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Person Centered – Carl Rogers


1. View of Human Nature

a. Rogers viewed human nature as basically good

b. He believed that if given the appropriate environment of acceptance, warmth and empathy, the individual would move toward self-­actualization

c. Self-­actualization is the motivation that makes the individual move toward growth, meaning, and purpose

d. Person-­centered is considered a phenomenological psychology in which the individual’s perception of reality is accepted as reality for the individual.

e. Person-centered is often referred to as a self theory, because of Rogers’ emphasis on the self being the result of the person’s life experiences and the person’s awareness of comparisons to others as the same or different.

f. Rogers believed that most people were provided conditional acceptance as children, which lead them to behave in ways that would assure their acceptance. However, in their need for acceptance, the individual often behaved in ways that were incongruent with the real self. Thus, the greater this incongruence between the real self and the ideal self, the greater isolated and maladjusted the person became.

2. Role of the counselor

a. The counselor sets up a environment where the client is safe to explore any aspect of the self. The counselor’s job is to facilitate the exploration through a special client-therapist relationship of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and warmth.

b. The person­centered counselor uses psychological testing on a limited basis. The Q-sort is sometimes used in assessment by the person-­centered counselor. A series of 100 statements are written on cards. The statements are self-­descriptions, i.e. I am capable, I am dependent, I am worthless. The client is asked to read and sort each of these statements into nine piles from most like me to least like me. Then the stacks are recorded. The client re­sorts the cards into what they would like to be like. The Q-sort gives an indication of the incongruence between the perceived real self and ideal self.

c. The use of diagnostic categories is discouraged as incompatible with the philosophical view of the individual as unique. Diagnosis places the counselor in a position of authority and imposes a treatment plan.

3. Goals of therapy

a. In person-­centered theory are directly concerned with the individual.

The counselor facilitates the client toward:

i. Realistic self-­perception

ii. Greater confidence and self-­direction

iii. Sense of positive worth

iv. Greater maturity, social skill, and adaptive behavior

v. Better stress coping

vi. More fully functioning in all aspects of their lives

4. Techniques

a. The techniques used in person-­centered therapy have changed over time.

b. Three periods of time in which different techniques were stressed:

i. Nondirective Period (1940-­1950). In this period of theory development, the counselor focused on listening and creating a permissive atmosphere. The counselor did not provide interventions, but communicated acceptance and clarification.

ii. Reflective Period (1950-­1957). During this period of time,

counselors emphasized being non-judgmental of the client, while responding to the client’s feelings and reflecting the affect accurately.

iii. Experiential Period (1957-­1980) This is the period of the EWG: Empathy, Warmth and Genuineness. Empathy is the ability of the counselor to understand the emotions of the client and correctly communicate this understanding. Warmth is also referred to as acceptance and positive regard in person-­centered literature. Warmth is the ability of the counselor to convey an unconditional acceptance of the client’s personhood. Genuineness or congruence is the ability to be who one really is without assuming roles or facades.

c. The counselor helps the client through accurate reflections of feelings, keeping the client focused on the concern, and clarification of feelings and information. The counselor uses open-­ended questions or phrases to help the clients gain insight into experiences and necessary changes in their lives.


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Author: Samantha DeLint-Neely, LCDC I

Creator of LCDC Exam Review. Check out my blog and Youtube channel, where you can find short lessons to help you prepare for the certification exam for substance abuse counselors. I successfully passed mine in May 2012.

2 thoughts on “Person Centered – Carl Rogers

  1. Although I am eclectic in my approach, I have found that a Person-Centered approach lays the foundation for a rich client-therapist relationship that creates an atmosphere conducive to client insight and growth.

    • Hi Malcolm,

      I agree. To me, Rogers’ approach is my foundation to develop any therapeutic relationship. This is always my starting point during the intake process, for example. Building rapport with the client from day one is very important. Day one, in my opinion, is not the first counseling session but the screening process.

      Thanks for your comment!

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