How might person-centred/experiential counselling help?

‘…the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for…altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behaviour – and…these resources can be tapped if…a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.’ (Carl Rogers, ‘A Client-centered/Person-centered Approach to Therapy’ (1986), The Carl Rogers Reader, eds. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989) 135.)


‘Climate of ‘Unconditional Positive Regard”

Carl Rogers writes that ‘unconditional positive regard’

  • might be offered to the client through ‘experienc[ing]’ and ‘communicat[ing] to the client a deep and genuine caring for the client’ – a ‘positive, nonpossessive warmth without reservations and without evaluations’ (Carl Rogers and Ruth Sanford, ‘Client-Centered Psychotherapy’, The Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 5th ed., eds. Harold Kaplan and Benjamin Sadock (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1989) 18-19) (‘the warmth expressed…is the manifestation of the therapist’s presence.’ – ‘it is the therapist’s willingness to be present in the client’s private world’ (Elizabeth Freire, ‘Unconditional Positive Regard: The Distinctive Feature of Client-Centered Therapy’, Rogers’ Therapeutic Conditions: Evolution, Theory and Practice. Volume 3: Unconditional Positive Regard, eds. Jerold Bozarth and Paul Wilkins (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS, 2001) 150))

and that it

  • ‘must exist’ in a ‘context of empathic understanding’ for it to be communicated to the client (‘Theory of Therapy’, 230) – which is to ‘accurately and sensitively…understand the…feelings of the client and the meanings they have’ (Rogers & Sanford, ‘Client-Centered Psychotherapy’, 14-15). (Similarly Freire writes that ‘through…empathic understanding’ the therapist is ‘able to unconditionally accept the client’s experience…[in] put[ting] her self [or ‘frame of reference’] aside’ (‘Unconditional Positive Regard’, 149).)


‘Self-propelled Exploration Process’

Carl Rogers wrote that the ‘…primary fact which has given…[person-centred/experiential] counselling its impetus is the realisation that a predictable, measurable process can be set in motion…’ – a ‘…process of…reorientation and growth.’ (‘Psychometric Tests and Client-Centered Counselling’, Educational and Psychological Measurement 6 (1946) 139.)1 Elliott writes that

‘The most characteristic [therapist]…response…is empathic exploration. These… simultaneously communicate understanding and help clients move toward the unclear or emerging edges of their experience.’ (Robert Elliott, ‘Emotion-Focused Therapy’, The Tribes of the Person-Centred Nation: An Introduction to the Schools of Therapy related to the Person-Centred Approach, 2nd ed., ed. Pete Sanders (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS, 2012) 114.)

Similarly Rogers writes that the client ‘perceive[s]…new aspect[s]’ of him/herself which ‘…in an understanding atmosphere [are] owned and assimilated into a now altered self-concept.’ (Carl Rogers, ‘Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being’ (1975), A Way of Being (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980) 7.)


‘Personal Working Alliance’

The ‘helping association’ between client and counsellor in person-centred/experiential counselling Barrett-Lennard describes as a ‘personal-working alliance’ (The Pathway of Client-Centred Therapy (Paper presented to the First International Conference on Client-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapy, Leuven, Belgium, 1988) 10).


1‘…adherence by the counsellor to certain basic principles involving both attitudes and procedures tends to further this process…’ (Rogers, ‘Psychometric Tests’, 139.)