Rogers (1957) six conditions
Rogers (1957) postulated six conditions that he considered to be necessary and sufficient for change to occur.
1. The client and helper must be in psychological contact. A therapeutic relationship or emotional connection between the helper and client is essential.
2. The client must be in a state of incongruence. There must be a discrepancy between self and experience that leads the client to feel vulnerable or anxious. If a client feels no anxiety, she or he is unlikely to be motivated enough to engage in the helping process.
3. The helper must be congruent (genuine) or integrated in the relationship. The helper must be open to her or his own experiences and be genuinely available to the client. The helper cannot be phony in the helping relationship.
4. The helper must feel unconditional positive regard for the client. The helper values all feelings (although not necessarily all behaviors) and places no judgment on the feelings. Essentially, a helper is trying to understand a client’s feelings and experience but is not trying to judge whether the person “should” or “should not” have the feelings or whether the feelings are “right” or “wrong.”
5. The helper must experience empathy for the client. The helper tries to immerse herself or himself in the client’s feeling world and understand the client’s inner experiences. The understanding comes out of the helper’s experiencing of the client’s feelings, using the helper’s inner processes as a referent. The helper not only experiences the client’s feelings but also has his or her own reactions to the client’s feelings; the helper is thus able to go beyond words to understanding the client’s implicit feelings (Meador & Rogers, 1973). The helper tries to feel as if she or he were the client and temporarily living in the client’s life, without ever losing the awareness that they are separate individuals. The helper tries to sense and uncover feelings of which the client is unaware because of the threatening nature of these feelings. Rogers emphasized that empathy is not passive but requires thinking, sensitivity, and understanding. He described empathy as follows:
It means entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever that he or she is experiencing. It means temporarily living in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without asking judgments. (Rogers, 1980, p. 142)
Empathy can be distinguished from sympathy, in which the helper feels pity for the client and often acts from a position of power rather than as an equal. Empathy also differs from emotional contagion, in which a helper feels the same feelings as the client (e.g., becomes just as depressed as the client) and cannot maintain objectivity. Empathy involves a deep understanding of the client’s feelings. Bohart, Elliott, Greenberg, and Watson (2002) indicated that empathy is effective because it creates a positive relationship, provides a corrective emotional experience, promotes exploration, and supports the client’s active self-healing efforts.
Another construct that is similar to empathy is compassion, which means to resonate with the client’s suffering (see Vivino, Thompson, Hill, & Ladany, 2009). I think of compassion as caring deeply for another person and accepting that person while being fully aware of his or her frailties and humanness. Thus, it is more than just feeling others’ feelings; it is being able to feel deep understanding of what it must be like to be them. When I have trouble connecting with clients, I try to gain compassion for them, to accept and understand why they are as they are. Rogers probably considered compassion as a part of empathy, but it is helpful for therapists to cultivate compassion in addition to empathy because it allows them to feel deeply for what their clients are going through.
6. The client must experience the helper’s congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. If the client does not experience the facilitative conditions, they do not, for all practical purposes, exist for the client, and the sessions are not likely to be helpful.
Rogers (1951) stated that a facilitative attitude (being genuine, unconditionally positive in regard, and empathic) on the part of helpers is what is most beneficial for clients. He indicated that skills were important but that the facilitative attitude served as the basis for the skills. Skills without a facilitative attitude might not only be unhelpful but might be harmful.
In summary, Rogers speculated that if helpers can accept clients, clients can come to accept themselves. When clients accept themselves, they can allow themselves to experience their real feelings and accept that the feelings come from themselves. Hence, the OVP is unblocked, and the person becomes open to his or her experiences. The client can begin to experience love, lust, hatred, jealousy, joy, competitiveness, anger, pride, and other feelings; accept the feelings; and come to accept self. It is important to remember that acceptance of feelings is distinct from decisions about what to do about those feelings. Allowing oneself to have the feelings provides a basis for making decisions about what to do because the
actions are then based on inner feelings rather than on “shoulds.”