The person centred approach has had a major impact in psychology, particularly the counselling field. This approach began formally by Carl Rogers (Hough, 2006).Although this approach is used by other professionals such as social workers, it is particularly important to counsellors as it can be used as a guideline for counsellors as it introduces conditions which are essential in counselling practice. The approach also establishes what is needed in the relationship between client and counsellors to make progress and it helps counsellors to empathize with client to empower the client to want to change for the better and reach their full potential.
PC Personality Theory
The person centred theory stands out to other personality theories by psychologist such as Freud or Erickson because development is not described in stages or phases. Rogers described personality development using the term ‘self concept’, he took into account how a person perceives themselves (Hough, 2006). Individuals ‘self concept’ is said to be affected by their interactions with other people and the environment. Rogers concentrated on the way in which an individual’s perception of self is developed by other people’s appraisal and expectations. For instance from a young age children aim to satisfy their parents/carers. However the actualising tendency has some similarity to the Freudian concept of libido. Rogers uses the term ‘actulising tendency’ to describe this human attitude towards development. The actulising tendency is responsible for every part of achievement including the serious effort an individual makes to try and accomplish there goal
PC views of Psychological Development
In contrast to the psychoanalytic view which suggests that human beings are driven by antisocial impulses, Rogers had a more positive outlook on humanity. Rogers believed that each person had the desire to grow, to develop and to reach their full potential (Rogers, 1996). The actualizing tendency does not only just describe one factor of a person’s development but it takes into account all dimensions including, the spiritual, emotional, physical and creative dimensions.
The concept of actualising tendency therefore highlights the fact that individuals have the resources to deal with their own problems. This concept is vital in the counselling context because if counsellors accept this they will probably value and respect their clients. Rogers believed that given the right psychotherapeutic atmosphere the mental condition of nearly all patients can be improved. This is relevant in counselling practice as it points out that a counsellor can help development if they just try to ensure the environment is right.
Carl Rogers introduced the idea that in order for the client to make any progress in counselling there needs to be certain conditions present (Rogers 1951). Rogers identified 3 main core conditions which included empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence or genuiness. In order for a counsellor to truly help a client through difficult problems in their lives they must be able to understand clients deeply. This is why counsellors need to have the ability to empathize, to step into the ‘clients shoes’, and feel what they are feeling.
Everyone needs to feel loved, acceptance, respect and warmth from others. However according to Rogers these feelings and attitudes are often only received when rewarded. For instance many children only receive praise from their parents when they have done something the parents see as ‘good’, such as getting a good grade at school or drawing a good picture. Unfortunately many individuals do not receive these feelings or attitudes which can be referred to as positive regard, individuals who receive inadequate amount of positive regard from people they see important to them find it difficult to value themselves( Rogers,1996). Many clients believe that no one accepts them for who they are, this is why it is important clients receive unconditional positive regard from the counsellor as it shows that they are accepted and respected and not being judged, this gives clients the will power to change.
Congruence or genuiness is another quality that Rogers said was important for counsellors to have. Genuiness describes honesty, sincerity and authenticity in the counselling relationship (Rogers, 1996). Many clients find it difficult to open up and express their true feeling to the counsellor, which is why it is important for the counsellor to be genuine as it acts as a model for clients to follow. Strengths and weaknesses One of the strengths about the person centred approach is that not only is that although it is used greatly in the counselling field, it is also applied to other professional including helping professions, the voluntary sector, education and institutional settings where they aim to promote good interpersonal skills and encourage people to have respect for others (Hough, 2006).
An advantage that the person centred approach has that other approaches don’t have is that it gives the client the opportunity to take into consideration their own feelings. From a feminist perspective this is valuable for many women, mainly those who have not had much time to think about themselves due to various reasons such as caring for others. According to (Hough, 2006) Feminist believe that the person centred approach to counselling has an advantage more than other models because it allows them to consider and identify their own feelings and needs.
Although there are many strengths, the person centred approach also has a number of weaknesses. One of the limitations is that although it is suitable for most clients, it is unsuitable for others. For instance some clients with deeply repressed traumas (subdued feelings that might bring negative reactions) and conflicts may benefit from a more psychodynamic perspective (Hough, 2006). Some clients may need more support than just the individual counsellor alone. Such as clients with addiction problems who want to change their behaviour may respond positively when they are in the presence of other clients/patients with similar problems. There are also clients who would just prefer a more directive and structured approach. A major criticism of not just the person centred approach but the whole humanistic approach is that there is lack of research into ideas that support the personality theory (McLeod, 1998). Due to the fact that the actualising tendency cannot be empirically tested some believe that it is an insufficient basis to build a theoretical model of therapy.
Overall regardless of the limitations of this approach it is still highly valuable as it has had much impact on the field of therapy and counselling as well as other professions such as nurses, doctors and teachers (Woolfe, 1998). The impact it has had on many professions shows that it has bring forth many significant points, as it has influenced the way many professionals work with other individuals. Because this approach highlights the skills needed by counsellors to ensure that the core conditions are present. This helps individuals who are training to become counsellors develop their own skills so that they ensure that in practice they are able to provide the right conditions for the clients to develop and reach their full potential.
Therapists following the person-centred approach pay attention to the internal and external factors that inhibit change and do not prompt change in a client (McLeod, 1996). Whilst reaching my conclusion for this assignment I would agree that this approach is not suitable for all clients as sometimes providing the right core conditions is not enough to assist change (Hough, 2006). Some clients may need a little more hands on help to stimulate change. For instance clients with recurring problems of addictions may benefit more from a collaborative relationship with the counsellor.
Therefore the Adlerian approach to counselling will suit these clients more. This approach may be beneficial due to the fact that goals are set and it includes group work (Hough, 2006). These agreed goals set, give clients something to work towards, and the group work get clients to interact with others socially. This provides support and motivation which can encourage positive change of behaviour. With goals set clients are able to take what they have learnt in counselling and apply it to their lives, and this intern puts theory to practice.
Hough, M.(2006).Counselling Skills and Theory.London: Hodder Arnold. McLeod, J (1998). ‘The Humanistic Paradigm’ in Woolfe, R & Dryden, W. Handbook of Counselling Psychology. London: Sage, p135-149