Client Centered Therapy
What is Client Centered Therapy? And how will a therapist using a Client Centered Approach help me?
The Client Centered Approach to psychotherapy was originally developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940’s. The major tenets are that personality is relatively fluid and evolving and that people are “structures in process.” A therapist who works from the Client Centered perspective believes that all people have the potential to change and that as we grow and develop we integrate new information and experiences into our view of ourselves and the world. According to this theory a “fully functioning” person is defined as: someone who at any given moment, is operating as an evolving process using the following mechanisms. They are “In Process” meaning the person is fluid and flexible. Fully functioning people are “Congruent” which means there is very little difference between one’s ideal self concept and real self concept. This means that you do not live by external conditions of worth such as societal or cultural expectations. They have an “Internal Locus of Control” which means having agency or feeling like you are in charge of your life. Lastly, fully functioning people, from a client centered approach, are: “Future Oriented” and have “self-righting tendency” meaning they are constantly looking ahead and trying to do what is in their best interest.
On the other hand, the Client Centered approach defines “psychological dysfunction” as a failure to learn and change. This happens when we fail to learn from feedback and we remain stuck in misperceptions and inappropriate behavior. A Client Centered therapist believes that abnormal behavior arises if a person is unable to operate in an evolving way. A Client Centered therapist will believe that “dysfunction” arises from three explanations: incongruence, failure to be in process, and difficulties in information processing. Incongruence occurs when people hold on too tightly to the conditions of worth that parents, teachers, and people of authority or importance give to them. It is when people rely on “shoulds” to direct their lives rather than making choices based on their self-concept. Failure to be in process is when people are too rigid and static and can not allow their feelings to flow naturally. Difficulties in information processing occur when people follow rigid schemas that fail to integrate new information about themselves and the world.
A Client Centered therapist believes that psychological problems exist in interaction with life situations and our transactions with world. They postulate that problems develop when people encounter situations that challenge their abilities to respond in a flexible way, which causes the person to interact with the world in ways that do not allow for change and growth. Client Centered therapists believe that anyone can become “temporarily dysfunctional” and that engaging in talk-therapy will help a “dysfunctional person” become “fully functional” again. Throughout the course of Client Centered therapy, the therapist joins client on a journey of self discovery and fully believes that the client is the expert on him or herself. A client-centered therapist works with the client to be able to understand the client “in the moment” and provides a warm, empathetic environment.
A Client Centered therapist conceptualizes personality as being process oriented, and having creativity, autonomy, and agency. The view that personality is process oriented means that while some aspects are more fixed than others; people are generally open and able to change. Creativity, from a Client Centered therapist’s perspective, means that people are always having to adapt and can do so in creative ways. Autonomy means that a person chooses how to act based on his or her personal views of self, others, and the world. Agency means people can sense whether they can handle what occurs in their lives and are capable of asking for help when it’s too much. Most importantly, a Client Centered therapist believes that each individual client knows what is best, and is an expert on himself or herself.
A Client Centered therapist can help you achieve your therapy goals by using a mix of some of the following techniques: open communication, reflection, attention to experience, gentle confrontation, and unconditional positive regard. Open communication is a technique where the therapist encourages the client to share his or her feelings and perceptions openly without censorship in order to facilitate progress. The focus of the communication can be internal feelings and perceptions, which allows the client to better understand his or her own realities, or external feelings and perceptions, which allows the client to better understand someone else’s reality. Reflection is a technique where the therapist will paraphrase or summarize back what the client says in order to understand the nature of client’s experience. Attention to experience is where the therapist will express his or her perception and try to relate to or feel the client’s experience. Gentle confrontation is when the therapist will gently point out when the client’s descriptions of events and feelings don’t match, or there are inconsistencies. This will help the client to better understand how his or her processing style is related to the subjective experience of events. Unconditional positive regard is a client-centered technique where the therapist will unconditionally provide respect, empathy, and warmth for the client. This creates a therapeutic atmosphere that fosters the natural process of each individual client to move towards and reach his or her goals.
The client’s primary role, in client-centered therapy, is to be open and honest about his or her feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. As therapy progresses, the client will pay attention to all information within himself or herself, as well as feedback from the therapist, to gain insights and make necessary behavioral changes. Successful Client Centered therapy will help restore congruence within the client meaning that there will be less and less disparity between the ideal and real self as sessions go on. Throughout this process, the client will gain the ability to be in process meaning he or she becomes “unstuck” and is once again a creative problem solver. Client Centered Therapy can be used with wide range of clients. This can be applicable to clients who are struggling with depression, anxiety, grief, work or professional stress, family issues, relationships, anger, etc. Since client-centered therapists believe the client is the expert which pushes them to work really hard to put themselves in their clients’ shoes; they are able to work with people from just about any race or ethnic background, sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion, age, or gender. Here at the Center For Growth, we have therapists who use a client-centered theoretical approach to therapy who can help you make the necessary behavioral changed to achieve your personal therapeutic goals in a supportive, empathic, and warm environment.