Client-centered therapy, developed by American psychologist Carl Rogers (1902–1987), is an approach to counseling and psychotherapy that places much of the responsibility for the treatment process on the patient, with the therapist taking a nondirective role and evidencing unconditional acceptance.
Developed in the 1930s by Carl Rogers, clientcentered therapy, also known as nondirective or Rogerian therapy, departed from the typically formal, detached role of the therapist common to psychoanalysis and other forms of treatment. Rogers believed that therapy should take place in the supportive container created by a close personal relationship between client and therapist. Rogers’ introduction of the term client rather than patient expresses his rejection of the traditionally hierarchical relationship between therapist and client and his view of them as a dyad of equals. The client determines the general direction of therapy, while the therapist seeks to increase the client's insightful self-understanding through informal clarifying questions.
Rogers believed that the most important factor in successful therapy was not the therapist's skill or training but rather the therapist's attitude. Three interrelated attitudes on the part of the therapist are central to the success of client-centered therapy: congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. Congruence refers to the therapist's openness and genuineness; the willingness to relate to clients without hiding behind a professional facade. Therapists who function in this way have all their feelings available to them in therapy sessions and may share significant ones with their clients. Congruence does not mean that therapists disclose their own personal issues to clients in therapy sessions or shift the focus of therapy to themselves in any way.
Unconditional positive regard means that the therapist accepts the client totally for who the client is without evaluating or censoring and without disapproving of particular feelings, actions, or characteristics. The therapist communicates this attitude to the client by a willingness to listen without interrupting, judging, or giving advice. Doing so creates a nonthreatening context in which the client feels free to explore and share painful, hostile, defensive, or dysfunctional feelings without worrying about personal rejection by the therapist.
Two primary goals of client-centered therapy are increased self-esteem and greater openness to experience. Some of the related changes that it seeks to foster in clients are increased correspondence between the client's idealized and actual selves; better self-understanding; decreased defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity; more positive and comfortable relationships with others; and an increased capacity to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur. Beginning in the 1960s, clientcentered therapy became allied with the human potential movement. Rogers adopted terms such as person-centered approach and way of being and began to focus on personal growth and self-actualization. He also pioneered the use of encounter groups, adapting the sensitivity training (T-group) methods developed by Kurt Lewin (1890–1947) and other researchers at the National Training Laboratories in 1950s.
Client-centered therapy is considered a valid and useful therapeutic approach, and Rogers’ influence continues to be felt in schools of therapy other than his own, and the concepts and methods he developed were drawn on in an eclectic fashion by many different types of counselors and therapists.
See also Clinical psychology ; Cognitive behavior therapy; Rank, Otto; Rogers, Carl.
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