Person-Centered Therapy

What Is Person-Centered Therapy?

Person-centered therapy uses a non-authoritative approach that allows clients to take more of a lead in discussions so that, in the process, they will discover their own solutions. The therapist acts as a compassionate facilitator, listening without judgment and acknowledging the client’s experience without moving the conversation in another direction. The therapist is there to encourage and support the client and to guide the therapeutic process without interrupting or interfering with the client’s process of self-discovery.

When It's Used

Anyone who would be better off gaining more self-confidence, a stronger sense of identity, and the ability to build healthy interpersonal relationships and to trust his or her own decisions could benefit from person-centered therapy. This approach, alone or in combination with other types of therapy, can also be helpful for those who suffer from grief, depression, anxiety, stress, abuse, or other mental health conditions. Person-centered therapists work with both individuals and groups. Since the client must do a lot of the work in person-centered therapy, those who are more motivated are likely to be more successful.

What to Expect

Person-centered therapy is talk therapy wherein the client does most of the talking. Your therapist will not judge or try to interpret what you say, but may restate your words in an attempt to fully understand your thoughts and feelings. When you hear your own words repeated back to you, you may then wish to self-edit and clarify your meaning. This may happen several times until you decide that you have expressed exactly what you are thinking and how you feel. There may be moments of silence to allow your thoughts to sink in. This client-focused process facilitates your self-discovery, self-acceptance, and a provides a means toward healing and positive growth.

How It Works

Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy, originated in the work of the American psychologist, Carol Rogers, who believed that everyone is different and, therefore, everyone’s view of his or her own world, and ability to manage it, should be trusted. Rogers believed that all of us have the power to find the best solutions for ourselves and make appropriate changes in our lives. Person-centered therapy was a movement away from the therapist’s traditional role—as an expert and leader—toward a process that allows clients to use their own understanding of their experiences as a platform for healing. The success of person-centered therapy relies on three conditions:

1) Unconditional positive regard, which means therapists must be empathetic and non-judgmental to convey their feelings of understanding, trust, and confidence that encourage their clients to make their own decisions and choices

2) Empathetic understanding, which means therapists completely understand and accept their clients’ thoughts and feelings

3) Congruence, which means therapists carry no air of authority or professional superiority but, instead, present a true and accessible self that clients can see is honest and transparent.

What to Look for in a Person-Centered Therapist

Licensed mental health professionals from a variety of disciplines who have training and experience in the Rogerian approach can use person-centered interventions in therapy. In addition to finding someone with the educational background and relevant experience, look for a therapist or counselor who is especially empathetic and with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal issues.

Sources

Hazler, Richard J., Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories and Interventions. Chapter 7: Person-Centered Theory. 6th Ed. 2016. American Counseling Association.

Bower P., Byford S., Sibbald B. et al., Randomised controlled trial of non-directive counselling, cognitive-behavior therapy, and usual general practitioner care for patients with depression. II Cost Effectiveness. British Medical Journal. Dec 2000;321:1389.