Erik M. Gregory Ph.D.

The Secular Shepherd

Carl Rogers' "Techniques" for Daily Life

9 Steps to Living a More Integrated and Healthy Life

Posted Apr 04, 2018

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

“It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried. It began to occur to me that unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for the direction of movement in the process.” – Carl Rogers

I always felt an affinity for Carl Rogers.  I studied at both the institutions that he studied and at which he later taught (the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Chicago).  He is credited with a therapeutic methodology called client-centered therapy (also known as person-centered therapy or humanistic therapy).  This approach moved away from a more fixed therapeutic framework, to instead let the client lead. Rogers argued that the best therapeutic bond (and relationship) is created when providing the client with a “positive self-regard." Research has largely demonstrated that successful therapeutic outcomes do rely heavily on this therapeutic relationship.

Rogers saw the purpose of therapy to:

  • Facilitate personal understanding and development
  • Reduce feelings of anxiety or stress
  • Increase the willingness to run experiments and have new experiences

The Essence of Client-Centered Therapy

“In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?” – Carl Rogers

It is clear from Rogers’ work that he placed a great deal of value on the firsthand experience of the client, and much less in the “cleverness and learning” or technical expertise of therapists – including himself.

Rogers’ outlined “techniques” to creating positive change.  While these techniques are specific to practitioners, I have summarized and adapted these to consider in our daily lives both within and outside of therapy.

“When you are in psychological distress and someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!”

Rogers’ outlined techniques for therapists to support constructive change in therapy. These adaptations include:

1) Have Clear Boundaries

Tension, upset, and anxiety often emerge from unhealthy boundaries in daily life.  Learning to say no when you may be seduced into saying yes are critical to having clear boundaries.

2) Know Thyself

Going back to the philosophers of ancient Greece, it is the examined life that makes life worth living.  Life is about learning to know oneself and garnering insight as well as being able to articulate this knowledge to others.

3) Listen

Active listening is a skill for everyone. So often we are eager to present our narrative that we miss others completely.  Listeners are in high demand so be sure to create a healthy boundary around constant talkers.  Help others hear what they are saying by rephrasing what you heard and giving it back to them.  Be the model of listening you would like for yourself.

4) Withhold Judgment (as Much as Possible)

There is a malaise of struggling with feeling bad about oneself or not being good enough (of course, the other extreme is narcissism) in today’s world.  Many besides you hold these feelings.  Try to avoid endorsing this belief for yourself.  Acceptance of who you are and who others are makes life easier.

5) Allow Others to be Understood (and Understand Yourself in the Process)

Often people want to be heard when they are facing a challenging life situation.  They want to tell their story and be guided, supported, or inspired, but no one seems to like to be told what to do.  Giving advice can help, but it is often better to allow someone to come to their answers and insights themselves.

6) Speak to be Heard

Speak up when conversing.  Use the English language to its best.  Avoid crutch words such as “um, you know, like, and ah.”  Don’t fill “airtime” simply because you like the sound of your voice.

7) Be Real

Most of us refine our authenticity meter in adolescence.  At that age, we often become keenly aware of people who are being disingenuous or “fake.”  To have deep and healthy interactions and relationships, the practice of being yourself and being authentic is key.

8) There are Ups and DOWNS in Life

While it may be a reflexive response to say that you are fine when asked “how are you doing” the reality is that life has good and bad aspects for everyone. 

We often assume that being happy and well is the default way of being and when we don’t feel that way, we feel a sense of shame as if doing something not quite right.  Part of being a human being is trying to negotiate those down times that everyone experiences to varying degrees.  This is the resiliency factor.  Having down times doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong with you.

9) You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers

Everyone has their talents, skills, and limits.  If you don’t know something, say so and work on getting additional resources that may fill in the blanks.  Every wise person feels comfortable with saying “I don’t know.”

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