‘We are authors of our lives’ – Carl R Rogers (1902-1987)
Humanistic Psychology is a psychology of the whole person. It followed on from the work of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung but changed from the medical model of patient/doctor relationship where the patient was under the doctor.
Consequently, as humanistic psychology developed and became more popular, the relationship changed from doctor/patient to client/therapist. The dynamics of the relationship had changed to where both the client and the therapist are both equal in the therapeutic relationship and process.
Dr Carl Rogers introduced client-centered (now called person-centered or Rogerian) psychotherapy/counselling in the early fifties. This is a form of therapy where the aim is to help the client gain contact with their inner feelings of self and own inner resources.
During the therapeutic relation between client and the therapist, Rogers believed that when the therapist creates the core-conditions of: unconditional positive regard (being genuine), warmth and empathy, the client will then experience the core-conditions and this in turn will empower the clients to begin to heal themselves and change their lives.
Humanistic, person-centered or client-centered theory emphasizes the importance of people’s subjective self-concept, which consists of the ways in which they perceive and define themselves. In this modality, it is believed that through our own life experiences, we build up a ‘false sense of the self- concept’.
The emphasis is on how the client experiences the situation in the here and now.
It values all aspects of the persons’ way of thinking, feeling, emotion, tuition and so on.
The right of the person to be self-determining is valued highly.
In person-centered therapy, the therapist does not expect the client to accept their views; rather the intent is to help facilitate the client find his/her own inner resources. In this type of therapy, the client and therapist thoughts and feelings are equally respected. The therapist will not try to change the client or be responsible for the client; rather that the therapist has a responsibility to be there with the client as they proceed on their journey. Furthermore, through the therapeutic relation, the therapist facilitates the session to enable the client to change.
The criticism, which other therapists most often level at person-centered or client-centered counselling, is that all the warmth intimidates the client and so they do not want to expose parts of themselves that are not ‘good’! This is when the real therapeutic work commences because through the relationship with another person (one who has no agenda towards you), it is possible to rediscover the self and gain support to make changes.
Psychotherapy/counselling is also a very personal experience, a journey, a process. It is one in which you need to feel you are working together with the therapist, rather than that the therapist is in charge of you. As you are going to share life experiences, it is definitely important that you feel comfortable with whom you are working with.
In my experience as a psychotherapist, clients have found that after therapy, this approach has been helpful for them to continue with their own continuing personal development as a human being.