Person-Centred counselling was first developed by Carl Rogers (1902-1987) in the 1950s and 1960s. Rogers was an American psychologist, although before turning to psychology he had studied agriculture, history and then theology for a period. In 1987 he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after applying his theories to cross-cultural relations.
As its name suggests, this approach to counselling places emphasis on the person (client), allowing them to take the lead in sessions by choosing what they wish to disclose, without pressure from the counsellor. Although Rogers used the term ‘client-centred’, this has evolved into ‘person-centred’ today. This non-directive approach gives the client the time and space to reflect on themselves and their circumstances, and by engaging with the counsellor this can lead to therapeutic change. The counsellor provides the conditions for change to occur, but does not actively drive this change. Instead, they provide an environment that is suitable for the relationship to develop that will enable the client to feel safe.
Rogers developed six conditions that he deemed ‘necessary and sufficient’ for effective therapy. These are:
- The therapist and client must be in psychological contact.
- The client is experiencing incongruence and vulnerability in some way.
- The therapist is congruent (genuine).
- The therapist demonstrates unconditional positive regard.
- The therapist demonstrates empathy.
- The client recognises the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathy in some way.
The existence of each of these conditions are what allows person-centred counselling to be beneficial to its clients. Without them, the relationship required for the therapy to have a positive effect on the client may not be able to be established.
Congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy are known as the ‘core conditions’, meaning that they are particularly important because they show the client that the counsellor is non-judgemental and is somebody they can talk to with honesty and trust.
Rogers believed that when these core conditions are shown to the client an effective therapeutic relationship can be developed, providing the client with the confidence to open up to the counsellor. They are still used today as the basis for person-centred counselling training.
Kirschenbaum, H. (ed) (1990) The Carl Rogers Reader. London. Robinson Publishing.
Kirschenbaum, H. (2007) The Life and Work of Carl Rogers. Ross-on-Wye. PCCS Books.
Rogers, C.R. (2003) Client-Centered Therapy. London. Constable.
Rogers, C.R. (2004) On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. London. Constable.