What are the key concepts of the person centered approach to counseling?disscuss and critique of this approach

Expert Answers
coachshera eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The client (or student-centered) approach was first introduced by Carl Rogers. It involves helping your client /student discover that the answers lie within them. It is your job to provide your students with the resources, tool, and inquiry questions and guidance for them to discover and access that information.  

Are you looking at this approach for psychotherapy, school counseling/education, or organizational development?  The basis is the same-although applications will vary depending on your client (audience).

shankjes15 | Student

Many therapeutic philosophies and approaches were established during the 20th Century. Carl Rogers published Client-Centered Therapy in 1951 which has now come to be referred to as patient-centered or client-centered therapy. It differed from previous approaches in that it focused on the client and the client’s own understanding rather than an intrinsic or subconscious motivation. Previous therapies had focused on behavioral approaches and psychodynamic motivations while Rogers proposed that the focus should be on the client and their perception. Today, person-centered therapy is taught in many counseling lines of work and is often used in facilitated decision-making.

The key tenets of person-centered therapy are congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. Congruence, also known as genuineness, is the therapist’s ability to be neutral and not reflect their own motivations. This allows the client to focus on his/her own motivations while the therapist aids them to evaluate and reflect on their own experiences. Unconditional positive regard refers to the therapist’s ability and requirement to maintain a positive appraisal of the client, no matter what. Thirdly, empathy refers to an ability for the counselor to understand what the client is feeling. This empathy, rather than sympathy, allows the client to feel heard and engage in communication about their feelings and experiences.

As with most psychological approaches, there are benefits and challenges to person-centered therapy. One major benefit is that this approach highlights and endorses the self of the client. The client truly knows best and his/her wishes are the gold standard by which to make decisions. Another benefit is that this approach is less time-constrained than other approaches that had been developed previously. Person-centered therapy can be done in one session or done in multiple sessions over time. Previous approaches required uncovering deep motives and bring about awareness that could not be achieved without significant time commitment. One of the major challenges of this approach is the neutrality of the counselor. This approach will not be as valuable for cultures or groups who expect the authority figure to provide guidance as person-centered therapy requires neutrality from the counselor. This approach is less advantageous in short time periods if self-awareness is limited and needs to be further explored to gain clarity to the client’s desires. Overall, this approach offers a humanistic, practical assessment that has remained applicable over time and is beneficial in many counseling settings.