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Client-Centered Therapy

What is Client-Centered Therapy?

Client-centered therapy, also known as person-centered therapy or Rogerian therapy, is a non-directive form of talk therapy developed by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers during the 1940s and 1950s. In this approach, you act as an equal partner in the therapy process, while your therapist remains non-directive—they don't pass judgments on your feelings or offer suggestions or solutions. Rogers is widely regarded as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th-century. He believed that people are the best expert on their own lives and experiences. Rogers also suggested that people have a self-actualizing tendency, or a desire to fulfill their potential and become the best that they can be. His form of therapy was intended to allow clients to fulfill that potential by relying on their own strength to change.

Initially, Rogers called his technique "non-directive therapy." Much like psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Rogers believed that the therapeutic relationship could lead to insights and lasting changes in clients.

While his goal was to be as non-directive as possible, he eventually realized that therapists guide clients even in subtle ways. He also found that clients often do look to their therapists for some type of guidance or direction.

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Techniques

Mental health professionals who utilize this approach strive to create the conditions needed for their clients to change. This involves a therapeutic environment that is conformable, non-judgmental, and empathetic. They use three techniques to achieve this:

  • Genuineness and congruence

  • Unconditional positive regard

  • Empathetic understanding

By using these three techniques, therapists can help clients grow psychologically, become more self-aware, and change their behavior via self-direction. In this type of environment, a client feels safe and free from judgment.

Things to Consider

For client-centered therapy to be effective, you need to be willing to share your internal experiences with your therapist without their direct guidance or advice. You will act as an equal partner during therapy, often determining the course of your sessions (though your therapist may also ask questions or seek clarification).

While client-centered therapy can help you gain the self-efficacy needed to feel comfortable leading the conversation, this may not be the ideal approach for everyone. Some people may find they prefer therapists who are more directive.

The relationship you and your therapist establish is also an important part of this form of therapy. If you don't feel understood by your therapist or don't feel safe and supported enough to share your thoughts openly, it will be more difficult to make progress.

Benefits

Client-centered therapy may improve self-concept, which is your organized set of beliefs and ideas about yourself. Self-concept plays an important role in determining not only how people see themselves, but also how they view and interact with the world around them.

Client-centered therapy may help people who are experiencing:

  • Anxiety

  • Psychosis

  • Dementia

  • Depression

  • Mood disorders

  • PTSD

Several studies have shown that the techniques used in client-centered therapy are beneficial.

  • Genuineness and congruence appear to lead to better outcomes, especially when they are used in school counseling settings.

  • Unconditional positive regard is also effective, particularly at improving overall well-being for people with mood or anxiety disorders.

  • Empathetic understanding appears to promote positive outcomes, especially for people experiencing depression and anxiety.