What methods can be used to reduce the percieved power differences within the counseling relationship in psychology?
The development of person-centered psychology by Carl Rogers marked a significant change in the client-therapist relationship. The most important change is that the role of the therapist as "all-knowing, all-powerful" entity has transformed into one of greater equality with the client. To have a successful relationship within person-centered psychological counseling, the client must have a trusting relationship with the therapist. Such trust must be established as early as possible in the therapeutic process.
One of the therapist's roles is to create trust by reducing the perception of power the client may have. The first task is to determine the basis of such a perception. It could be due to the client's own feelings of vulnerability, which drove him or her to seek counseling in the first place. It could also be due simply to the fact that the therapist is perceived as an expert in his or her field, which may make the client feel inferior within the context. Whatever the basis for it, once the reason for the power perception is determined, the therapist can work to relieve it.
One way to accomplish this is by focusing on the client and his or her background. Simple, non-therapeutic questions about the client's work, friends, or family, for example, can significantly reduce the power perception. Showing genuine interest in what the client has to say can elevate him or her to a position of greater equality with the therapist. To create a sense of greater empathy, the therapist could also offer anecdotes from his or her own life to connect with revelations by the client.
Once mutual trust and empathy are established, the therapist can begin working to help the client achieve the level of mental health and stability he or she needs. By helping the client find his or her own methods of achieving this, any remaining perception of power will be further reduced.
The main aim of person-centered therapy is to help the client arrive at his or her own solutions, or to achieve a type of self-healing. The therapist is simply to guide the process in an unconditionally accepting and empathetic way. Hence, the perception of unequal power within this relationship should be dispelled as quickly as possible.