pace, goes with their ways of thinking, of experiencing and processing. The counsellor is restricted from having other intentions without violating the Person-Centred Therapy. The counsellor could violate the requirements of this therapy by inventing suggestions treatment goals.
Rogers’ belief of growth and his profound respect for allowing the client to find his or her own answers in the right psychological conditions, led to simplicity of practice, which masked, to uninitiated the enormous demands placed upon the counsellor. (Thorne 1992 PG58)
The counsellor does not promote any feelings, by intervening or making suggestions. Instead, the counsellor gives the client the opportunity to realise that they are good and can make valued decisions for themselves, without depending on an external locus of evaluation.
Blum, G.S., 1953, Psychoanalytic Theories of Personality, McGraw Hill company, INC
Bozarth, J., 1984 Person-Centred Therapy: A Revolutionary Paradigm, PCCS Books, U.S.A
Cave, S. 1999, Therapeutic Approaches in Psychology, Routledge, New York
Grayson, J, and Proctor, B. Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy: The Essential Guide” Sage, London
Stewart, I. and Tilney, T. Cited in Grayson, J, and Proctor, B. Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy: The Essential Guide” Sage, London
Rogers, C.R., 1965, Client-Centred Therapy, St Edmundsbury press Ltd, Britain.
Thorne, B. 1992, Carl Rogers, Sage Publications, London