Theories in Action Person Centered Counseling Mr. Tim Seibles:
The heart of person-centered counseling rests on three critical personality characteristics that Carl Rogers, the founder of this therapy and philosophy of living, believed were critical: congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy. People who are congruent are real, genuine, or transparent with others. Their feelings, thoughts and behaviors are in sync.
However, it is important to note the therapists who are congruent do not necessarily express moment-to-moment feelings with clients as sometimes, such feelings can rapidly change and often deepen over time. However, it is important for the therapist to express feelings toward his or her client, even negative ones, if such feelings are persistent.
Otherwise, the relationship would be marred by falseness or incongruity. Unconditional positive regard is the ability to provide the client with a sense of acceptance regardless of what feelings or experiences are expressed by the client. Such acceptance allows the client to feel safe within the relationship and to delve deeper into him or herself. Person-centered counselors believe that individuals are born with the need to be loved and when significant others such as parents do not provide unconditional positive regard, children end up living as they believe others would want them to be, as opposed to being who they really are.
The last quality, empathic understanding has been one of the most widely used tools of the counseling relationship regardless of theoretical orientation, and has been shown to be a critical factor in positive therapeutic outcomes. Empathy can be demonstrated in many ways including accurately reflecting the client’s meaning and affect using a metaphor, analogy or visual image, or simply nodding one’s head or gently touching the client during the client’s deepest moments of pain. A therapist, who shows empathy is with the client, hears the client, understands the client fully and is able to communicate such understanding to the client. Let’s join Dr. Ed Neukrug as he tries to embody the characteristics of congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy with Jose who is discussing some concerns he has about his mother and younger brother.