Today’s psychotherapy attaches great importance to the relationship between therapist and client, who is seen as an equal that must be understood and respected. However, this was not always the case.
Carl Rogers and his client-centered therapy, Or the person, marked a very important turning point in the conception of psychotherapy. In this article, we will describe Rogers’ therapy, as well as this author’s analyzes of the clinical process in general and the attitudes of the therapist that allow the intervention to be successful.
Carl Rogers and Client-Centered Therapy
Client-Centered Therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s. His contributions were instrumental in the development of scientific psychotherapy as we know it today.
Rogers’ work is part of psychological humanism, a movement that claims the kindness of human beings and their innate tendency to personal growth in the face of colder and pessimistic perspectives of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Rogers and Abraham Maslow are considered to be the pioneers of this theoretical orientation.
For Rogers psychopathology is derived from incongruity between the experience of the organism (“organismic self”) and the concept of self, or sense of identity, thus, symptoms appear when behavior and emotions are incompatible with the person’s idea of himself.
Therefore, therapy should focus on the client achieving this congruence. When he does, he will develop, being open to presenting experiences and feeling confident in his own body.
Perhaps Rogers’ most important contribution has been the identification of common factors explaining the success of different therapies. For this author – and for many others after him – the effectiveness of psychotherapy does not depend so much on the application of certain techniques as on its passage through specific phases and the attitudes of the therapist.
Phases of therapy
From his research, Rogers proposed a basic and flexible outline of the psychotherapeutic process; to this day this model is still used, whatever the theoretical orientation of the therapistWhile each type of therapy can focus on a specific step.
Authors such as Robert Carkhuff and Gerard Egan then studied Rogers’ proposal and developed it. Let’s see what are the three main phases of psychological therapy.
The word “catharsis” comes from classical Greece, Where it was used to refer to the ability of tragedy to purify people by making them feel intense compassion and fear. Freud and Breuer later called their therapeutic technique a “cathartic method”, consisting of the expression of repressed emotions.
In this model, catharsis is exploring your emotions and the vital situation on the part of the client. Egan speaks of this phase as “identifying and clarifying conflict situations and missed opportunities”; it’s about being able to focus on the problem so that it can be resolved in the next steps.
Rogers Person-Centered Therapy focuses on the catharsis phase: it promotes the personal development of the client so that they can later understand and solve their problems on their own.
“Insight” is an Anglo-Saxon term which can be translated as “Intuition”, “introspection”, “perception”, “understanding” or “deepening”, among other alternatives. In therapy, this term refers to a time when the client reinterprets their whole situation and perceives “the truth” – or at least identifies with a particular story.
At this stage the role of the client’s personal goals is essential; According to Egan, in the second step, a new perspective is built and a commitment to the new goals is generated. Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy focus on the insight stage.
The action phase consists, as its name suggests, of act to achieve new goals. In this phase, strategies are prepared and applied to solve problems that block well-being or personal development.
Behavior modification therapy, which uses cognitive and behavioral techniques to solve specific client problems, is possibly the best example of action-oriented psychotherapy.
According to Rogers, the success of therapy depends fundamentally on meeting certain conditions; considers that these are necessary and sufficient for a therapeutic change, and therefore more important than any particular technique.
Among these requirements, which refer to the attitudes of the client and the therapist, Rogers highlights the three that depend on the clinic: authenticity, empathy and unconditional acceptance client.
1. Psychological contact
There must be a personal relationship between therapist and client for therapy to work. In addition, this relationship must be meaningful for both parties.
2. Client inconsistency
Therapy will only be successful if there is an incongruity between the client’s organismic self and his self-conceptO. As we explained previously, the concept of “organismic self” refers to physiological processes and that of “self-concept” to the sense of conscious identity.
3. Authenticity of the therapist
Whether the therapist is genuine or congruent means that he is in touch with his feelings and communicates them openly to the client. It helps create a sincere personal relationship and may involve the therapist making revelations about their own life.
4. Positive unconditional acceptance
The therapist must accept the client as he is, without judging his actions or his thoughts, in addition to respecting him and being sincerely interested in him. Unconditional positive acceptance allows the customer perceive their experiences without the distortion of everyday relationships, And therefore that it can be reinterpreted without a priori judgment.
5. Empathetic understanding
For Rogers, empathy involves the ability to get into the customer’s perspective and to perceive the world from him, as well as to experience his feelings. Understanding by the therapist makes it easier for the client to accept himself and his experiences.
6. Customer perception
Even if the therapist feels genuine empathy for the client and accepts it unconditionally, if the client does not perceive it, the therapeutic relationship will not develop properly; therefore, the therapist must be able to impart to the client the attitudes that will help him to change.