Carl Rogers – Person-Centred Therapy Essay
Describe Rogers’ theory with attention to the following four areas: * General theory/philosophy * Theory of personality * Acquisition of dysfunction * “Treatment” of dysfunction This essay will begin by introducing Carl Rogers, with a brief description of his upbringing and career background and will go on to discuss the main areas of his theory – Carl Rogers – Person-Centred Therapy Essay introduction. The humanistic philosophy will be explained briefly and will lead on to Carl Rogers’ own humanistic beliefs and the birth of client-centred therapy.
Carl Rogers’ theory of the human personality will be explored, mainly Rogers’ idea of self and the self-concept and a person’s natural actualising tendency. This will lead on to his beliefs around the acquisition of human dysfunction, primarily being the imposed conditions of worth present from birth and a person’s internal locus of evaluation becoming external. This will then be brought to Rogers’ main theories of the “treatments” for these dysfunctions, concentrating on his six necessary and sufficient conditions within a therapeutic relationship and the positive effects these have on the client.
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The essay will then be brought to a conclusion, drawing together the main points and ideas from the essay. Carl Ransom Rogers was born on January 8th 1902 in Chicago, USA. He was one of six children who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. While he once felt he was called to become a Christian minister he eventually went on to embark on a career as a clinical psychologist. Rogers found it increasingly difficult to adapt to the ideas of behaviourism and psychoanalysis so he began to formulate his own ideas from his personal experience with clients and thus created client-centred therapy (Thorne, 2003).
The person-centred approach is a part of the group of approaches referred to as ‘humanistic psychology. ’ Humanistic psychology takes a phenomenological approach to the person. It is concerned with the human as an organic being and values human nature above the more scientific theories. It focuses on how the person experiences and perceives themselves and the world around them, whilst also believing the person to be continually in a process of growth.
It also takes an existential view of life, valuing the person’s autonomy and personal responsibility (Merry, 2002). According to Richard Gross, humanistic theories are concerned with characteristics that are distinctly and uniquely human. He describes how we have first-hand experience of ourselves as people and therefore are the experts on understanding our own behaviour. He also explains that Rogers himself saw human nature in a very optimistic light and believed that people are generally good and healthy (Gross, 2010).
A main humanistic belief is that of the actualizing tendency. Rogers himself believed this was a natural part of every human and that it was the single motivation present in every human being to maintain itself, grow, improve and move towards their full potential (Mearns and Thorne, 2007). He also described it as “…the tendency of the organism to maintain itself – to assimilate food, to behave defensively in the face of threat, to achieve the goal of self-maintenance even when the usual pathway to that goal is blocked.
We are speaking of the tendency of the organism to move in the direction of maturation, as maturation is defined for each species” (Rogers, 1951 cited in Mearns and Thorne, 2007). It is clear that he believed it was the fundamental force that drives the person towards fulfilment and development. Rogers’ also had many beliefs around the human personality. Lawrence A. Pervin explains that the main concept in Rogers’ theory of personality is that of the self and the self-concept.
Rogers believed that the individual perceives experiences and objects in the world around them and attaches meaning and value to them. The complete system of these perceptions is known as the person’s phenomenal field. Pervin then goes on to explain “Those parts of the phenomenal field seen by the individual as ‘self,’ ‘me,’ or ‘I,’ make up the self” (Pervin, 1993:174). The self-concept describes how a person views him or herself and is developed over time. It is dependent on the attitudes of the significant people around them, how they relate to the world and their own perceptions of themselves.
The person may trust other people’s ideas of reality and incorporate them in to their self-concept as though they were their own. (Thorne, no date, online) Another main concept within Rogers’ personality theory, as discussed earlier is that of the actualizing tendency. A person’s self-actualization, in an ideal world where it would not be hindered in any way would naturally lead the person towards reaching their full potential and becoming a fully functioning person (Mearns and Thorne, 2007). Rogers’ himself describes this as a process and a direction rather than a fixed destination (Rogers, 1961).
While a person moves naturally towards self-actualization this can be seriously hindered by what Rogers described as conditions of worth. In simple terms this can be described as the shaping of a child’s self-concept dependant on what is deemed acceptable behaviour to the child’s parents. This concept will be explored fully later in this essay. In an ideal world where parents were unconditional in their love for their child, the child would not have to adapt to suit their parents, therefore self-actualizing and growing in to a fully functioning person without any conditions of worth (Merry, 2002).
John Mcleod (2009) explains that from a very early age a child has a strong need to be loved and valued, usually by the significant people in their life, particularly their parents. However the love or approval from parents is not always unconditional and the child may find it difficult to grow with an acceptance of themselves and will begin to mould themselves, their behaviours and feelings in the way that is acceptable and approved of by their parents. Rogers described these as conditions of worth. He describes the self-concept of the child being shaped by their parent’s influences.
Tony Merry explains that babies begin to learn that some things are acceptable and some are not. Behaviour that their parents find acceptable will be rewarded and anything they do not believe is acceptable will be less rewarded or looked upon with negativity. Because of this the child will grow up wanting certain types of experiences, generally those that create positive reactions in people (Merry 2002). Richard Nelson-Jones describes this as a learned need for positive regard from others that will remain throughout childhood and continue in to adulthood.
This can become confusing then, if for instance the child is conditioned to believe that his/her natural behaviour is unacceptable. For example if a child is rewarded for apparent ‘tough’ behaviour and not rewarded, or even disapproved of for a soft nature, the child will begin to value themselves based on others perceptions and ideas rather that their own organismic valuing process. The child’s self-worth will become dependent on the positive regard shown to them by others by behaving in ways that others believe is worthy of respect and love.
The child’s self-concept would become distorted and as they grow in to adulthood they would believe fully that these behaviours are a part of their natural, true self (Nelson-Jones, 2010). Merry describes that someone who has acquired many conditions of worth and whose self-concept is distorted would become incongruent, this means that their conditioned self and their natural, organismic self would not match up. They would search for positive regard from others and have little faith in their own judgments and opinions; they would trust others evaluations and ideas above their own.
Rogers describes this as having an external locus of evaluation rather than an internal locus of evaluation. The person looks for confirmation from outside sources rather than themselves. This would ultimately cause very low self-esteem and self-confidence. Furthermore, if the persons conditioned self and organismic self are un-matching this may cause increasing confusion, tension, anxiety and depression in adult life. Rogers believed that the necessary treatment for these dysfunctions was for the person to experience the correct conditions within a therapeutic relationship.
The person would then be able to dissolve these conditions of worth and gradually their organismic and conditioned selves would merge. The self and self-concept would become one and they would be in a state of congruence. The person would be able to over-come issues such as anxiety and depression and live a more contented life. They would possess an internal locus of evaluation, trusting in their own judgements rather than depending on the opinions of others and would truly accept and understand themselves as individuals (Merry, 2002).
Carl Rogers describes six conditions that he believed to be necessary for therapeutic change. He stated that “No other conditions are necessary. If these six conditions exist and continue over a period of time, this is sufficient. The process of constructive personality change will follow. ” (Rogers, 1957a, cited in Merry, 2002:49). Although most attention were later given to three of the six conditions of which have become known as the core conditions, six were originally described by Rogers as necessary and sufficient for therapeutic change.
The three core conditions are all employed by the counsellor and are attitudinal qualities and values that are more about the counsellor’s beliefs than counselling techniques (Casemore, 2011). The first of the six necessary and sufficient conditions states a need for the client and therapist to be in psychological contact. Rogers believed that significant change in the client could not occur unless they are in relationship. He stated that all that is intended for the first condition is that the two people are in contact and that “each makes some erceived difference in the experiential field of the other. ” (Rogers, 1957 cited in Kirschenbaum 1990:221). The second of the six conditions states that the client should be in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious. This incongruence, as described earlier in this essay is an un-matching of the person’s self-concept and organismic self. When a person is unaware of the incongruence in them, they can become vulnerable to such things as anxiety and depression (Rogers, 1957 cited in Kirschenbaum 1990). The third condition as Brian Thorne explains states that the therapist should be congruent.
This means that the therapist would be completely themselves, completely transparent and not hiding behind a professional facade. It is the matching of what the therapist feels on the inside with what is portrayed on the outside. This however is dependent on the therapist maintaining a high level of self-awareness in order for them to be constantly in touch with their own feelings so that they are available to communicate this with the client when it is appropriate. Rogers came to believe that congruence was the most fundamental of the attitudinal qualities of the therapist that promotes growth in the client.
The fourth condition requires the therapist to experience unconditional positive regard for the client. This is an unconditional acceptance and caring of the person without any judgement or evaluation. Rogers liked to use the term ‘prizing. ’ Thorne goes on to explain the fifth condition which is that of the therapist experiencing an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference. Rogers described an ‘as if’ quality that stated the importance of the therapist entering the world of the client, thinking and feeling as if they were the client, without losing the ‘as if’ quality.
It is also of fundamental importance here to communicate this empathic understanding with the client in order for the client to experience this empathy (Thorne, 2003) The importance Rogers placed on the communication of empathy with the client is reflected in the last of the six conditions which states that the client perceives, to a minimal degree the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional acceptance for them. Rogers believed that if these conditions were not perceived by the client then they did not exist in the relationship and the therapeutic process would be hindered (Rogers, 1957 cited in Kirschenbaum 1990).
Although Rogers specified that these six conditions together were necessary and sufficient, most attention has been paid to the conditions of congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. These became known in the late 1960’s as ‘the core conditions. ’ These three conditions describe attitudes or qualities present in the counsellor and do not describe a technique used by the therapist but are a part of the therapist’s person (Merry, 2002).
Rogers’ (1964) states “If I can create the proper climate, the proper relationship, the proper conditions a process of therapeutic movement will almost inevitably occur in my client. ” Rogers’ then goes on to describe this therapeutic change in more detail, stating that if these conditions were present, a variety of things are likely to happen. He explains that the client may begin to explore their feelings more deeply and begin to discover hidden aspects of themselves that were not previously known.
If a client is prized by him they may begin to prize themselves and if they sense realness from him they may begin to be more real with themselves. Furthermore, if the client feels a deep understanding and acceptance from him, they may be more willing to listen to their own feelings and move towards an acceptance of themselves. Finally, he believes the client would move from having an external locus of evaluation to an internal locus of evaluation, trusting in their own judgments and opinions.
On reflection, this essay introduced Carl Rogers with a brief over-view of his upbringing and career background and lead on to describe and explore his theory of person-centred therapy, paying close attention to four main areas; general person-centred theory, Rogers’ theory of personality, his ideas about the acquisition of human dysfunction and what he believed to be the necessary “treatment” of these dysfunctions. While explaining the general theory of person-centred therapy, humanistic psychology, of which person-centred theory is a part, was explored paying attention to how it views the person.
Generally speaking humanistic theory values the human being and believes the person to be an organic, continually growing being while focusing on how the person experiences and perceives themselves and the world around them. Carl Rogers’ himself was optimistic in his view of the person and believed that humans are generally good and healthy. This then lead on to Rogers’ theory of the actualizing tendency that he believes is present in every human being giving a natural need to grow and develop and become a fully functioning person.
The essay then moved on to describing Rogers’ theory of personality where the self and the self-concept were described. Rogers believed that the individual perceives experiences and objects in the world around them and attaches meaning and value to them. He also believed that a person can unknowingly take on board another’s views and opinions and this can become a part of their self-concept, however distorted. The acquisition of human dysfunction was then described, looking at Rogers’ theory of conditions of worth. Rogers’ believed that a child is conditioned by their parents depending on what they find acceptable.
This can then cause the child’s self-concept to become distorted and for them in later life to possess an external locus of evaluation. The “treatment” of dysfunction was explained in detail looking at Rogers’ six original therapeutic conditions of which he believed were necessary and sufficient for therapeutic change in the client, whilst pointing out the three conditions; congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy that later became known as the ‘core conditions. ’ The essay then explained finally the positive affects these conditions have on the client within a therapeutic relationship.
Word count: 2,568 References Casemore, R. (2011) Person-centred counselling in a nutshell. 2nd edn. London: SAGE. Gross, R. D. (2010) Psychology : the science of mind and behaviour. 4th edn. London: Hodder Education. Kirschenbaum, H. (ed. ) (1990) The Carl Rogers Reader. London: Vintage McLeod, J. (2009) An introduction to counselling. 4th edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Mearns, D. and Thorne, B. (2007) Person-centred counselling in action. 3rd edn. London: SAGE. (Counselling in action). Merry, T. (2002) Learning and being in person centred counselling. nd edn. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books. Nelson-Jones, R. (2010) Theory and practice of counselling and therapy. 5th edn. London: SAGE. Pervin, L. (1993) Personality: Theory and Research. 6e edn. Chichester: Wiley. Rogers, C. R. (1961) On becoming a person: a therapists view of psychotherapy. London: Vintage. Rogers, C. (1964) – http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=ZBkUqcqRChg Thorne, B. Article – http://www. elementsuk. com/libraryofarticles/personcentred. pdf Thorne, B. (2003) Carl Rogers. 2nd edn. London: SAGE. (Key figures in counselling and psychotherapy).