In order to complete this assignment I have chosen to compare and contrast the works of two exceptional figures in the world of psychology, both of whom have been ranked as the two most influential clinical psychologists according to a 1982 survey. (Franklin, 2007) The first being Dr. Albert Ellis, one of the most inspiring figures in modern psychology and the second I will examine is Dr. Carl Rogers one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology who is widely considered to be one of the chief architects of psychotherapy as we know it.
In this essay I will be comparing both psychologists in light of their views on Psychological health and disturbance and how that disturbance is maintained, the therapeutic relationship demonstrated by each psychologist and the therapeutic techniques and procedures employed by them. I will also look at the contributions and limitations of their respective approaches.
Firstly I will begin with the results of a comparison of audio-taped therapy samples carried out between Rogers and Albert Ellis whereby 83 therapist judges ranked 12 therapist variables; however the only point of agreement found between the two was Self-Confident. (Raskin & Rogers, 2000) Rogers received high ratings on empathy, unconditional positive regard, congruence and ability to inspire confidence. Ellis rated low in these areas; whereas, he rated high on cognitive and therapist-directed dimensions. Rogers rated low on these. (Raskin & Rogers, 2000) This research led to determination of the following differences between Person-Centred and Rational Emotive Therapy
When looking at Dr. Albert Ellis’s theory of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy we can see why his theoretical contributions have had such an acute impact on the professional practice of modern psychology. Rational emotive behaviour therapy is a theory of personality and a method of psychotherapy that was developed in the 1950s. This theory was born from Ellis’s desire to find the key component that was missing in the way that both psychoanalysis and behaviourism examined people. He felt this was particularly due to the lack of emphasis placed on the role of thinking in emotional disturbance which resulted in little or no explanations as to why humans originally became disturbed and how they remained disturbed. When looking at this theory in relation to Psychological health and disturbance and how that disturbance is maintained we can see that Ellis focuses primarily on the link between emotion and thinking. He believed that cognitions play a huge role in the development and maintenance of emotional disturbance as he asserted that human psychology functions as an efficient and interactive system of cognitions, emotions, behaviour and biology in response to environmental conditions. He argues that disturbed emotions especially sustained disturbed emotions are tied to the absolutistic and dogmatic shoulds, ought’s, musts, needs and haves in our language. (Ellis, 1962) He also believes that people function in four basic ways; they perceive, emote, act and think. Ellis contends that the development of emotional disturbance is largely the result of certain biological factors which predispose humans to think irrationally about the accomplishment of innate goals for affiliation, comfort and achievement
Dr. Carl Rogers on the other hand built his entire theory on ‘the actualizing tendency’ which aims to develop all capacities of the human in ways that maintain or enhance the organism and move it toward autonomy. This tendency is directional, constructive and present in all living things. (Pescitelli, 1996) It involves a person reaching a point of the realisation of his or her full potential. Rogers is of the opinion that all people are essentially good and that it is our very nature to try and make the very best our existence. If they fail to do so, it is not for a lack of desire. Rogers captures with this single great need or motive all the other motives that other theorists talk about. He asks us, why do we want air and water and food? Why do we seek safety, love, and a sense of competence? Why, indeed, do we seek to discover new medicines, invent new power sources, or create new works of art? Because, he answers, it is in our nature as living things to do the very best we can! (Boree, 2006)
Following examining each psychologist in light of the therapeutic relationship they implement we can see that unlike REBT, PCT greatly values the therapeutic relationship and at the very core of this relationship is self-directed growth. Rogers believed that self-directed growth would occur when a genuine, non-judgmental, caring and empathetic relationship was formed between the patient and therapist. However he felt the fundamental key to achieving this growth was trust. The person-centred approach is built on trust that individuals can choose their own goals and monitor their own progress towards them. It puts the client in control of their growth and development and makes sure that their therapist and length of their therapy suits them. This is in contrast with REBT therapists who provide much direction whilst PCT therapists encourage the client to determine their own direction. PCT therapy leads to actions chosen by clients. Again in PCT the therapist provides continuous and constant empathy for the client’s perceptions, meanings and feelings. The primary techniques employed by PCT are congruence and unconditional positive regard. Rogers believes it is important for the therapist to be appreciated as a person in the relationship rather than just the therapist as this fosters a genuine rapport between the patient and client. This is facilitated through the medium of congruence and a genuine correspondence between the thoughts and behaviour of the therapist. It is important also that the therapist does not put up a front or facade as this is not conducive to the relationship. Another technique used in PCT is Unconditional positive regard. This ensures that the therapist’s regard for the client will not be affected by client’s choices, characteristics or outcomes. The therapist expresses this through demonstrating empathy by reflecting a profound interest in the client’s world of meanings and feelings, which the therapist receives and conveys appreciation and understanding back, thereby encouraging the client to go further and deeper. The result is an interrogation in which the therapist is a warm, sensitive and respectful companion in the difficult exploration of the client’s emotional world. The intended result for the client is a better self-concept and increasing self-esteem. However this can be very hard to reach as clients are often so brainwashed by something Rogers referred to as Conditions of worth, basically it is illustrated when a mother says to her child ‘I shall love you if u do not howl’ (Dryden, 2007) It occurs when love and affection is given on conditional grounds. Rogers sees many individuals as the victims of countless internalized conditions of worth which have totally estranged them from their organismic experiencing. (Dryden, 2007) This inevitable leads to a negative self-concept and frequently a perpetual distortion seeps into a clients mind when such incongruent experience are allowed into the conscious. Rogers believes that when clients receive congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy, their self-concepts become more positive and realistic. As a result they become more self-expressive and self-directed, their behaviour becomes more mature and they deal better with stress.
Ellis makes a very important point when he states that when highly charged emotional consequences follow a significant event, the event actually does not necessarily cause the consequences. He believes it is more about the person in question and the belief system they hold. When undesirable emotional consequences occur, such as severe anxiety, Ellis believes that irrational beliefs can be effectively disputed by challenging them rationally and behaviourally thus reducing the disturbed consequences. This is clearly illustrated in the ABC method; A is for activating experiences, such as family troubles, unsatisfying work, early childhood traumas, B stands for beliefs, especially the irrational, self-defeating beliefs that are the actual sources of our unhappiness. And C is for consequences such as neurotic symptoms and negative emotions which encapsulate feelings such as depression panic, and rage. This technique shows clients that although reliving the experiences that have disturbed them may cause them pain, the pain they feel is exacerbated by their beliefs and whether or not they are rational or irrational and this is what leads to maintained disabling problems. For this reason Ellis adds D and E to ABC. D stands for the therapists attempt to dispute the clients irrational beliefs. This technique then leads to E which represents rational beliefs. In order for a client to succeed in therapy they must reach a point of rational thinking. The goal of REBT, consequently, is to help clients examine and change their basic values-particularly those keeping them disturbed and reduce underlying symptom producing propensities. Therefore the therapist can talk with people and try to change their mind so they will behave differently, or can help clients to change their behaviour and thus modify their thinking. This is another key difference between REBT and PCT, REBT therapists work hard to point out deficiencies in their clients’ thought processes whilst PCT therapists accept their client’s ways of thinking and perceiving. REBT theorists believe that humans will never reach a point of happiness unless they confront the disturbance that is ruining their self-concept.
REBT clearly puts forth the argument that we can either be the architects of our own destiny or the creators of our own demise which is again tied to the intrinsic link between cognition and emotion. The reality is people are born with the potential to be rational as well as irrational. We are predisposed to being self-preserving and capable of actualizing our potential for life and growth, but also to be self-destructive and self-sabotaging. It is as though humans are forever enslaved by the very shackles of our irrational thoughts. We avoid thinking things through, we procrastinate, repeat the same mistakes, we’re superstitious, intolerant unrealistic perfectionists who continuously self-destruct until we are completely unable to actualize our potential for growth. Humans in general have a tendency towards irrational thinking and self-damaging habituations, exacerbated by both culture and the family group. They rarely act without perceiving, thinking and emoting because these provide reasons for acting. Both normal and disturbed behaviour are functions of perceiving, thinking, emoting and acting.
In order to aid such innate human propensities REBT uses a variety of perceptual-cognitive, emotive-evocative and behaviouristic methods. It is highly cognitive, active-directive, homework assigning and discipline-orientated therapy; likely to be more effective in briefer periods, and with fewer sessions than other therapies. Unlike PCT therapists REBT therapists do not believe a warm relationship between client and the therapist is necessary for effective personality change, although it is seen as desirable. Stress is placed on unconditional acceptance which is of a similar vein to unconditional positive regard. Although they believe in close collaboration with clients, the therapists also actively encourage them to comfort their behaviours and accept their inevitable fallibility. In REBT a variety of therapeutic methods are employed, they range from didactic discussion, behaviour modification, bibliotherapy, audiovisual aids, activity-orientated homework assignments, role-play, assertion training, desensitization and humour, operant conditioning. When a rational analysis is carried out then the correct therapy can be selected. A few techniques include time projection, which is an imagery technique, this works by showing the patient that their life and the world around them goes on even after a traumatic event, and exposure is a behavioural technique which involves entering feared situations one would normally avoid to overcome their fear. Therapy is not just oriented to symptom removal except when that is the only way change can be accomplished. To discourage undue dependence, therapists use hard-headed methods to convince clients to resort to self-discipline and self-direction. Homework is an essential part of this as it includes reading and extra self-help exercises which encourage clients to cope on their own when uncomfortable feelings come upon them.
REBT illustrates how previous disturbances can factor contribute emotional consequences but they are not the sole cause. In fact the main reason why people suffer such is emotional consequences is as a result of understanding events through rose tinted lenses. From this we can deduce that the primary cause of emotional disturbance lies in the belief system of the person and not in what happens to them. This again goes back to Ellis’s belief that the development of emotional disturbance is largely the result of certain biological factors which we are predisposed to. To assist in correcting their malfunctions REBT therapists point out the irrational harm clients may be doing to themselves and to their interpersonal relationships. (Raskin & Rogers, 2000) It also warns them that self-defeating behaviour follows from the interaction of adversity and an irrational belief system, resulting in disturbed consequences. Unless clients admit and face their own responsibilities for the continuation of dysfunctional beliefs they are unlikely to uproot them. Only hard work and practice will correct irrational beliefs and keep them corrected.
As well as all the differences that exist between both psychologists theories there are also several similarities for example both Ellis and Rogers share great optimism that people can change, even when deeply disturbed. Both assert that individuals are often unnecessarily self-critical, and that negative attitudes can become positive. Each of them has succeeded in presenting their methods publically and in doing so they have expressed an immense desire to help people.
Person-centred therapy and rational emotive behaviour therapy have contributed greatly to modern psychology as both Rogers and Ellis’s theories on cognitive psychology are at the forefront of practice and research in Clinical Psychology. For Ellis the success of his theories is predominantly due to his emphasis on encouraging an active-directive approach to psychological treatment. Ellis’s contributions to cognitive therapy are also seen in his treatment of phobias and depression. REBT states that clients are responsible self-destructive attitudes and ideas and it values confronting clients on assumptions about core beliefs. As I have mentioned previously it puts huge emphasis on the fact that events do not have power to determine us instead it is our interpretation of these events that is crucial. One of REBTs most important contributions is the ABC model which clearly illustrates; how human disturbance occurs and the ways in which problematic behaviour can be changed. Ellis also uses the insights he receives from his patients to direct action thus teaching the clients to do their own therapy. (Daly, 2010)
Included in the major theoretical contributions of PCT is the belief in the essential trustworthiness of human nature. It also believes that people are inherently resourceful and self-actualizing. It asserts that the surest way to come to understand a person’s behaviour is to come to a knowledge of that person’s subjective awareness of himself or herself and of the world in which he or she exists. PCT also introduced the term client to give a greater level of respect to the person seeking help. In order to be a successful form of therapy it places a huge importance on the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client and as the trust grows the experience becomes deeper and progressively more understood between the therapist and client. The person-centred approach has had impact on domains outside of therapy such as family life, education, leadership, conflict resolution, politics and community health (Krebs & Blackman, 1988) In my opinion, Rogers greatest contribution may lie in his encouraging a humane and ethical treatment of persons, approaching psychology as a human science rather than a natural science.
There are also a few limitations associated with each therapy. Person-centred therapy has been regarded as being too simple. It is also said that it relies too heavily on techniques of attending and listening. Some believe more emphasis should be placed on training counselling skills rather than counsellor attitudes. Contrary to its central belief it is not necessarily true that people have an actualizing tendency. A major criticism is that counsellors should not abandon their role of authority and should advise and direct clients more. (Cain, 1988) Some therapists also argue that person-centred therapy is not effective with non-verbal or poorly educated individuals. In REBT therapy can be seen as formulaic or overly directive which may foster dependence on therapist. Corey believed that since attitudes are emotion laden, direct attack on them may be ineffective and might only serve to increase resistance and make change impossible (Corey, 1996) It is believed that because there is little emphasis on the past it may not get to the root of the problem with the client.
Corey stated that REBT is a confrontational therapy with advantages and disadvantages and that it must cope with the advantages and disadvantages that this brings. REBT theorists should be aware that the human cognitive architecture is heterogeneous and in consequence, that it is less probable that the causes of our responses can be explained by using only a few cognitive constructs (Dryden, 2003)
Both Ellis and Rogers have contributed great things to modern psychology. However what we learn from both theories is that in spite of their differences, the person will always be the most important part of any theory. What defines the success of the theory is how well it caters to critical issues such as the influence of nature vs. nurture on the foundations of personality, the potency of reason in human behaviour and the possibility of fundamental personality change. (Dryden, 2004)