Carl Rogers Person Centred Theory Psychology Essay

This essay will contain information on the role and function of a counsellor and will explain and evaluate the key concepts, phenomenology, existentialism, the seven stages of process and the six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change and show how these are important for a trainee counsellor. As well as looking at locus of evaluation, the organismic valuing process, a fully functioning person and the core conditions being in place in a counselling setting. All these in mind influencing the counselling practice of a person training in person centred counselling. All factors to be discussed are in all ways important for a trainee counsellor to study as they are all highly beneficial toward the knowledge and understanding needed before practising in person-centred counselling.

Person-centred counselling is a humanistic approach, founded by Carl Rogers to promote human psychological growth. The aim was to help people achieve a more satisfying and creative life for themselves. This approach was to help in a one-to-one relationship that of a client and of a counsellor and in some cases a group session. The role of the counsellor is to be understanding, and without the six necessary and sufficient conditions, mainly the three core conditions of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, a counsellor cannot be as understanding as they would like to think, towards a client. As without dealing with things in their own life, in personal development or learning how to not judge someone for things that they have done or how they live their lives, how can they deal with the personal thoughts and feelings of a person that will be brought to a counselling session?

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Lietaer (1984) as cited in Tursi and Cochran’s (2006:388) article, said:

“The more I accept myself and am able to be present in a comfortable way with everything that bubbles up in me, without fear or defence, the more I can be receptive to everything that lives in my client”

If such training has not been given then this could be more detrimental toward a client and possibly the counsellor. A problem may arise with a client that may well be very close to home for the counsellor and if this has not in the past been dealt with, may become very hard for the counsellor to attempt to deal with. In such circumstances there should of course be someone who could supervise or be there for advice. However, the effect this may have on the counsellor if not dealt with in the correct manner could be detrimental. Judgements are easy to make, whether they are right or not is not relevant, as a counsellor should not judge. As a training counsellor, the journey is to help and guide the trainee to be non-judgemental, to have congruence and to be empathic. These may prove difficult if the client brings something to the session that goes against everything the counsellor believes in but the unconditional positive regard and congruence mainly, should be in place. If the counsellor finds this too difficult, referral is an option as long as the counsellor stays professional throughout.

As a counsellor, being self-aware enables the counsellor to be open to the client’s own experience, one foot in one foot out. Embracing the client’s experiencing but making sure not to be taken in whole as this is the journey of the client not of the counsellor as such. This assist’s the client in moving on as they are feeling listened to as the counsellor is empathic toward them and experiencing in one way, what it is that the client has experienced or is experiencing, in turn, providing the necessary conditions to assist the client on their journey. Knowing that they as a client are being heard goes a long way, as Frankland et al (1995) states that listening to a person’s thought’s is entirely different to listening to that of a person’s feelings.

As part of the British culture, back in the past, people have been taught that for example ‘big boys do not cry’ or ‘children are seen not heard’ and that there is a time and a place for emotions of any kind to be expressed, therefore not publicly. This can cause difficulty for a person to listen to another’s feelings genuinely and respecting the feelings of another or on the other hand it can be very hard to express these thoughts and feelings after being told during childhood etc. that this was the wrong way of dealing with the emotions.

The role and function of a counsellor is to reassure the client, assuring them that they are in a quiet and safe place. Where a client is able to speak without feeling judged and is able to feel safe enough, to talk about their thoughts and feelings and the things that are going on in their life. Although this is a process, and the first few sessions are mainly about the building of trust between counsellor and client. Therefore it is very important that the client does not feel over-powered by the counsellor or that the counsellor does not abuse this power. Although it should be apparent at some point to the client that both client and counsellor are equal. As a counsellor in person-centred counselling the abuse of power can occur, however as Merry (2002) states, a non-directive approach is important.

When following the BACP’s guidelines and the training given as a trainee, the misuse of power should not occur. Once the trust is in place, the counsellor can facilitate the correct environment for the client; they now have a better understanding of. A counsellor also helps a client develop an internal locus of evaluation, dissolving any conditions of worth placed upon the client and the client becomes more congruent with themselves. Building trust with a client that does not want to be there can be greatly difficult and this is where the seven stages of process will come in.

The seven stages of process was hypothesised by Rogers as more of a guide for himself and other counsellors to see whether the client was progressing or stuck at a set stage and to assist bringing a therapeutic change for the client. However, for this process to achieve full potential, the six necessary and sufficient conditions must be in place, along-side keeping the client’s trust. The process of change can begin from any of the stages and the client does not necessarily start from the first stage. For example a client may begin at stage four but at some point go into stage two, because this is no linear process and every client is different. However, once the client is in a set stage they will build on experiences before moving onto the next.

Fiedler in the 50’s asked a variety of counsellor’s what they had considered the best parts for a therapeutic relationship. Carl Rogers in 1957, developed from Fiedler’s research and Roger’s created the six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change. The three most important factors of the six are that of unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathy. Wilkins (2003), states that it has never been asserted that these are ‘the core conditions’ but there have been many studies around these ‘conditions’ separately and together to see how effective they are. As Sharf (2011) states, research has shown that if the core conditions are in place this can bring therapeutic change. However, these as Wilkins (2003) explains, have never been tested, therefore the results are inconclusive. How can the amount of unconditional positive regard from a counsellor to a client be measured or even tested?

Therapeutic change is openness to experience as McLeod (2003) explains from a client generalising the world to accepting it in time as personal experience. To benefit from the therapeutic change the client must be ready to start the journey of self-exploration, as if a client were to come in at stage one it would be less likely that they would be ready or benefit from the process. This is a process of assisting the client to experience and understand their own value as a person and with this the client becoming stronger with their self, slowly becoming closer to a more internal locus of evaluation. Reaching this point is along the right path for the client to aim to reach the self-actualisation.

Self-actualisation revolves around incongruence which in turn is inconsistent with the experiencing process. Person-centred therapy can assist a client to reconnect with their self-actualising tendency which had been thwarted in the past by conditions of worth or placing their own locus of evaluation outside of themselves therefore losing their internal valuing process. The actualising tendency, being related to the organismic valuing process, which was said by Rogers (1951) that there was one thing that aided the development of a person, which he called the actualising tendency. He goes on to state that, if a person was to have had all the love and support during childhood, then they would have been given the right components to help that person to achieve the actualising tendency. Where-as a person who was not given the love and support that was needed to help nourish for the actualising tendency, would suffer from conditions of worth.

Conditions of worth are what we acquire as children as there is a strong need to be loved, then being told the appropriate way’s to behave and think and sometimes feel which causes people to place conditions that later in life we tend to look for in others or in experiences and if the conditions do not fit that to which are believed to be acceptable, they can be denied all together. These conditions of worth would then go on to become the need for positive regard, trying to please others through what they believe to be the right way or right thing, rather than following what the self wants or needs. This need for positive regard can affect the decision making and confidence of a person due to the need to be loved or valued.

If a person has had a critical and judgemental upbringing or has been surrounded by critical and judgmental people, this may cause a person to search for approval and positive regard, this takes a person away from their organismic valuing process too, which creates a self-concept. This it-self can create a need for external authorities for guidance or a need to please others, which then in turn becomes incongruent to self. This has been described as locus of evaluation. Locus of evaluation is what Merry (2002: 26) says is a “development of positive self-regardaˆ¦vulnerable to the evaluations of others” and with this in mind a person can become to not trust their own inner experiencing, therefore becoming external. To start to become a fully functioning person, the locus of evaluation needs to be found and exercised and this can be achieved through person centred counselling. However, a client can choose to stay as functioning without feeling forced to become a fully functioning person.

The key concepts in person centred counselling are the self and unconditional Positive regard. The importance of self is a drive inside everybody to achieve full potential, attempting to better themselves i.e. self-actualisation. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the best way to describe a person’s needs going from the basic survival needs of food and water all the way to the top of self-actualisation. The hierarchy fits quite nicely into Roger’s person-centred theory, which is all about the self. A person who has been brought back down to the basic survival needs through depression etc., and without realising will go up through this chart and possibly at some point come back down through the stages as there is no limit in life to how many times a person will continue up or down the chart. Now, a client, being aware of their own feelings and personal experiences due to starting counselling, can slowly start building themselves back up to achieving the self-actualisation.

The actualising tendency was described by Carl Roger’s (1959), as summarised by Vincent (2005: 25) as “the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which serve to maintain or enhance the organism.”

In the counselling journey of a person, self-discovery and self-awareness become apparent, by owning their own feelings when using the ‘I’ statement, and understanding their own needs and feelings, this is called the self-concept. If a person has not reached the point where they state that ‘I feel’ or ‘I am’ then this is a state of incongruence to the self as in place of the ‘I’ statement will be generalisations.

As stated by Nevid (2008:500) “Roger’s believed that the self is the centre of the human experience”.

McLeod, (2009) stated that the person centred approach begins and ends with experience and it is this that builds on the phenomenological approaches knowledge. Phenomenology is a person’s personal experience and this is central to person centred counselling. McLeod (2009), also states that the aim of phenomenology is to pick out the nature and quality of personal experience whilst bracketing off assumptions, meaning that the counsellor does not apply their own assumptions or experiences into that of a clients. Phenomenology is used in some therapies to explore the client’s experience of a bad time that they had or have, working alongside existential philosophy, exploring areas of crisis in the here and now, giving the client the basic understanding that they control their own lives. Tudor et al (2006) states that Roger’s was not teaching phenomenology or existentialism but the person-centred approach shares some of the same values and assumptions of both of the approaches/ philosophies.

Carl Rogers believed that if the right conditions were in place in a counselling setting, that a person could achieve self-actualisation. Although the core conditions cannot be proved due to the argument of whether or not it can be measured of how much unconditional positive regard etc. a person has been given, the theory over the years seems to have proven itself with the popularity of people studying the theory or becoming counsellors and people seeking out to be counselled or even sent to see a counsellor. Therefore the role and function of a counsellor in person-centred counselling has been discussed throughout, mentioning key factors such as the seven stages of process, the six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change and actualising tendency and how these assist a person on their own personal counselling journey. As all factors mentioned, are in some way or other linked to the person-centred theory they are all vital for a trainee counsellor to be learning about them and how to use the skills such as empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, amongst others. The organismic self is of upmost importance in the humanistic approach due to it being the core self and when this is jolted the locus of evaluation is placed outside of the self, causing incongruence to the self and the longer this goes on for can it can become more damaging toward the client psychologically. This is where a client would then search for a counsellor or be sent to see a counsellor, then beginning the journey to becoming a happier person, on the ladder to achieving self-actualisation.


Burnard, P. (2005). Counselling Skills for Health Professionals: Fourth Edition. Nelson Thornes LTD: Cheltenham.

Lietaer, G. (1984). Unconditional positive regard: A controversial basic attitude in client-centred therapy. In Tursi, M. and Cochran, J. (2006). Journal of Counselling & Development. Fall2006, Vol. 84 Issue 4, p388.

McLeod, J. (2009). An introduction to counselling: Fourth Edition. McGraw-Hill: England.

Merry, T. (2002). Learning and being in person-centred counselling. Second ed. PCCS Books: Manchester.

Nevid, J. (2008). Psychology: Concepts and applications. Cengage learning: USA.

Sharf, R. (2011). Theories of Psychotherapy & Counseling: Concepts and Cases. Fifth ed. Cengage Learning: Belmont.

Tudor, K. and Worrall, M. (2006). Person-Centred Therapy: A Clinical Philosophy. Routledge: Hove.

Tursi, M. and Cochran, J. (2006). Journal of Counselling & Development. Fall2006, Vol. 84 Issue 4, p387-396.

Vincent, S. (2005). Being Empathic: A Companion For Counsellors And Therapists. Radcliffe publishing: Oxon.

Wilkins, P. (2003). Person-Centred Therapy in Focus. Sage: London.

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