When Humanistic therapies evolved in the USA in the 1950s. Carl Rogers proposed that therapy could be simpler, warmer and more optimistic than that carried out by behavioral or psychodynamic psychologists. His view differs sharply from the psychodynamic and behavioral approaches in that he suggested that clients would be better helped if they were encouraged to focus on their current subjective understanding rather than on some unconscious motive or someone else’s interpretation of the situation.
Rogers strongly believed that in order for a client’s condition to improve therapists should be warm, genuine and understanding. One major difference between Humanistic Counsellors and other therapists is that they refer to those in therapy as ‘clients’, not ‘patients’. This is because they see the therapist and client as equal partners rather than as an expert treating a patient. Unlike other therapies the client is responsible for improving his or her life, not the therapist. This is a deliberate change from both psychoanalysis and behavioural therapies where the patient is diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Instead, the client consciously and rationally decides for themselves what is wrong and what should be done about it. The therapist is more of a friend or Counsellor who listens and encourages on an equal level. One reason why Rogers (1951) ejected interpretation was that he believed that, although symptoms did arise from past experience, it was more useful for the client to focus on the present and future than on the past. Rather than just liberating clients from there past, as psychodynamic therapists aim to do, Rogerians hope to help their clients to achieve personal growth and eventually to ‘self-actualize’- become the best version of themselves that than possibly be!
There is an almost total absence of techniques in Rogerian psychotherapy due to the unique character of each counselling relationship. Of utmost importance, however, is the quality of the relationship between client and therapist. “The therapeutic relationship…is the critical variable, not what the therapist says or does.”
If there are any techniques they are listening, accepting, understanding and sharing, which seem more attitude-orientated than skills-orientated. In Corey’s (1991) view “a preoccupation with using techniques is seen [from the Rogerian standpoint] as depersonalizing the relationship.” The Rogerian client-centred approach puts emphasis on the person coming to form an appropriate understanding of their world and themselves.
A person enters person centred therapy in a state of incongruence. Congruence is also know as genuineness or authenticity, in this case the client is seen as not being congruent between the ‘ideal self’ & the ‘actual self’. This is what is seen to cause the psychological conflict in the client. It is the role of the therapists to reverse this situation. Rogers (1959) called his therapeutic approach client-centred or person-centred therapy because of the focus on the person’s subjective view of the world.
Rogers regarded every one as a “potentially competent individual” who could benefit greatly from his form of therapy. The purpose of Roger’s humanistic therapy is to increase a person’s feelings of self-worth, reduce the level of incongruence between the ideal and actual self, and help a person become more of a fully functioning person.