What is the person-centred approach to therapy, counselling and coaching?
Described by Jordan Peterson as ‘one of the most intellectually compelling and practically useful theories of personality’*, person-centred therapy is an evidence-based approach that helps people to find their own best solutions to their problems.
Putting you at the centre
Person-centred (or Rogerian) therapy is a highly effective** evidence-based approach that helps people to find their own best solutions to their problems.
It was developed in the mid-twentieth century by the famous humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, based on studies of thousands of hours of client-therapist contact. He noticed that it was the therapeutic relationship, not any particular treatment or technique, that was at the heart of personal growth in the client. He also believed that mental distress is caused primarily by aspects of interpersonal relationships. Both of these insights have been well-supported by research over the years.
Carl Rogers’ theory is based on the observation that all living things have great potential for adaptation, recovery, growth and development. This personal growth can however be impaired by the challenges of life. It can become very difficult to know what is most important, and we can become estranged from our true selves.
* See Jordan Peterson’s ‘Personality and its transformations, lecture 1: introduction and overview’. Available for free on YouTube.
** In a major study of previous research it was found that person-centred therapy is broadly as effective as other leading types of therapy. [Elliott, R, & Freire, B., (2008) Person-centred experiential therapies are highly effective: summary of the 2008 meta-analysis. Person-centred Quarterly, November, 1-3.]
‘It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried.’
Go deeper, with person-centred therapy
Person-centred therapy provides an environment for you to reappraise your thoughts, feelings, actions, values and strengths, so that you can understand your situation in your own way, unlock your potential, and overcome your difficulties. You can thrive, not survive.
A truly holistic approach, person-centred therapy works with whatever the client brings: cognition (thoughts), emotions, feelings and the body’s ‘felt sense’. The focus is on how the client relates to these things in the present moment.
Person-centred therapy is unique in being non-directive, with no diagnoses, no homework, expectations or judgments from the therapist. Rogers had noted that diagnoses are not normally helpful to real, lasting personality change. So in person-centred therapy problems and solutions are addressed from the client’s perspective, not the therapist’s. No mumbo-jumbo, no hocus-pocus.
Things move forward at the client’s pace, in accordance with what is most important to them. Change happens from the inside-out, and often occurs in the sessions. Therapy is complete whenever the client feels that they no longer need support.
How person-centred therapy can help you:
- Overcome mental illness, distress or frustrations,
- Find your own solutions and fresh perspectives,
- Come to terms with events and situations,
- Recover from trauma and abuse,
- Find more meaning in your life,
- Have more positive thoughts and feelings,
- Feel more open to new experiences and less anxious about the future,
- Be less vulnerable to life’s challenges, and more effective in problem-solving,
- Be more confident in how you relate to other people,
- Live by your own values, feeling more in control of your life.
The person-centred approach is very different to other approaches. It is phenomenological (meaning the therapist seeks to empathically understand things from the client’s perspective), and it is non-directive (meaning that the therapist imposes no expectations on the client, to the degree that nothing the client says is ever judged). This approach is difficult and requires skill. Many therapists and counsellors claim to work in a ‘person-centred’ way but may not actually be well-trained or provide a genuinely person-centred approach.
Tim has been one of the best therapists I’ve ever had and really helped me through difficult times. I have learned so much about myself during this journey and my life changed for the better. I would highly recommend him.