What change(s) or direction(s) do clients in person-centred/experiential counselling tend to move toward?


Carl Rogers characterised the change or direction clients in person-centred/experiential counselling move toward as change or movement along a ‘continuum’:

‘Individuals move, I began to see, not from a fixity…through change to a new fixity… But…the more significant continuum is from fixity to changingness, from rigid structure to flow, from stasis to process.’ (‘A Process Conception of Psychotherapy’ (1957), On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable, 1961) 131).


←‘rigid[ity]’/‘fixity’ /‘stasis’                    ‘flow’/‘process’/‘changingness’→

Feelings and personal meanings:

unrecognised, unexpressed

increasing expression as owned feelings in the present

continually changing flow of feelings

seen mostly as ‘shameful, bad, abnormal, unacceptable’

occasionally ‘as in the present sometimes breaking through almost against…wishes’

‘in the present’; ‘bubble up’, ‘seep through’ in spite of…fear and distrust…at experiencing… with fullness and immediacy’; ‘ownership of’ – ‘desire to be’

‘directly experienced with immediacy and richness’; ‘accepted’ – ‘not something to be denied, feared, struggled against’

‘growing and continuing sense of acceptant ownership of…’

Subjective experiencing/implicit meanings:

keeps distant from

decreasing remoteness – increasing awareness

‘quality of living…in the experience’; ‘moment of full experiencing becomes a clear and definite referent’

‘experiencing of…feelings…used as a clear referent’ – ‘endeavour…use…in order to know in a clearer and more differentiated way who one is, what one wants and what one’s attitudes are’ ‘even when…unpleasant or frightening’

‘tendency toward experiencing…in…present’; ‘distrust and fear of this’

‘frequently occurs with little postponement’

Internal Communication:


increasing self-communication

rich and changing awareness of internal experiencing readily communicated when desired

self ‘as an object’; ‘self-related experiences as objects’

‘dialogues within self’ ‘increasingly freer’

‘free…relatively unblocked’

‘clear’ ‘internal communication’

Personal Constructs:

rigid – seen as fixed facts

decreasing rigidity; increasing recognition of own contribution

held ‘loosely’ to be checked against experiencing and ‘tentatively reformulated to be validated against further experience’ – ‘self, at this moment, is this feeling’

‘discoveries of constructs’, ‘questioning’ of ‘validity’

many new ‘discoveries’ – ‘critical examination…of’

Incongruence/ contradictions between what think and feel:

high – unrecognised

increasingly sharp recognition of discrepancies

experience of incongruence in immediate present in a way which dissolves it

recognised; choice ‘often seen as ineffective’

‘increasingly clear facing of’

Problems: unrecognised – ‘no desire to change’

increasing responsibility assumed – increasing recognition has contributed to problems; change often feared

living some aspect of (‘a phase of’) the problem – responsibly in it subjectively

‘close and communicative relationships: avoids –  seen as ‘dangerous’

decreasing danger felt in relationships

lives openly and freely with others

(Adapted from Carl Rogers, ‘A Process Conception of Psychotherapy’ (1957), On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable, 1961) 132-155 & Alan Walker, Richard Rablen, and Carl Rogers, ‘Development of a Scale to Measure Process Changes in Psychotherapy’, Journal of Clinical Psychology 16:1 (1960) 80-81.)


Carl Rogers observed, also, that clients in person-centred/experiential counselling tend to move:

away from:

    • Facades, pretense, defensiveness, putting up a front.
    • ‘Oughts’ The compelling feeling of “I ought to do or be thus and so”…
    • meeting Expectations
    • Pleasing others as a goal in itself.

    • being Real – being himself, being his real feelings, being what he is. From a point where he looks upon himself with contempt and despair…comes to value himself and his reactions as being of worth.
    • Self-directionan increasing pride and confidence in making his own choices, guiding his own life. 
    • Sensitivity to others and Acceptance of Others. comes to appreciate others for what they are
    • willingness to be a* Process. From desiring some fixed goal…come to prefer the excitement of being a process of potentialities being born.
    • Openess to experience.* To be open to and sensitive to his own inner reactions and feelings, the reactions and feelings of others and the realities of the objective world…
    • An increasing trust in one’s organism* (if one is open to one’s experience ‘doing what ‘feels right’ proves to be a competent and trustworthy guide to behaviour…’).

(From: • Carl Rogers, ‘What It Means to Become a Person’ (1954), On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable, 1961) 107-124 – text followed by *     Carl Rogers, ‘“To Be That Self Which One Truly Is”: A Therapist’s View of Personal Goals’ (1957), On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable, 1961) 163-182bold text    • Carl Rogers, ‘A Therapist’s View of the Good Life: The Fully Functioning Person’ (1957), On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (London: Constable, 1961) 183-196underlined text    • Carl Rogers, ‘Toward a Modern Approach to Values: The Valuing Process in the Mature Person’ (1964), The Carl Rogers Reader, eds. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989) 168-185italicised text)