Client-centred therapy was founded by Carl Rogers in the 1940s. Rogers trained to be a clinical psychologists and from 1928-40 he worked as a director of the Child Study Department of the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It was through his work at the Rochester Centre that his client centred therapy emerged. Rogers did not use the term 'patient' because of its medical connotations and the perception of an unequal relationship. He preferred the term 'client' he wanted the relationship between client and therapist to be equal and trusting. It was later changed to person-centred therapy. client-centred-therapy.jpg

Rogers believed that humans are complex and unique and that individuals know themselves better than anyone else. He did not think it was possible for a therapist to fully understand or enter the perceptual world of a client which is dominated by the client's life experiences (Rogers, 2004).

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Rogers's humanistic outlook

Rogers's believed for the most part that humans are good natured and are constantly striving towards reaching their full potential. The psychologically healthy individual has a positive outlook on life, continues to grow and develop as a person, is not afraid to make decisions and accepts the consequences of same. He acknowledged that there are psychologically maladjusted individuals whose self-concept and conditions of worth are blocking their ability to reach their full potential and self-actualise. Rogers believed that the self-concept was the basis for imbalance in an individual's life and the purpose of his therapy was the reintegration of the self-concept. He believed that individuals could bring balance back into their lives and solve their own problems. In counselling, the attitude of the therapist towards the client is very important (Rogers 2004)

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Rogers six core conditions for counselling

Rogers outlined six core conditions of counselling necessary for therapeutic personality changes as follows:-
  • The client and the therapist must be in psychological contact. It is about discussing inner feeling focused on the self.
  • The client is in a state of incongruence. The client is emotionally upset.
  • The therapist is congruent in the relationship. The therapist must be genuine and aware of their own feelings.
  • The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client. Therapists must not judge the client but value them. They have worth simply because they exist.
  • The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client's internal frame of reference and endeavours to communicate this experience to the client.
  • The client perceives the therapists unconditional positive regard for them and the therapist empathic understanding of their difficulties (Rogers 2007).


Person-centred therapy is built on trust. The client must feel that he can trust the therapist and the therapist must have trust in themselves. The therapist needs to create a suitable environment where the person-centred therapy can be successful. Rogers believed that counselling needed to move away from the system of the 'expert' telling the client what was wrong with them and move more towards the following:-
  • The therapist should be a very good listener.
  • The therapist unreservedly accepts the client as they are at that moment in time.
  • The therapist places no label or name on the client's condition.
  • The therapist does not rely on any of the personality theories.
  • The therapist listens, does not ask questions, does not interpret what is being said, does not offer advice, but reflects back what the client says (Rogers 2004).

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Non-directive approach

The person-centred therapy is a non-directive treatment. The client makes a journey through their problems and the therapist keeps them company. Thorne (1984) mentions research by Tausch (1975) which has shown that clients can experience changes when engaged in person-centred therapy, however, to date there has been no evidence that any client has achieved Rogers's theoretical 'Fully Functioning' person. Client changes noticed by therapists are as follows:-

  • Away from facades and the constant preoccupation with keeping up appearances.
  • Away from 'ought's' and an internalised sense of duty springing from externally imposed obligations.
  • Away from living up to the expectations of others.
  • Towards valuing honesty and 'realness' in one's self and others.
  • Towards valuing the capacity to direct one's own life.
  • Rewards accepting and valuing one's feelings whether they are positive or negative.
  • Rewards valuing the experience of the moment and the process of growth rather than continually striving for objectives.
  • Towards a greater respect for and understanding of others.
  • Towards a cherishing of close relationships and a longing for more intimacy.
  • Towards a valuing of all forms of experience and willingness to risk being open to all inner and outer experiences, however, uncongenial or unexpected (Frick, 1971 as cited in Thorne, 1984).

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Therapist perspective

Rogers believed that for person-centred therapy to be successful, the therapists must create an environment where the client feels unconditional positive regard, genuineness and empathy. Only when the client experiences this can there be any commencement of therapeutic change. In a fully supportive environment the client can begin to understand their problems and work towards resolving them and changing the direction of their lives.


It has been argued that person-centred therapy can be very demanding on the therapist. The therapist has to have self-acceptance, self trust and be comfortable with their own feeling. They must work at continuing to grow as a person and be prepared to broaden their own life experiences. The therapist must feel secure within themselves and be capable of supporting the client. Therefore, the therapist msut supress their own prejudice and values in person-centred therapy (Thorne 1984).

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Scientific Evaluation

Carl Rogers was aware that the critics viewed the humanistic outlook as unscientific. Rogers tried to evaluate his theory and he was the first to use audiotape sessions and analyse the contents. He used the measurement as devised by William
William Stephenson 1902-1989
Stephenson in 1953 to qualify the changes that took place during therapy. Q-Sort is the dependent variable measuring whether clients consider themselves or others consider they have changed since commencing therapy. This is a self-reporting technique where the client fills in a questionnairebefore therapy in order to establish the client's view of their Real Self and their Ideal Self. This exercise is repeated at different times during therapy and if the therapy is effective there will be greater discrepancy between their first questionnaire and the last questionnaire. One of the weaknesses of this measurement is the assumption that the client is able to describe their Real Self and their Ideal Self.

Rogers believed that humans are complex and unique and that individuals know themselves better than anyone else. He did not think it was possible for a therapist to fully understand or enter the perceptual world of a client which is dominated by the client's life experiences (Maltby, Day, Macaskill, 2010).

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