No person can underrate the contribution of Sigmund Freud in the field of counseling and psychotherapy. In fact, his pioneering contributions could be considered the major founding blocks from which most of the counseling types and approaches were developed. However, many scholars have improved on the contributions which have resulted into diverse approaches to counseling and psychotherapy. Among the greatest contributors is Carl Rodgers whose contributions in person-centered approach to counseling have impacted greatly on counseling as a whole. Based on these contributions developed in the forties, Rogers has been ailed as one of the most influential contributors in the field of psychology. This assumption is further strengthened by the Psychotherapy Networker’s survey carried ut in 2006 whch pointed out that he was was among the top ten on the list of the most influential theorists. On his part, Corey (2001) points out that Rogers is one of the greatest contributor in the field of psychotherapy and counseling in the last quarter of a century. As a result, this paper intends to discuss Rodgers’ contributions in person centered counseling. In addition, the paper will identify the philosophical principles included in this type of counseling, the therapeutic process and the limitation of this approach to counseling. It will also highlight the developments made on the theory by other scholars like Brian Thorne and Eugene Gendlin.
As mentioned above, one of the greatest contributors to counseling and psychotherapy is Rogers. In his arguments on person centered counseling, he argues that a client holds the key to success in any psychotherapy endeavor. The potential outcome of the client is based on how well he can use his authority, experiences and views in order to come up with positive psychological developments. This proposition was developed after Rogers realized that the initial perspective developed by Freud subjected the clients into difficulties of accepting the counselor’s specifications. Therefore, Rogers’ contributions made it easier for the client to develop a relationship that would prompt him into a positive development. This gave birth to person-centered counseling (Rogers 1961).
Considering Rogers’ perspective, this section of the paper intends to highlight the basic philosophical principles and concepts that founded this type of counseling. The central concept of this approach is the trust bestowed upon the client in the constructive development. According to Corey (2004), the theory developed by Rogers purported that a positive development can be exhibited in a client if he was provided with conducive environment and other conditions that could foster his constructive growth. He argues that when “therapists are able to experience and communicate their realness, support, caring and conjudgmental understanding…” (p.169), the client is very likely to experience substantial changes in his condition. Basically, the person-centered theory does not lay emphasis on the problem to be solved. Its emphasis is on the person himself. Rogers even argued that the principle aim of counseling is not to be problem solving. Instead, it is supposed to be client empowerment so that he solves the problem on his own.
More so, the person centered counseling strongly opposes the former assumptions which argued that the client is unknowledgeable and hence cannot make any decision and that all decisions must be made by the therapist. The client’s role is to accept the punishments, rewards, managements, directions, instructions and all other controls of the therapist. The person centered approach argues that this therapist centered approach creates defensiveness and lack of disclosure of information. Instead of approaching counseling through such perspectives, it is essential that the client is empowered through the therapist’s congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. These three are essential in the development of positive prosocial ways (Jones 2001).
The person centered approach also argues that a human being has an innate tendency for actualization. By striving and actualizing in terms of attainment, fulfillment, being self determined and perfection, a human being is likely to experience success in self healing. This does not require him to change his connections, relationships and socializations. This forms one of the most fundamental concepts of person centered counseling. As a result, this approach calls for an active participation of a client in the effort to develop a constructive approach for counseling. The approach strongly believes on the positive aspects of a human being and hence believes that these assets must be viewed as opportunities for constructive development. The approach is therefore centered on the way the clients can react to the different stimuli, how they can develop positive and constructive developments and how they can overcome obstacles (Jones 2001).
The person-centered counseling’s therapeutic process is not identical with the traditional approaches. While they were based on the problem, the person-centered approach is centered on the person. Rogers believed in the person’s ability to develop a positive outcome. Hence, the person centered approach aimed at assisting the client to develop the capacity for a positive growth process. This enables the client to be able to face his problems and be able to tackle them should they recur in the future. Rogers argues that the therapeutic process is based on four basic stages. A person who is undergoing therapeutic approach must have an open mind that is ready to face and accept the different experiences of life. Secondly, the person must be able to develop and unshakable trust in himself. Thirdly, the person must have an evaluation criterion that is inbuilt. This is essential in self evaluation and determination for the current and future growth. Finally, Rogers argues that the individual must have the desire for future growth. These form the major therapeutic processes that determine the self centered counseling process (Corey 2001).
While the person centered theory advocates purely on a person’s assets in the effort to solve a given psychological condition, the role of the people around him is not undermined. This led to Thorne’s development of the person centered theory by inclusion of spirituality as an aspect of this approach. While human being’s try to maintain a personal space not approachable by others, in times of dire need, trauma and confusion, a human being naturally strives for “place in the comfort and confidence of other people. Equally, when an individual feels like he has lost his original place in the world, he seeks refuge in a place where he is accepted. This marks the comfort of a ministry that is developed for such people (Mearns & Thorne 2007). On his part, Eugene Gendlin developed another approach to person centered counseling. In his approach, he uses focusing as an integral part of counseling. By focusing, he meant that one must concentrate on an experience being felt in the body. Starting with the vaguest sensation, the whole issue can be brought in touch with the individual. By concentrating on each specific symbol, the precision of the experience can be felt. In addition, the experience can be subjected to a felt shift (Gendlin 1981; Leijssen u.d.).
Strengths and limitations
In this approach, the self has been figured out to be the most integral part of the process. The whole counseling process in framed in a way that will enable the client to have a transparent view of the self through the favorable conditions created by the therapist. In addition, the therapist does not seem to have any other substantial role than creating an environment that empowers the client to have access to the self. However, the point of contention comes in the fact that after having accessed the self, what is the best way forward? The theory fails to offer any solutions as of how the self should be developed or provide a solution to the knowledge that the self should be given prior to the self discovery. This point marks one of the most conspicuous limitations of the person centered counseling (Malhauser 2010).
Secondly, the issue of self concept arises another conspicuous controversy. Attitudes and being form the integral roles of therapists in person-centered counseling. The techniques aimed at making the client play a role towards his positive growth are given little emphasis in this approach. However, this position has caused controversies. Despite the fact that the client contains the key to personal growth, there are some human experiences that greatly call for expertise in order to attain any positive growth. In cases where the client has undergone a terribly traumatizing experience, the therapist might be forced to apply some expertise in order to succeed in his endeavor. It is necessary for the person-centered therapist to learn to use their professional expertise to solve a pending problem. For instance, if the client has spend his life under a destructive surrounding which controlled all decisions his life, he might fail to have a positive image of himself. This is especially true in the fact where the expectations of the controlling force failed to be met by the client. Developing a positive self conceptual construction might force the therapist to assume his expertise. This is relevant considering the fact that the client has a very low perception of himself.
The issue of core conditions as an integral part of person centered counseling defines another drawback in this theory. The therapist in this theory has to hold back and play a very low profile role allowing the client to play the most active part. On a closer analysis, it is clear that this approach does not really offer a new dimension that gives solution. What could have been the mile stone in the traditional forms of counseling could be the therapist’s failure to honestly apply the techniques that would allow him to apply the core conditions. Equally, these could be a draw back in the person centered approach. It is possible that personal attributes and failure to stick to the basic techniques could result into the same problem just as experienced in the traditional methods (Malhauser 2010).
The best part of this approach is founded on the fact that the person who really needs support is the client. At the same time, it is the client who has sufficient information that will help the therapist understand the whole situation and hence work at providing a conducive environment that will trigger constructive development. Similarly, giving the client an upper hand in the process of constructive development puts the whole process to an advantage because it is the client who knows exactly what ails. By providing a form of place or understanding as required by the client, deep personal analysis will be done by the client and hence result into positive development.
Considering the approach, one thing stands out in this person centered counseling. It is basically the core concept and the philosophical approach. According to this type of counseling, the client is given the major participatory role in the effort of positive development. The theory empowers the client through the development of a conducive environment that allows the client to use his experiences, authority and views to develop to contribute to his positive growth process. This is a very important approach because it is the patient that understands the real situation. In most cases, the therapist’s understanding could be marred by the several factors that affect understanding. As a result, the recommendations could not be favorable to the client. By depriving the therapist most of the powers to dictate and bestowing these powers to the client, positive results are very likely to be achieved. In addition, empowering the client does not only lead to solving the existent problem but also similar future cases. With such cases in the future, the client might be in position to tackle them without too many complications.
The issue of spirituality in the whole process of counseling is the most valuable thing that I have learned in this theory. Prior to this, I had not understood the role of spirituality in the psychological wellbeing of an individual. I used to believe that a human being is a social creature but who has limits as to how far his social life can go. For example, an individual has limits upon which no other person can go beyond. These limits mark the personal space. I never thought before that at some points, a human being yearns for space and acceptance. I had never thought that there are needs that would push him to accommodate the society and allow it to go beyond the limits of personal space. Considering that some situations are too deep and the society fails to offer the sense of belonging and the space necessary, religion becomes a point of acceptance and a source of space necessary for positive development of the individual. Therefore, I find the role of religion in psychological wellbeing as one of the most valuable aspects of this theory. To this point, I realize that it is important for people to have a religious inclination that will serve as a form of space and acceptance.
The most important thing that I have achieved is the realization that personal attribute and the therapist’s attributes and how these two can compliment in coming up with a solution for the client can be of great implication in counseling. I now realize that, for a successful venture in counseling, the client must have the ability to face experiences confidently, the readiness to trust in himself, be ready to evaluate himself and be ready to grow. On his part, the therapist must be ready to empower the client to attain all these by creating a favorable environment that facilitates the growth of these attributes. If these two are well developed and complemented, the field of counseling and psychotherapy will receive a great improvement.
Finally, I find the theory very appropriate except as mentioned in the drawbacks, the inability to offer remedy for the development of the self. By offering directions to the discovery of the self, the theory and process should offer the solution as to how this self should be developed into a constructive venture that will enable the therapist and the client to develop it so that the problem can be completely solved. Therefore, while more researches are done to better this approach, I believe that the currently available specifications should be put into consideration. Therapists should empower the clients while at the same time; clients should be ready to attain the mentioned attributes.
Corey, G., 2001. Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. New York: Cengage Learning.
Gendlin, T., 1981. Focusing (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.
Jones, R., 2001. Theory and Practice in Counseling and Therapy. London: Sage Publishers.
Leijssen, M., u.d. Focusing micro processes. 2010. Web.
Malhauser, G., 2010. An introduction to person-centered counseling. Counseling Resource. Web.
Mearns, D. & Thorne, D., 2007. Person-Centered Counseling in Action. London: Sage Publishers.
Rodgers, C., 1961. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.