This type of therapy diverged 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 Rogers’s belief that every human being strives for and has the capacity to fulfill his or her own potential. Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy, has had a tremendous impact on the field of psychotherapy and many other disciplines.
Rogerian Theory in Psychotherapy
Rather than viewing people as inherently flawed, with problematic behaviors and thoughts that require treatment, person-centered therapy identifies that each person has the capacity and desire for personal growth and change. Rogers termed this natural human inclination “actualizing tendency,” or self-actualization. He likened it to the way that other living organisms strive toward balance, order, and greater complexity. According to Rogers, "Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided."
The person-centered therapist learns to recognize and trust human potential, providing clients with empathy and unconditional positive regard to help facilitate change. The therapist avoids directing the course of therapy by following the client’s lead whenever possible. Instead, the therapist offers support, guidance, and structure so that the client can discover personalized solutions within themselves.
Person-centered therapy was at the forefront of the humanistic psychologymovement, and it has influenced many therapeutic techniques and the mental health field, in general. Rogerian techniques have also influenced numerous other disciplines, from medicine to education.
Six Factors Necessary for Growth in Rogerian Theory
Rogers identified six key factors that stimulate growth within an individual. He suggested that when these conditions are met, the person will gravitate toward a constructive fulfillment of potential. According to Rogerian theory, the six factors necessary for growth are:
- Therapist-Client Psychological Contact
This first condition simply states that a relationship between therapist and client must exist in order for the client to achieve positive personal change. The following five factors are characteristics of the therapist-client relationship, and they may vary by degree.
- Client Incongruence or Vulnerability
A discrepancy between the client’s self-image and actual experience leaves him or her vulnerable to fears and anxieties. The client is often unaware of the incongruence.
- Therapist Congruence or Genuineness
The therapist should be self-aware, genuine, and congruent. This does not imply that the therapist be a picture of perfection, but that he or she be true to him- or herself within the therapeutic relationship.
- Therapist Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)
The clients’ experiences, positive or negative, should be accepted by the therapist without any conditions or judgment. In this way, the client can share experiences without fear of being judged.
- Therapist Empathy
The therapist demonstrates empathic understanding of the clients’ experiences and recognizes emotional experiences without getting emotionally involved.
- Client Perception
To some degree, the client perceives the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. This is communicated through the words and behaviors of the therapist.