Counselling theory. In this essay I shall analyse the philosophy of the humanistic person centred therapeutic modal in relation to its origins, historical development and the people who influenced its development
In this essay I shall analyse the philosophy of the humanistic person centred therapeutic modal in relation to its origins, historical development and the people who influenced its development. I will also evaluate the key concept, strengths, weaknesses and principles of the chosen modal exploring arguments against it using relevant examples to indicate their importance in counselling practice. Moreover I will evaluate the key features of two other therapeutic approaches Transitional analysis (TA) and the Gestalt modal and their relevance to the practicing counsellor in comparison to their main chosen modal and justify why it is important to have an in-depth understanding of a modal before using its methods and techniques.
The basic philosophy of the person centred approach views the client as their own best authority on their own experience, and it views the client as being fully capable of fulfilling their own potential for growth.
The person centred or client centred approach was developed by Carl Rogers, one of America’s prominent psychologists. Born, Carl Ransom Rogers, on the 8th January 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, a quite suburb of Chicago. One of six children of Walter and Susan Rogers, Carl, a clever individual for his age, who could already read well before he started kindergarten. Rogers came from a strict religious background. His parents with strong Christian religious beliefs and values from Midwestern farm culture, along with his practice as an altar boy and the and the isolated of family atmosphere, lead Rogers to his attitudes of independence and experiences in farming taught him about the strength and growth of nature.
Rogers interest’s in farming would eventually lead him to the University of Wisconsin reading agriculture, where he remained active in religious practice and with his ambition to become a minister he change course to History. At the age of twenty he went to China to take part in a Christian conference, in which he unearthed different feelings and attitudes towards Christianity and evangelicalism and awakened dormant feelings and intrigue in which he started to question his parent’s values and Beliefs. After graduating history in 1924 he moves to New York and married Helen Elliot against the wishes of his parents.
Carl Rogers began working in New York, with the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (Merry 2002). Working as a psychologist using the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach, recognized as pioneered by Sigmund Freud, is based on a medical model i.e. the client needs to be fixed, cured, treated or changed. This type of therapy assumes that the therapist knows what is best for the client and therefore is directive by nature. Rogers “gradually became dissatisfied with this approach as it did not do justice to the fact that the client in a deep sense knows his/herself better than the therapist.” Rogers moved away from Psychodynamic approaches to therapy and took a different view in which he regards that it is essential to create a therapeutic relationship, which a person may use for his own personal growth. Some of the influential figures that influenced Carl Rogers where:
- Otto Rank: a teacher and one of 's closest colleagues for 20 years and a prolific writer on psychoanalytic themes.
- ; a psychologist whose concept was one functional psychology and the living organism.
- W. H. Kilpatrick: a colleague who was a major figure in the movement of the early 20th century.
- Paul Tillich: a liberal protestant theologise
- Alfred Adler: Were an medical and .
- Rollo May: an .
- Abraham Maslow: an professor of .
- Kurt Goldstein: Were a neurologist and psychiatrist who was a pioneer in modern neuropsychology.
The person centred model of counselling has its origins within Humanistic psychology and the phenomenological approach (Carl Rogers 1902-1987) from which he draw his ideas from. Rogers who view of the ever changing world, believes that people themselves hold all the answers, and it is in the empowerment of adults they can achieve their full potential by allowing open communication so they can understand their concepts and attitudes. This non-directive approach believes in the person’s potential and ability to make the right choices for him or herself, regardless of the therapist's own values, beliefs and ideas. Rogers a committed practitioner drew upon his own experiences to demystify therapy; to focus on the client and crucially to emphasize honesty and the destructiveness of manipulation. He would focus not on problems and solutions but on communion on what has been described as a “person to person” relationship (Boy and Pine 1982).
Clients in person-centred therapy are perceived to move in the following directions:
- away from facades and the constant preoccupation with keeping up appearances;
- away from 'oughts' and an internalised sense of duty springing from externally imposed obligations;
- away from living up to the expectations of others;
- towards valuing honesty and 'realness' in one's self and others;
- towards valuing the capacity to direct one's own life;
- rewards accepting and valuing one's self and one's feelings, whether they are positive or negative;
- rewards valuing the experience of the moment and the process of growth rather than continually striving for objectives;
- towards a greater respect for and understanding of others,
- towards a cherishing of close relationships and a longing for more intimacy,
- towards a valuing of all forms of experience and a willingness to risk being open to all inner and outer experiences, however uncongenial or unexpected
The importance of a person centred approach is that it empowers a person to self-actualise. This tendency might be phrased (Goldstein, 1995) as the “desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming”.
Main key concepts of and principles of the modal of Person Centred Counselling are:
The Core Conditions:
Origin: 1900–05; Greek
Empathy is also an essential core condition required for a successful therapeutic relationship. When the counsellor is empathic it means that the he/she will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the clients world, and “can stand in the clients shoes and perceive things as the client perceives them” (Hough M, 2002:54).
When the counsellor perceives what the world is like from the client's point of view, it demonstrates not only that his/her view has value, but also that the client is being accepted. A personal empathic example from a session involved a wheelchair bound person who was talking about her pain. I was aware I was at a deep level of empathy and coming from her frame of reference I say to her “I don’t think I would be good with pain”.
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Unconditional Positive Regard:
Unconditional Origin: 1660–70
Positive Origin: 1250–1300; < Latin positīvus;
Regard Origin: 1350–1400 French
The client is regarded as a person of worth; he or she is respected. The counsellor’s attitude is nonevaluative, non-judgemental, without criticism, ridicule, depreciation or reservations. (Brookes/ Cole 1985) The client is free to explore all thoughts and feelings, positive or negative, without danger of rejection or condemnation. The therapist may not approve of some of the client's actions but the therapist does approve of the client. Tithe therapist needs an attitude of "I'll accept you as you are" Crucially enabling clients to explore and to express without having to do anything in particular or meet any particular standards of behaviour to 'earn' positive regard from the counsellor. People who are able to self-actualize are more likely to have received unconditional positive regard from others.
“Congruence is the state of being of the counsellor when her outward responses to her client consistently match the inner feelings and sensations which she has in relation to the client. (Means, and Thorne, 1999)
Also known as genuineness Congruence is the most important attribute in counselling according to Rogers. The therapist generally reveals little of their own personality to enable the client to experience themselves as they really are. As a therapist you need to be authentic without a front or façade, to being transparent and true to yourself as well as your client. There is no air of authority or hidden knowledge, and the client does not have to speculate about what the counsellor is 'really like. “It gives the client an understanding of how his/her behaviour affects others from someone who is trustworthy.” (Class Hand-out 2012) This environment will allow the client to explore his conflicts/ difficulties without fear of rejection or criticism. (Means and Thorne 1988). For example if the client presents a situation where the professional does not agree with their action or beliefs, and may reserve these, it may be difficult to be honest in such a circumstance, and therefore maintain an open and honest relationship.
Introjected Values: These are traits from our parents, peer’s, society and media which are uncritically accepted by ourselves which have been instilled onto us when we are young. Introjection is the act of taking something on board and incorporating into one’s psychological structure without modification and then believing it originated from inside. For example, I was needed for two snooker matches on the same night for two different venues, I felt awful, knowing I was to let one of the party of peers down. My introjected values passed down from my parents was one of don’t let people down. ‘Big boys don’t cry’, ‘children should be seen and not heard’ and other people know bests are others socially accepted introjected values. T Merry (1999). Introjected values are what people and mainly society use as a tool for conformity; these can change depending upon diversity and the changing world.
Locus of evaluation: Evaluating experiences or controlled behaviour inside or outside the persons. There are two types of evaluation of locus, these are Internal and external. With internal value of locus the individuals believes that their behaviour is guided by their parents decisions and efforts, as for external value of locus individuals believe that their behaviour is guided by fate, luck or other external circumstance. People believe they are in control of their lives and others do not. Your locus of control, believes that success or failure is down to the choices you make in life. Being in touch with your deepest inner feelings and experiences, connected to your being, you can move forward towards what Rogers described as “Fully Functioning” Rogers (1963)
Conditions of worth: Coined by Rodgers in 1959, to mean the conditions of values placed on you by someone else, like our parents, peers and media unconsciously. Conditions of worth manifest within us and change our lives accordingly to someone else’s values and believes. When striving to attain positive regard from other people we ignore one-selfs perceptions by way of denial, distortion or being non-experimental.
Actualising tendency: Is our self-drive to achieve fully functioning person status, it is our self-organism which enables itself to reach its full capacity. Although the organism will develop; it only develops through our own thoughts, feelings, experiences and values, beliefs and ideology of others. As an organism, growth is detriment, but it can change depending upon your needs. Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of needs shows that once one need is met the others may change; as our organism is forever changing we are striving to become fully functioning adults. We may never achieve our actualising tendency needs.
Seven Stages: Is a process which self-development to fully functioning adulthood. It is made achievable in small stages. Its movement from the rigidity, towards flowingness and one self’s acceptance of own feelings is a key part. The problem is out there, it’s not mine. No ownership and no desire to change. A problem does exist, denial, it’s not my fault, play the victim. Acceptance of their feelings; this is where Rogers’s states a change will come about. Rapport, well established, start to work in the here and now. I am now hurting, I do not like this, organism wants change, I can change, the organism valuing process sets in. I am a fully functioning adult, mostly. “A potential limitation of this approach is the way some students-in-training and practitioners with person centred orientation have a tendency to be very supported of clients without being to challenging”.
Limitations of person centred therapy:
- In therapy a major weakness of the humanistic approach is one of being able to verify that particular practitioners are any good but this applies to all perspectives...
- Rogerian counselling is often not viewed as directive enough to facilitate change at a pace that can be funded within public organisations, that seems like a valid criticism, but perhaps too specific to the person-centred approach
- The humanistic approach is totally inappropriate for treating psychopathy - you have to have a certain level of emotional contact with the client to work with people and that just isn't possible with psychopaths. humanism isn't well suited to dealing with that extremity of emotional damage.
In reference to person-centered therapy, Nystul (2006) reported that unclear counseling goals create ambiguity in the counseling process. In addition, Usher (1989) contended that the person-centered approach is prone to cross-cultural bias in terms of its emphasis on self-actualization, independence, and individualism. Nystul(2006) also suggested that Roger's core conditions are not absolutely necessary, rather merely facilitative for personality change.
A frequent criticism of the person-centred approach is that delivering the core conditions is what all good therapists do anyway, before they move on to applying their expertise and doing the real work of 'making clients better'. There are many criticisms of the person centred approach which include:
- That its effectiveness it is difficult to measure as there are no predefined outcomes.
- That there is only limited empirical research to measure the effectiveness of this approach
- Therefore it is not possible to have strict time limits on the number of sessions.
- It does not offer advice or guidance, which is what the client may be looking for.
- If the single basic motivating drive that an organism has is to self-actualisation, then this natural process should not require a counsellor or a helper.
It can be said that Client-Centered therapy is built around attitude. It is the psychologists attitude which shapes therapy, and not any specific technique. This is one of the major differences between Client-Centered therapy and other forms of therapy. Basically, the Client-Centered therapist seeks to release the potential within the client, and not to solve problems for them.
“The main philosophies of TA include the belief in the intrinsic value of all people I'm okay - you're okay, that people are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings and behaviour, a person's own experiences is of prime validity and that each person constructs and decides their own destiny, and can change those decisions” . These philosophies are in accord with the person centred model in terms of that each individual should be viewed with UPR and that he/she is the best authority on him/her self and thus has the ability to self actualise.
T A was pioneered by Eric Berne, born May 10, 1910 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as Eric Leonard Bernstein son of David Hiller and Sarah Gordon Bernstein and the founder of Transactional Analysis. This modal is based on a medical mode, as he followed his father into the medical profession as a doctor. This model like person centred therapy is about working in the here and now. Berne believes we have a life script that is learned by the age of seven and that we have different ego states in which we flow in and out of unconsciously. The life script is defined by Berne as “precious life plan” Margaret Hough (1998) it is similar to the conditions of worth “instils values and elicit behaviours that are at odds with a person's inborn organismic valuing process”
Eric Berne presented transactional analysis to the world as a phenomenological approach supplementing Freud's philosophical construct with observable data by moving to an interpersonal motivational theory. His theory was influenced by:
- : An born
- : an Austrian-American psychoanalyst
- P: Austrian-American psychologist remembered for his theories involving and treatment of .
- : Italian
- : -born and known for his of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase .
At any given time, a person experiences and manifests their personality through a mixture of behaviours, thoughts and feelings. In T A there are three ego-states that people consistently use.
Parent ("exteropsyche"): There are two forms of Parent we can play.
The Nurturing Parent: caring and concerned often seeking to keep the Child contented, offering a safety and unconditional love.
The Controlling parent: (or Critical): Tries to make the Child do as they want transfers values or beliefs to enable the child to understand and live within the norms of society.
Child (“archaeopsyche”): There are two types of Child ego states.
The Free Child: The Natural Child does impulsively whatever he or she wants to do. or standing up for your own rights. Free Child is self-centered and insensitive to other people’s feelings.
The Adaptive Child: The Adapted Child is the trained child who develops social awareness. develops very slowly from interacting with their environment, especially with parents who are their primary teachers or role models.
Adult ("neopsyche"): While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards reasonably and assertively and process information and making predictions absent of major emotions similar to that of a computer. The Adult is comfortable with them-self and is, for many of us, our 'ideal self'.
Each ego state is vital in its contribution to the balanced personality, leading to survival and growth of the individual. They must be maintained in a healthy balance and each one must be respected.
Berne observed peoples transaction and named theses strokes. Understanding strokes is the art of Transactional Analysis; these strokes are often known as “warm fuzzies” or “cold prickles”, (T A Today 1998) they are the attention or responsiveness that other people give. We strive for positive strokes, but if these are not attainable we will be quite happy with negative ones. As children we do not bother which we get.
Transactional Analysis Philosophy, Principles and Practice
The Tranactional analysis approach and the person centred approach:
- Both based on an indviduals self actualising tendency
- Discovery learning is valued,
- Authentic therapuetic relationship.
- Both are rooted in the here and now
- See things from the individuals personal frame of reference.
- Co-create the experience between the therapist and client.
- Ask exploratory questions.
- Coming from the client’s frame of reference more frequently using his/her own contrasting experiences of awareness, all of which would be viewed as being directive by a person centred approach.
A branch of psychology founded by Max Wertheimer and colleagues. Founded at the beginning of the century, and made famous by Fredrick (Fritz) Pearls, who married Lore Posnor better known as Laura Pearls a gestalt psychologist. It was pioneered throughout the U.S.A. in the 1950's and 60's after leaving South Africa, to which they fled Nazi Germany due to their Jewish background. Gestalt is based upon research and experiments in which people organise stimuli into patterns and shapes. One of the leading Humanistic approaches, Gestalt; like person centred therapy, deals with personal growth and works within the here and now. Unlike person centred therapy Gestalt is commonly used in groups. Part of the gestalt modal looks at “existentialism “Systematic investigation of the nature of human existence and “phenomenology “systematic investigation of the consciousness (Oxford Dictionary of Sociology)
Other influential influences in Gestalt Therapy:
Max Wertheimer: Europe-born psychologist
Kurt Koffka: psychologist
Wolfgang Kohler: A German psychologist and phenomenologist
Gestalt Therapy is best considered as a form of existential therapy:
It focuses on:
- What and how of behaviour and not why.
- Here and now or the immediacy.
- Integrating fragmented parts of the personality
- Unfinished business from the past.
"Insight is a patterning of the perceptual field in such a way that the significant realities are apparent; it is the formation of a gestalt in which the relevant factors fall into place with the respect to the whole" Heidbreder, 1933
Main Gestalt Therapy Principles:
- Direct experience
- Phenomenological focusing
The therapeutic relationship in Gestalt therapy emphasizes four characteristics of dialogue:
1. Inclusion: This is putting oneself as fully as possible into the experience of the other without judging, analyzing or interpreting while simultaneously retaining a sense of one's separate, autonomous presence. This is an existential and interpersonal application of the phenomenological trust in immediate experience. Inclusion provides an environment of safety for the patient's phenomenological work and, by communicating an understanding of the patient's experience, helps sharpen the patient's self-awareness.
2. Presence: The Gestalt therapist expresses herself to the patient. Regularly, judiciously, and with discrimination she expresses observations, preferences, feelings, personal experience and thoughts. Thus, the therapist shares her perspective by modeling phenomenological reporting, which aids the patient's learning about trust and use of immediate experience to raise awareness. If the therapist relies on theory-derived interpretation, rather than personal presence, she leads the patient into relying on phenomena not in his own immediate experience as the tool for raising awareness. In Gestalt therapy the therapist does not use presence to manipulate the patient to conform to preestablished goals, but rather encourages patients to regulate themselves autonomously.
3. Commitment to dialogue: Contact is more than something two people do to each other. Contact is something that happens between people, something that arises from the interaction between them. The Gestalt therapist surrenders herself to this interpersonal process. This is allowing contact to happen rather than manipulating, making contact, and controlling the outcome.
4. Dialogue is lived; Dialogue is something done rather than talked about. "Lived" emphasizes the excitement and immediacy of doing. The mode of dialogue can be dancing, song, words, or any modality that expresses and moves the energy between or among the participants. An important contribution of Gestalt therapy to phenomenological experimentation is enlarging the parameters to include explication of experience by nonverbal expressions. However, the interaction is limited by ethics, appropriateness, therapeutic task, and so on.
(1993 Gary Yontef, Ph.D)
Gestalt therapy is an existential and experiential that focuses on the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts in which these things take place, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of the overall situation.
"There is only one thing that should control: the situation … If you understand the situation you are in and let the situation you are in control actions, then you learn to cope with life." Fritz Perls
Gestalt emphases are about wholeness; this modal needs total client participation so rapport building and core conditions can be initiated. The counsellor will enter and understand the client’s frame of reference. They will also be aware of body language and statements being made about their feelings, which may not be the true emotions, they use their own experiences and awareness to challenge with support. Gestalt therapists accept that many current problems or difficulties that the person is carrying are probably `unfinished business' from the past. Gestaltists encourage closure. Unlike person centred therapy this modal can be really challenging for the clients, and should only be used by fully qualified Gestalt practitioners. I myself, at this moment in time, see this modal as non-directive. As for a client centred approach they would have you to believe it is a direct approach due to its “experiments as an integral part of methodology; interwoven with dialogue”
“Gestalt” is a German word meaning 'form', 'pattern' or 'configuration'. Margaret Hough (2002)
The Gestalt approach and the person centred approach: Similarities and
- Both have a Maslovian foundation based in the self actualising tendency.
- Both value discovery learning.
- Both emphasise the authentic I - thou relationship.
- Both approaches pay attention to the genuineness of the therapist as a person.
- Both are rooted in phenomenology and existentialism (here and now personal frame of reference as they are).
- Both approaches have wider implications in society.
Differences: Gestalt therapy uses experiments as an integral part of methodology; interwoven with dialogue; this approach would generally be seen as directed by a client centred approach.
- A Gestalt therapist will, like a person centred counsellor, come from clients frame of reference. but more frequently use his/her own contrasting experiences of awareness.
- If in person centred counselling the direction and power is focused on the client then in Gestalt the power is in ‘the between’. In Gestalt the therapist would feel free to suggest ideas for an experiment, the therapist and client would co-create the experience.
- I guess the therapist will use the phenomenological enquiry and method of exploration which often involves a therapist asking the number of exploratory questions. A person centred counsellor is less likely to ask a number of exploratory questions are likely to offer more a reflection.
Limitations of Gestalt Therapy:
- Clients who have been culturally conditioned to be emotionally reserved might
- not see value in experiential techniques.
- Clients may be "put off" by a focus on catharsis.
- Clients may believe that to show one's vulnerability is to be weak.
- Ineffective therapists may manipulate the clients with powerful experiential work
- Some people may need psycho-education.
Person centred, in practice is centred in the client as an individual. Desktop therapy is essentially relational. This is of course a difference in emphasis and either approach excludes either the individual or the relationship.” There are many dangers of using techniques without adequate training, for both a counsellor and the client.
The dangers for the counsellor are:
- Litigation. (complaints)
- Loss of licence.
- suspension of membership of a professional body e.g. BACP.
- Loss of job.
- Damage credibility of the individual/profession.
- Bring the profession into disrepute.
- Bad press.
- Lose respect of colleagues.
- Lose future/current clients.
- Could have a detrimental effect on the council's confidence.
- Leave the counsellor feeling guilty.
The dangers for the client to include:
- Give the client a false sense of security.
- Physical danger.
- Psychological distress/emotional. Could lead to depression, suicide.
- Increased anxiety.
- Loss of trust in counselling therapy.
- resentment and anger.
- Create additional psychological problems.
While conducting a counselling session remember to always:
- Demonstrate professionalism and maintain rapport throughout the session.
- Convey to the client that his or her confidentiality will be strictly protected.
- Speak with the client at his or her level of understanding.
- Clarify important misconceptions but avoid extended talk.
- Stay organized and avoid counselling outside the protocol’s structure.
- Avoid collecting data about the client during the counselling session.
The principles of counselling are easy to learn but difficult to apply and service providers can easily make mistakes, such as the following:
- Moralizing, preaching, and patronizing.
- Making light of the client’s own version of a problem.
- Not accepting the client’s feelings.
Anyone can call themselves a counsellor. They do not need qualifications or any form of training within this specialised field. It is paramount that when choosing, a counsellor, that background checks and maybe references are carried out thoroughly, otherwise it can have serious implications or long lasting repercussions. Many great counsellors have a vast array of skills and knowledge within this ever changing field of practice. All good counsellors are members of a profession awarding body which provides a guideline’s in which counsellor’s work. This awarding body is commonly known as, The British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapist. If these guidelines are not adhered to you could be putting the client as risk. As well as putting the profession into disrepute and leaving yourself open to litigation and loss of licence of practice and you may also be putting the persons you are working with at risk. Apart from unearthing new problems, you could be leaving the client without support and vulnerable to irreversible physical change which could lead to depression and certain cases suicidal tendencies.
Tony Merry 2002 Learning and Being in Counselling 2nd Ed PCCS Books Ltd
Boy A V, Pine G J (1982). Client-Centred Counselling. A Renewal. Allyn and Bacon, Boston
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Goldstein, Kurt. The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived from Pathological Data in Man. 1934. New York: Zone Books, 1995.
Carl R Rogers 2004 On Becoming a Person 2nd ED Constable & Robinson Ltd
VARIOUS, (1996), Introduction to counselling theory, MANCAT (pp. 27)
Margaret Hough 2002 A Practical Approach to Counselling 2nd Ed Pearson Education Ltd
Ian Stewart Vann Joines 1998 T A Today Sage publications
John Scott & Gordon Marshall 2005 Oxford Dictionary of Sociology 3rd Ed Oxford University Press
Transactional Analysis Philosophy, Principles and Practice, Screen clipping taken: 23/01/2010
Brooks/Cole The therapeutic relationship: Foundations for an eclectic psychotherapy (1985). Monterey, CA (3rd ed.) (1980). New York: Harper & Row
VARIOUS, (1996), Introduction to counselling theory, MANCAT (pp. 18)
Gary Yontef Awareness, Dialogue, and Process 1993 published by The Gestalt Journal Press
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