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It is no overstatement that Carl Rogers, an American psychologist, changed the world, in terms of psychotherapy and counselling, from the 1940s onwards but perhaps other industries could take a few lessons from his book/s. With links to humanist psychology and the concept of actualisation, the Rogerian approach relies on a set of therapeutic conditions which assist clients to help themselves, considering that every client is unique and possesses ‘vast resources.’ Rogers’ theory on the development of personality, combined with the importance of the therapeutic relationship, challenged the psychodynamic and behaviourist psychology which preceded him by altering the view of the therapist as the expert, and the idea that human behaviour is purely a response to stimuli. Instead, it focused on the power of the relationship and a ‘way of being’ to organically create positive change, empowering the client. 

What is client centred therapy? 

Rogers viewed ‘people as being motivated by a tendency for growth and enhancement’ and his theory was based on a biological organismic process in which living things thrive in certain conditions while merely surviving in others. Rogers’ belief was that humans have an organismic valuing tendency but their need for approval and ‘conditions of worth’ which are instilled in them separate the ‘ideal self’ from the ‘real self.’ These in turn, Rogers suggested, may lead to an increase in incongruence, which ultimately results in building feelings of anxiety. Becoming the fully functioning person, being congruent and able to grow is, for Rogers, the aim of therapy. To engage in this process of growth occurs due to the sufficient and necessary conditions which enable clients to recognise their own worth and free themselves from judgment. 

The core conditions 

What are now viewed as the core conditions are congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. Rogers suggested that it is incongruence that leads clients to therapy as, according to this approach, this is the basis of their distress. To model congruence, the therapist must demonstrate that being genuine is helpful; as Rogers stated, ‘it seems extremely important to be real.’  

Unconditional positive regard enables the client’s challenging of their conditions of worth, freeing them from the fear of judgment and rejection. The therapist, by fully accepting the client without judgement, promotes positive self-regard, allowing for self-reconstruction through therapeutic support.  

The condition of empathy is a genuine understanding of the experiencing of the client, which is so central to Rogers’ concept of the development of self. Rogers stated that ‘It is only as I understand the feelings and thoughts […] it is only as I see them as you see them; and accept them and you, that you feel really free to explore.’ Empathy is not unique to the Rogerian approach but it has been found, repeatedly, to help clients by demonstrating genuine understanding in order to support the client to find their own way of being as they reorganise their view of themselves. It is arguably this support from the therapist which, when received and perceived, allows for the client’s growth and reconstruction.  

The core conditions create a therapeutic relationship and it is this relationship that has been found repeatedly to have the strongest impact on change in a client; it is, in fact, twice as powerful as any techniques, hence the need to consider the client first rather than the issue that they present with. This relationship also has the potential to allow the client to view other relationships more positively as well as assisting in the development of a secure attachment, thus the support leads to the ability for self-reconstruction. 

Rogers’ work has been widely accepted and employed in some way across all psychotherapeutic modalities but what seems curious is why other industries haven’t adopted this approach more widely when it is recognised to facilitate positive relationships and positive change. In education, for example, the core conditions could be taught in teacher training, so that teachers could consider where students’ behaviour is coming from, and arguably any management training should promote genuineness and non-judgmental listening. Imagine a world where everyone was genuine, could empathise and was able to offer understanding and positive regard for all. The world has much to learn from therapy. 

Client centred hypnotherapy 

For now, therapy does offer this safe space. This is why I offer client centred hypnotherapy because people aren’t issues to fix; they’re individuals who require empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard. The therapy is still solution focused but the conditions of therapy allow for lasting change; they empower the client to make these changes and to continue this process beyond the therapy’s conclusion. 

20th October 2023