Neukrug (2018), Chapter 7: Person-Centered Counseling, pp. 239-274.
Rogers, C. R. (2007). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change (Links to an external site.).Psychotherapy,44(3), 240-248
Reflect on Rogers’ Necessary and Sufficient Conditions and the text. What are the basic concepts of this theory that you might consider incorporating into your personal style of counseling? What is your rationale for the concepts you chose? In counseling clients who have a different cultural background from your own, what potential advantages and disadvantages need to be considered in adopting a person-centered perspective? What personal characteristics do they bring to the counseling relationship that will help or hinder the “necessary and sufficient conditions? Be sure to ground your comments with current, peer-reviewed scholarly sources.
In the mid-1900’s, psychologist Carl Rogers created a counseling theory that empowered the individual seeking counseling to lead their sessions and manage their own progress with the therapist as a guide. Rogers believed that every person was born already pursuing self-actualization. He theorized that humans needed supporting, loving and appreciative environments to stay on this path. He also stated people prioritize positive regard over self-actualization and would stray from their path to self-actualization in order to have their need for love and support met (Neukrug, 2017). This led to what Rogers called incongruence, which occurs when a person behaves in a way that opposes their actual thoughts and beliefs, phrased as their natural way of being (Neukrug, 2017). This would lead to maladaptive behaviors and internal conflicts as the individual battles their desires against the desires of the people from whom they seek love and support.
Person-centered therapy relies on fostering an environment where client realize their own power. In realizing their own power, the goal of person-centered therapy is to get the client to shift from an external locus of control (allowing others to guide their decisions) to an internal locus of control (making decisions from their own thoughts and beliefs) (Cook & Monk, 2020). In order to create an environment where the client feels in control person-centered counselors focus on empathic understanding, genuineness and unconditional positive regard to make the client realize their incongruence and feel confident in their decisions (Neukrug, 2017). In a study on the efficacy of person-centered therapy on adolescents, the children studied reported feeling free to express themselves, comfortable negotiating the power imbalance between themselves and the therapist and able to exercise power in their counseling relationship (Cook & Monk, 2020). Using a person-centered approach and allowing these children to have control in their sessions created a healthy therapeutic alliance, as was seen over several counseling sessions. According to Rogers, this healthy environment allows for clients to exercise the same control in their every day lives, leading them to congruence and back on the path to self-actualization.
Basic Concepts for Personal Counseling Theory
Two concepts from Rogers’ person-centered therapy I intend to incorporate into my own counseling style are conditions of self-worth and empathic responding. The readings on conditions of self-worth and the need for positive regard made me realize how many behaviors stem from a desire to meet conditions they believed would get them love and affection. Not only do people act incongruently to receive love from the people who placed conditions on them, but I believe people project these conditions onto everyone they seek they love from and will live in incongruence until they’re guided towards awareness and move back towards self-actualization. For example, let’s say Susie had a neglectful father. Whenever Susie asked for her father’s attention, he chastised her and told her not to be a nag. When Susie asked for nothing, her father praised her for needing less than her siblings. The condition for love was to not express her needs. Now, as an adult, Susie lacks the ability to establish boundaries and express her needs in relationships because that is what she believes the conditions for love are. So many people are like Susie (hey guys, I’m Susie) and exploring the conditions placed on their worth would be a great way to counsel.
Empathic responding is another aspect of person-centered therapy I would like to use now as a friend and supervisor, as well as in the future as a counselor. Specifically, I would like to work on how and when to use the various levels of empathic responding. Empathic responses will show that not only am understanding my clients, but that I am seeing their reality as they see it (Neukrug, 2017). While reading, I realized I tend to use higher levels of empathic responses when talking to people who may not be comfortable with my doing that. Even if I’m spot on in my interpretation, it can still be uncomfortable with someone that does not have a strong relationship with me. This highlights the value of a solid therapeutic alliance before attempting certain level of empathic responses, and the skills needed to use empathic responses effectively and appropriately.
Person-centered therapy relies heavily on counselors being empathetic to their clients and their clients receiving that empathy. When it comes to working with people from different cultural backgrounds, I believe it may be more difficult for the client to receive empathy from someone who does not share their circumstances. For example, when expressing frustrations I have with navigating the world as a Black woman to someone who is not Black, I find receiving empathy from non-Hispanic White people to be difficult because sometimes my brain automatically retreats to “how could you possibly understand.” With person-centered therapy, this dynamic can occur between any two people with different demographics. I think the key to overcoming this is Rogers’ idea of genuineness and unconditional positive regard. These tools would allow the client to feel supported and understood, even if the therapist doesn’t share experiences similar to the client. The different empathic responses are also key to showing you understand the client’s thoughts and feelings, even when you can’t relate.
Cook, D. & Monk, L. (2020). ‘Being able to take that mask off’: adolescent clients’ experiences of power in person-centered therapy relationships. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, vol. 19(2), pg. 95-111. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000476.
Neukrug, E. (2017). Counseling Theory and Practice, Second Edition. Cognella Academic Publishing.
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