Person-Centered Therapy: Carl Rogers

One of the most popular therapies used independently and in combination with other therapies is Client/Person-Centered Therapy. Carl Rogers originally proposed this therapy. It emphasizes the central role of the client as in charge of the therapy. It focuses on developing a greater understanding of self, self-exploration, and improving self-concept in a pursuit to become fully functioning.

Fundamental Concepts

Rogers gave some fundamental concepts central to the understanding of client-centered therapy. These concepts are:

Self-Actualization − Rogers' concept of self is closely aligned with that of Maslow and thus focuses on attaining one's fullest potential. Two distinct features of this concept are that it develops over a lifespan and is central to the development of self and personality.

Condition of Worth − Rogers suggested that conditions of worth are one's perception of right and wrong, which develops based on messages received from others in the form of conditional positive regard. It influences and shapes one's self-concept, self-worth, and self-image. Both too much conditional positive regard and unconditional positive regard have been reported to affect the positive development of the personality.

Fully functioning person − Rogers proposes a fully functioning person to be psychologically healthy. He believed that such a person is in ideal emotional health, is open, creative, accepting, trusting, and has a sense of meaning in life.

Phenomenological − This concept was not originally given by Rogers, and he considered it an important conceptual framework for understanding one's personality development and psychological issues. The phenomenological perspective is that everyone has a unique perspective on the world through which they experience life. This experience plays an important role in the treatment of the client.

Three Principles of Person-Centered Therapy

Carl Rogers has suggested three primary criteria, or principles, of a client-centered approach. These have been elaborated below:

  • This approach trusts the client's ability to maximize their potential or to self-actualize.

  • It acknowledges that the three therapeutic conditions of client-centered therapy, as Rogers proposed, are necessary for effective therapy.

  • A therapist is only there to assist the client, and a non-directive approach is necessary. This implies that the client gives direction to the conversation in therapy.

Who is a Person-centered Therapist?

Rogers and other client-centered therapists proposed some roles and responsibilities of a therapist who follows a client-centered approach to therapy. He suggests that a therapist has to be holistic and accepting. He should provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for the client to express herself. He should be especially aware of the client's verbal and nonverbal language while reflecting on it to the client. He must trust the client's ability to develop an agenda and thus should work as a facilitator instead of a guide. Above all, the therapist should be patient.

Goals of Client-Centered Therapy

The goals of client-centered therapy are centered around the person instead of the problem. It focuses on identifying, using, and integrating the client's resources and potential to overcome the presenting problem. Rogers and many others have suggested some basic goals of client-centered therapy. Seligman suggests the following goals −

  • Self-trust
  • Congruency
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-actualization
  • Positive Change
  • Self-awareness

  • Empower trust and the ability to resolve issues without being judged.

  • Encourage self-awareness and self-esteem in the client

  • Facilitate change in the client

  • Promote congruence in behavior and feeling of the client

  • Help clients become self-actualized and gain the ability to manage their lives.


The therapy puts great emphasis on the client-therapist relationship. It is commonly understood that in client-centered therapy, the client and the therapist are unaware of the direction the therapy session may take. However, there exists a basic assumption that the client is capable of change and is a "person in process'. It is suggested that the quality of the therapy depends more on the therapeutic relationship than on the techniques themselves. Some common and necessary techniques of person-centered therapy are discussed below −

Rogers has proposed three core conditions that are necessary and sufficient for person-centered therapy. These are -

  • Empathy − Empathy is one's ability to be in someone else's shoes and understand how that person feels. It involves the therapist's ability to feel what the client feels and convey this to the client. There can be three types of empathy, i.e., subjective (momentary experience of client's feeling), interpersonal (client's phenomenological experiences), and objective (through source outside client's frame of reference). An increased empathy in the therapeutic relationship leads to change and to learn in the client.

  • Unconditional Positive Regard − It is called "acceptance" and implies deep and genuine care for the client, characterized by reinforcing a person simply for being themselves.

  • Congruency − implies the therapist's ability to be and keep the therapeutic relationship transparent, and it involves being available and open in a therapeutic relationship.

Motivational Interviewing

It is a directive technique that includes attending to and reinforcing specific points that are a directive of change in a certain desired direction. It is used to help clients contemplate their thoughts and feelings in the initial stages of making changes. Non-directiveness involves being facilitative and letting clients take the lead in the session. The therapists avoid giving advice and implementing strategies.

Many other techniques like a reflection of feelings, open-ended questions, paraphrasing, encouragers, clarification, summarizing, and confrontation are used during sessions to facilitate change and awareness in the client.


Client-Centered therapy became famous during World War 2 when the veterans of war needed to adjust to normal civil life. The therapy has also been used to train managers and teachers. It is a popular approach, especially in counseling. This therapy can be used with individuals, groups, and families. It is effective with clients reporting anxiety disorders, alcoholism, psychosomatic problems, agoraphobia, interpersonal difficulties, depression, and personality disorders. The therapy can also be useful while counseling clients with an unwanted pregnancy, illness, or loss of a loved one.

This therapy applies to issues ranging from institutional change to leadership development and labor management to international diplomacy. It is predominately used for psychological adjustment, enhancing learning, improving frustration tolerance, and decreasing defensiveness in the client.


Carl Rogers originated a popular approach to counseling which is especially useful in resolving adjustment and emotional issues. This therapy has worldwide popularity and has been reported to be effective by different studies. Overall, it is considered one of the biggest successes of Carl Rogers as a humanistic psychologist.

Updated on: 12-Dec-2022


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