Person-centered therapy diverges from the traditional model of the therapist as expert and moved instead toward a nondirective, empathic approach that empowers and motivates the client in the therapeutic process. The therapy is based on the belief that every human being strives for and has the capacity to fulfil his or her own potential.
Who can benefit?
Imagine a young woman who views herself as uninteresting and a poor conversationalist even though other people find her fascinating and quite engaging. Because her self-perceptions are not congruent with reality, she may experience poor self-esteem.
Through the process of person-centered therapy, we can learn to adjust our self-concept in order to achieve congruence. The techniques used in the person-centered approach are all focused on helping us reach a more realistic view of ourselves and the world.
Person-centered therapy may help us who are experiencing:
- Anxiety and psychosis
- Mood disorders
- Negative thoughts related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
So…how does it work?
Mental health professionals who utilize this approach strive to create the conditions needed for us 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 us grow psychologically, become more self-aware, and change our behaviour via self-direction. In this type of environment, we feel safe and free from judgment.
✽ Genuineness and Congruence
Person-centered therapists display genuineness and congruence with us, their clients. This means we always act in accordance with our own thoughts and feelings, allowing ourselves to share openly and honestly. This requires self-awareness and a realistic understanding of how internal experiences, like thoughts and feelings, interact with external experiences. By modelling genuineness and congruence, our therapist can help teach us these important skills. Displaying genuineness and congruence also helps create a secure, trusting relationship between us and our therapist. This trust contributes to a feeling of safety, which may help us engage with therapy more comfortably.
✽ Unconditional Positive Regard
Our therapist will show unconditional positive regard by always accepting us for who we are and displaying support and care no matter what we are facing or experiencing. They may express positive feelings to us or offer reassurance, or they may practice active listening, responsive eye contact, and positive body language to let us know that they are engaged in the session.
By creating a climate of unconditional positive regard, our therapist may help us feel able to express our true emotions without fear of rejection. This is often an affirming experience, and it may set the stage for us to make positive changes.
✽ Empathetic Understanding
Our therapist will also practice empathy during sessions, acting as a mirror of our feelings and thoughts. They will seek to understand us and maintain an awareness and sensitivity to our experience and our point of view.
The goal is to help us build a rapport with our therapist and ensure that we feel fully understood. This may provide us with the environment we need to reflect on our own inner thoughts, perceptions, and emotions, which may offer unique insights we did not have access to previously.
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