Friday, September 19th, 2014

Person Centered Approach Used In Counseling Psychology

Lots of counseling psychology professionals, today, adhere to ‘Person Centered Approach’ when interacting with their clients and for good reason too. We as human beings are essentially social animals. That been said, we are naturally oriented towards living in cooperation with our immediate social premise. Thus, the answer to one’s problems lies within the individual himself and a councilor therefore, only acts as an instrument to attune the client to these problems and motivate him towards seeking a fruitful solution. This is true essence of Person Centered or Rogerian Counseling.

The Rogerian approach to counseling differs from other forms of psychotherapy in that the client is never pushed into a particular direction by the counselor, but rather realizes and chooses the path on his own. Therefore, person centered approach developed by Carl Rogers is categorized as a form of non-directive therapy.

View Of The Human Nature According To The Rogerian Model

Carl Rogers always exhibited an optimistic view of human nature and this shows in his approach to understanding and diagnosing human psychology. The basic human nature is good, progressive and optimally directed towards social cooperation. He coined the term ‘self actualization’ to describe the motivational factors that naturally mobilize an individual towards growth, purpose and meaningful existence. Therefore, if an individual were put in an environment where warmth, empathy and acceptance were in abundance, then that person would achieve self-actualization.

Important parameters of Person Centered psychology are as follows:

  • As far as an individual is concerned, perceived reality is as good as actual reality. That is why person-centered approach is also known as phenomenological psychology.
  • Self Theory – Every person learns more about himself as a result of personal experiences. As such, people will always tend to compare themselves with others to identify both similarities as well as differences. This leads to a formation of two different self theories in a person, one being the real self – ‘Who I Am’; and the other being the ideal self – ‘Who I Want To Be’.
  • Conditional Acceptance – The Classical Rogerian school of thought says that most people behave in a certain way owing to the conditional acceptance that they were granted during their formative years. As such, their behavior also follows a pattern to ensure that acceptance is always assured.
  • Incongruence Between Real And Ideal Self -  When a person tends to behave in a different way to gain acceptance; one that is starkly in contrast with his or her real self, it marks the initiation of psychopathology in the individual. As the incongruence between real and ideal self seems to increases, the person faces experiences higher degree of isolation, leading to greater maladjustment.

Counselor Role In A Person Centered Environment

When taking a person-centered approach, the counselor is responsible for setting up an environment, which is both safe and conducive for the former to move forward with exploring an aspect of the self. Therefore, a counselor facilitates the exploration in the client by developing a unique ‘I-Thou’ relationship with the latter in an atmosphere that promotes empathy, positive regard and warmth.

Counseling Psychology professionals utilizing the Rogerian approach may sometimes use psychological testing methods like Q-sort as a way of assessing the client’s train of thought. Here, the counselor may write down hundred self-descriptive statements into different cards. These descriptions will range from ‘I am capable’ to ‘I am worthless’. The client is then asked to read each card and sort them into nine different piles based on what the person feels is most applicable to him or her in the first pile, and gradually distribute the rest of the cards into the eight remaining piles.

The selections are noted and the sorting process is restarted, except this time the client has to choose and arrange the descriptive cards based on how he/she would ideally like to be. This two sorts offer a good understanding of the client’s real and perceived self and therefore measure the degree of maladjustment (if any).

However, the use of diagnostic categories or profiling is not encouraged in this form of therapy as that would then place the counselor in a position of authority, thereby giving the person the license to judge the client in order to come up with a  treatment plan.

What A Counselor Looks to Achieve By Employing The Rogerian Model?

Since person-centered psychology puts all its focus on the individual, a counselor using the approach should ideally look to achieve the following results:

  • Promote realistic self-expectation within the client
  • Empower and enlighten the client to see his or her positive worth
  • Build confidence in the person and instigate self-direction in him or her
  • Aid the client to develop greater social skill, maturity and therefore a better adaptive behavior
  • Help cope with stress in a more fruitful way and
  • Facilitate the client in becoming fully functioning in all aspects of his or her life.

Variance Of Rogerian Techniques Over The Years

In a person centered approach, the counselor helps the client in many different ways. For instance, he/she may help the client accurately reflect feelings, or even bring about an enhancement in the latter’s focus on the true problem at hand. At other times, the counselor aids the client in get a clarified view on the unresolved feelings by employing counseling skills like open-ended questions, reflective statements etc. Nevertheless, the techniques used by Rogerian counselors have evolved over the years, a chronological categorization and description of which can be found below:

  • 1940-1950 (Non Directive Period): This period of theory development focused primarily on listening to the client by offering the latter with a permissive atmosphere. During this time, counselors generally did not intervene.
  • 1950-1957 (Reflective Period): In this period, counselors did respond to clients’ feeling through empathetic reflective statements, while ensuring that they do not appear to be judgmental of the client.
  • 1957-1980 (Experimental Period): This period marked a shift in the counselor role into one now famously known as EWG or Empathy, Warmth and Genuineness.
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