Person-Centred Theory in a Nutshell
Person-centred theory, developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s, is a theoretical approach that respects individual autonomy via the belief that all humans will pursue what is best for them (Rogers, 1961; Seligman, 2006). It is this belief that enables person-centred counsellors to reject the ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ role in favour of working alongside the client to help them discover their own personal expertise.
In this sense, person-centred theory is about empowering the client to use their own inner resources, which is achieved through the provision of six necessary and sufficient conditions:
1) the client is experiencing distress or discomfort, possibly due to incongruence between their self-concept and their real self (i.e. their organismic experiencing);
2) psychological contact is made between client and counsellor;
3) the counsellor displays congruence;
4) the counsellor expresses empathic understanding, which can be achieved by seeing the clients situation from the clients internal frame of reference (i.e. the clients inner world, which is influenced by their beliefs, memories, experiences, feelings, culture, and more (Sutton and Stewart, 2008);
5) the counsellor shows unconditional positive regard, to assist the client in breaking free from externally-imposed conditions of worth;
6) the client, at least to a minimal degree, experiences these conditions (Rogers, 1957).
Conditions 3-5 are often termed the ‘core conditions,’ but numerous authors highlight that Roger’s emphasis was on all six conditions, which he purported were necessary for therapeutic change (Tolan & Wilkins, 2012).
Rogers, C.R. (1957) The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21, pp. 95–103.
Rogers, C.R. (1961) On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. London: Constable.
Seligman, L. (2006) Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: Systems, strategies, and skills. (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Ltd.
Sutton, J. & Stewart, W. (2008) Learning to Counsel, 3rd edn., Oxon: How To Books Ltd.
Tolan, J. & Wilkins, P. (2012) Client issues in counselling and psychotherapy. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.