The person-centered therapy was initially developed in the forties by Charles Rogers and represents constantly developing approach to human growth and change. Its central hypothesis states that the potential of any individual for growth tends to disclose in relations, in which the one who assists tests and expresses authenticity, reality, care, deep and exact understanding. Its uniqueness is that while being focused on process, it deduces hypotheses from the direct data of therapeutic experience and from the written down and filmed conversations. It steadily checks all hypotheses in corresponding researches. It is useful in any sphere of application of human efforts where the purpose is psychological growth of the individual.
The basic the concept of the person-centered therapy is the possibility to express in the form of a hypothesis "if - then". If at installations of the therapist, there are certain conditions, namely congruence, the positive relation and empathic understanding that the person who is a client makes changes towards growth. Theoretically this hypothesis remains true for any relations, in which one person shows congruence, empathy and the positive attitude, and other person receives and perceives them.
The hypothesis is based on the deep understanding of human nature. The person-centered theory postulates the tendency of the person to self-actualization, or “the instinct for self-preservation and the organismic striving for self-actualization" (Rogers, 1959b).
In this sense the tendency to self-actualization is a part organismic in the nature human. Rogers quotes Lancelot Whyte: "Crystals, plants and animals grow without any conscious fuss, and the strangeness of our own history disappears once we assume that the same kind of natural ordering process that guides their growth, also guided the development of man and of his mind and does so still” (Whyte, 1960).
Forces of self-actualization at the baby and the child encounter conditions which are established in life by significant others. These name it "value conditions", when the worthy love and acceptance when behaves according to the established standards. The child eventually assimilates some in own self-concept of these conditions. Then, according to Rogers, "it is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me" (1959b).
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Despite external restrictions organismic promptings of the child, all of them are internally endured by it. It leads to incongruence between the forces of an organism to self-actualization and the ability to realize them in operation.
The person-centered theory aspires to answer the following question: How can the individual reestablish the lost communication with impulses of self-actualization and to recognize their wisdom? In wide understanding, the psychotherapy is "releasing of an already existing capacity in a potentially competent individual” (Rogers, 1959b).
In the presence of certain conditions, the tendency to search for self-actualization gradually leads the individual to overcoming those restrictions which were internalized as value conditions. Such certain conditions are therapeutic relations, which are perceived by the individual as sincerity or congruence, exact empathic understanding and the unconditional positive relation.
These three conditions are not separate conditions between which the expert therapist intuitively makes a choice. They are interdependent and logically connected with each other.
First of all, the therapist should reach deep and exact empathy. However, such deep sensitivity to direct "existence" of other person and the smallest changes in its condition demands that the therapist at first has accepted and has somewhat estimated other person. Differently, sufficiently deep empathy is not possible, if there is no unconditional positive relation. However, these conditions apparently can become significant interpersonal event only when they are real. During a session meeting with the therapist should be complete and original. “Therefore it seems to me that authenticity, or congruence is the most important of three conditions” (Rogers, 1959a).
Authenticity, or congruence, is a basic ability of the therapist to read own internal experiences and evidently to show them in therapeutic relations. It does not allow the experience to play a role or to show a facade. His or her words will be coordinated with experiences. It follows for by itself. It follows a varying stream of own feelings and proves. It is transparent. With the client the therapist tries to be oneself.
Concepts of authenticity and exact empathic understanding are closely connected with each other. The therapist tries to plunge into the world of the client’s feelings to experience this world in himself. His understanding starts with his own internal experience of the client’s feelings and own internal processes of comprehension. He actively endures feelings of the client, and also understands own internal reactions to these feelings. During this process the special value starts to develop quite often in order to get comprehension by the therapist of the feelings that are not directly put into words, which is on the verge of comprehension of the client.
At the heart of empathy to the client, the care dispossessed feeling, or acceptance of his or her individuality, which is called as the unconditional positive relation lies. Such relation arises from the belief of the therapist in internal wisdom of processes of self-actualization of the client and the belief that the client will find out those resources and directions, which will be accommodated into his or her personal growth. The care of the therapist certainly does not take the form of councils or instructions. The therapist emphasizes on value of individuality of the client sometimes directly, but more often through understanding and the sincere response.
Some researches show that achievements of the client during therapy are significantly connected with presence of congruence, exact empathy and the positive relation.
Halkides (1958) has found out positive correlation between presence of these three qualities and the success rate of clients. Numerous researches of Godfrey and Barrett-Lennard (1959; 1962) have checked up this hypothesis and have established that the productivity of therapy depends on perception clients and how much these three qualities are inherent in their therapists.
Later researches included new theoretical parameter of the person-centered therapy, namely the remedial concept of change of the client’s personality. The theory asserts that the change occurs in a continuum, which on one hand with presented rigid, static, repeating behavior. On the other hand there is another behavior, which is modified in the process of change and course of internal experiences. Research on the patients hospitalized with the diagnosis of schizophrenia has established that patients, whose therapists had the highest indicator on a triad of therapeutic conditions, were the most successful. Thus, patients who cooperate in therapy at higher level showed the big results compared to those whose behavior was rather static and rigid (Rogers, 1967b).
To sum up, positive change of the individual in therapeutic relations becomes more visible, when the client perceives authenticity, empathy and care of the therapist. The direction of personal change is an increasing comprehension of the internal experience, the ability to allow the internal experiences to surface, and the behavior, which is congruent to the aforementioned internal experience.
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Historically, those who are connected with the person-centered therapy, firmly oppose the belief that therapists were directive with the clients. It is reflected in the initial name of the given strategy - "not directive therapy".
Directive therapy is any practice, in which the therapist is considered to be the expert, whose proceeding from the knowledge of internal processes of human beings. The therapist also establishes diagnoses that are under consideration and treats those who address to it for the help.
From the very conception of the person-centered point of view, the belief that the individual himself is capable to define a direction of the development was the major idea. Years of experience with clients and numerous psychology researches have confirmed this belief. Additionally, the accommodated knowledge has developed it to such degree that today intrusion of the therapist at a concentration of the client on internal process of experience is considered unproductive.
The person-centered therapist is necessary for uncovering the inner resources of the client. Any pose or manipulations, for example, the usage of esoteric language, professional terminology or diagnostic testing, are excluded. The aforementioned strategies considered to lead to the situation, when the therapist received and monopolizes the control over therapy process, thereby there is a transfer of a locus of control from the hands of the client to the hands of the therapist. Therefore, the client is blasting his faith in own abilities, which is needed to find a way to growth. Any technics of type of a psychodrama, methods of Gestalt therapy and bio-energetics, puts the therapist in a role of the expert and lowers the ability of the client to rely on own internal processes. "The psychotherapy is not manipulations of the expert over more or less passive person" (Rogers, 1959b).
Three Forces in Psychology
Rogers identifies so-called third force in psychology, which is humanistic psychology, enough various group of people united by the general idea. His identification with humanistic psychology is based on upholding the advantages of this concept and the values of the separate person in search for growth. There is also a contribution of Rogers's interest in psychology of development as science which considers advantage and value of the person primary. That’s how Rogers summarizes the basic distinction between psychoanalysis and the person-centered theory: “I test not enough liking to rather widespread sight that the person at the heart of the irrational and that its impulses if them not to supervise, will lead to destruction of others and itself. The human behavior is absolutely rational, in thin and by definition difficult advancement to the purposes which the organism aspires to reach.” (Rogers, 1961a)
The author considers that protection is included into a way of comprehension of organismic processes, which directs the individual to positive growth. The person, being free from protective distortions, lives in a stream of the internal experience, addressing to nuances of organismic stream for instructions for the behavior. Contrary to the psychoanalytic point of view, Rogers considers natural impulses of the person preceding their internal organismic experiences as constructive and effective to health and realization.
The psychoanalytic theory asserts that by means of concentration on the past and its understanding thanks to interpretations of the analyst, the patient finds insight into the present behavior. The person-centered theory is focused on the current experience of the client, believing that restoration of comprehension and trust in personal abilities gives resources for change and growth. In psychoanalysis, contrary to the person-centered view, the analyst is aimed at interpretation of communications between the past and the present of the patient. In the person-centered therapy the therapist acts as a facilitator, helping the client to find the senses of current internal experiences.
By means of focusing on insight interpretive activity and encouragement in development of transference relations between the patient and the therapist, based on a neurosis of the patient, the psychoanalyst occupies a role of a teacher. In the person-centered therapy the therapist communicates fairly and openly as much as possible and tries to establish the connection in which he is playing the role of a person, who shows care in relation to other individual and listens to him or her.
Though in the person-centered therapy, there are over rudiments, such relations do not reach full blossoming (Rogers, 1951). Rogers has expressed opinion that carrying over relations develop in estimated atmosphere, where the client feels that the therapist knows about him or her more than he or she knows about himself or herself, resulting in client becoming dependent. The person-centered therapist needs to avoid any estimated statements. He does not inform the client those or other values through interpretations, does not ask questions in an investigating manner, does not calm, does not criticize, does not praise and does not describe the client. The person-centered therapy does not consider transference relation as a necessary part of the client’s change in a growth direction.
Distinctions between the person-centered concept and sights behaviorism can be seen under the relation of both these approaches to a science and behavior change. Science, from the point of view of behaviorism, is supervision, registration and manipulation with the observable phenomenon. So the behaviorism scientists try to apply those rules which are accepted in natural sciences to behavior research. However, internal experience of the person is not a studying subject as its direct supervision and repetition in controllable conditions is impossible. Thus, there is an exact set of criteria of scientific knowledge, which defines what kind of behavior can be investigated, how it can be understood, predicted and supervised. Rogers asserts that there are certain restrictions in research of the world of experiences by scientific methods, but completely to ignore internal experience and its influence on behavior would be a tragic mistake (Hart and Tomlinson, 1970). According to Rogers, the science about the person should try to understand people in all of displays.
According to the ideas of behaviorism, behavior change occurs through the external control of stimulus and compensation. From the point of view of the person-centered theory, behavior change arises from within the individual. The purpose of behavioral therapy is symptom elimination. Relations between the therapist and the client are not especially important as the internal experiences connected with a symptom. Thus, a therapist aspires to eliminate symptoms as soon as possible, using theory principles learning. This point of view is completely opposite to the person-centered therapy, which believes that "high-grade the functioning person" it is necessary on internal experiences in definition of the behavior.
The Theory of the Person
Working out of the theory of the person never was a priority of the person-centered theorists. "Though the theory of the person has arisen from our experience the client-aligned of therapy, to any who is connected with this direction, quite clearly that it not our main focus. In the center of our interest, - is faster, how there is a change in the human person... To us seem more important and reasonable questions are faster process of personal change, than about the reasons of presence of personal characteristics of the person.” (Rogers, 1959b)
The person-centered theory of the person has grown from experience of the client-aligned therapy, researches and the theory of change of the person (Holstock and Rogers, 1983).
As theoretical concepts in this case follow from experience as process, it is faster than theory weeding, than the genetic theory what psychoanalysis is. Significant factors - direct relations, as in electric field. The person-centered theory is first of all the theory of conditions, thanks to which there are changes.
The Developing Baby
The person-centered theory of the therapy begins with the certain postulates, which are concerning a person at a birth. The world of the baby is the world of his or her own experiences. They form the one’s unique reality. In the world of the organism, the baby has one base motivational force: the tendency to self-actualization. Along with this base motivation, the child possesses knack positively to estimate experience, which he perceives as an organism strengthening it, and negatively to estimate those experiences which are represented contradicting its actualizing tendency. This organismic estimated process "directs its behavior to self-actualization”.
As the child grows and develops, he starts to differentiate in experience, recognizing what is a part of its existence and functioning, and carrying other experience to other people and things in the environment. As his comprehension of own existence and functioning develops, it gets the feeling (sense of self), from which his self-concept develops. Self-concept development in many respects depends on the perception of the experience in the environment by the individual, which is the child’s requirement for the positive relation influences, - universal and steady requirement of the human being (Rogers, 1959b). On the other hand, frustrations are the requirement for a positive estimation of the individual is formed of all complex of experiences of satisfaction its self-esteem (or self-regard), which is result of the acquired feeling based on perception of an estimation of others.
The self-esteem becomes deep construct, influencing behavior of an organism as whole, and gets certain independence of estimations from the outside and from other people. It occurs because of introjection of the individual of conditions of value.
The requirement of the child to keep love of the parents inevitably conflicts to requirements of its organism. Values, which he realizes in own organism, sometimes contradict values of his parents. His behavior, which is caused by personal requirements and desires, sometimes contradicts behavior that his parents consider comprehensible. Under the influence of this experience, a child starts to reconstruct own system of self-esteem, there is a distinction between experiences of a positive and negative estimation from the significant others. The child starts to avoid or completely deny organismic experience, which, though he has acquired, do not cause the positive relation from outside a significant environment. These interjected value conditions become a part of its system of self-esteem.
He tests the positive relation to when its experience corresponds to the experience, which has received a positive estimation from outside of significant others. His or her self-esteem decreases, when the external positive estimation is absent. So his or her self-esteem starts to depend on the conditions of values acquired in interaction with significant others in his or her world. What occurs to the actualization tendency as value conditions become a part of system of self-esteem? It, nevertheless, remains for the individual base motivation. However, there is a conflict between organismic requirements and requirements for the self-esteem, now connected with value conditions. The individual, as a result, should choose between aspirations and actions, according to organismic sensation and their censorship proceeding from the received conditions of value. In order to keep self-esteem and the feeling of value and self-actualization experience, the child prefers to operate according to value conditions. Differently, his or her requirement for self-esteem gets the best of requirements of an organism. At the moment of a choice the child can believe that it organismic requirements "are bad" and contradict to be "the good" person and consequently prevent self-actualization. Rogers writes: "Alienation of the person from directing organismic processes is not an indispensable part of human nature. It is acquired through learning that is especially characteristic for the western civilization. The satisfaction or execution of the actualizing tendency became doubled, and has led to formation of incompatible behavioral systems. “Such dissociation is a basis of a psychological pathology of people." (Rogers, 1963)
Fortunately, organismic promptings do not stop the existence when by means of negation they are not related to consciousness. Their persistence becomes a problem for the individual. He or she starts to perceive the experience selectively, accordingly, he or she confirms or not his or her self-concept which in essential degree is defined now by value conditions. “Every time when the perception is deformed or denied by the individual’s experience, discrepancy arises between self-concept and experience, psychological maladjustment and vulnerability" (Rogers, 1959b). Experiences, which are not consistent with the self-concept of the individual, are perceived as a threat: if they are correctly symbolized in consciousness of the individual, they could break the organization of its self-concept as would enter into the contradiction with the incorporated conditions of value. Therefore, these experiences cause alarm in the mind of a person and activates protective mechanisms, which deform or deny it reaching for possible stability of perception by the individual. Requiring, thus, protection against exact perception of the experience contradicting its conditions of value, the individual develops rigidity perceptions in corresponding areas.
Psychotherapy and Personal Change
Therapy process is an intervention in discrepancy or incongruence, which was generated by the individual between own organism with the experience and the self-concept. In therapeutic relations he or she can risk, having admitted to comprehension before deformed or denied experiences. In atmosphere of understanding it can allow the denial of earlier organismic to aspirations to become a part of its concept. In the course of therapy the individual changes the conditions of value for trust to wisdom of the developing organism in all integrity.
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