People think you go to counseling mainly because you struggle with your mental health. Although that may be true, there are other reasons why we would choose to seek professional help. Often, it is just because we need to talk to someone in hopes of clearing our heads without being judged.
Do you doubt this? Take it from Carl Rogers, a well-known humanistic psychologist who introduced a new approach to counseling: Client-Centered Counseling. The kind of counseling that added a new perception to therapy, patients or clients, and counselors.
Before, the psychodynamic approach and behaviorism saw people as patients or as someone who is sick and needs a cure. This makes it seem that the person in need of help is unfit to decide for themselves. Therefore, the counselor is the only one in power to do whatever they think necessary to the patient. This is where Carl Rogers came in to show his dismay.
Rogers strongly believed that humans are inherently good and have a strong desire for personal growth. What they strive for is to reach the highest human development, also known as self-actualization. Because they already know what they want, they are actively participating in counseling. This is the total opposite of the term of how a ‘patient’ is viewed. Rogers then decided to change it to ‘client.’
Due to these changes, the relationship between the client and the counselor becomes equal. The person now has a say in decisions while the counselor is no longer a face of authority but an agent.
Slowly, Rogers built the foundations of Client-Centered Counseling. In this counseling, the client knows more about themselves than the counselor could ever know. Therefore, the set-up of the therapy is the clients share stories about themselves. The counselor’s only job is to listen without judgment and interruption. The only pause that the counselor would need is to ensure that they follow the client’s words.
By continuously checking on the client’s feelings, the counselor focuses on the client’s foreground. The client realizes their issues, reflects on themselves, and gets an idea of what they should do moving forward. This makes the client feel lighter for they first started the session.
Three Qualities Of Client-Centered Counselor
To reach that aim of Client-Centered Counseling, Rogers emphasized that the counselor first must possess the following three qualities:
The counselor must be sensitive and aware of any reactions, emotions, or changes in the client as they talk. It is necessary to do so for the counselor to mirror the client. Summarizing or repeating what the client has said will make them feel understood. It will also help clear away any unnecessary thoughts that prevent the client from understanding themselves, their emotions, and others.
Empathy will not work in helping the client see clearly if the counselor is not honest. The counselor must not pretend to understand, avoid any questions or fool the client. They must also be upfront and honest about it. The counselor should answer the client and let them know what is happening and the possible reasons why.
A counselor being honest with the client will prompt them to ask other similar questions. The goal is to have the client share more, to build trust and understanding between the two.
- Unconditional Positive Regard
Having honesty and empathy between a counselor and a client bodes well. However, if unconditional positive regard is not present, things will fall apart. You cannot be empathetic if you do not show you care for the client. It comes off fake and will make the client pull away. It does not matter if you are honest. If the client does not feel the warmth during a session, they will put their guards up even more.
Have you noticed how people open up more with their closest friends or families than acquaintances or strangers? It is because, with friends and family, there is already unconditional positive regard. These people feel they are worthwhile and important when they are with them. There is no judgment or rejection. They feel the warmth, the care, and the support.
That is the kind of relationship a client and a counselor should have. However, a counselor must be wary of the boundaries. Overstep too much, and the client will feel awful about it. Interact too little, and the client may not feel comfortable sharing. There must be balance if we wish to have a good result.
How Effective Client-Centered Counseling Is
The most important thing to have in client-centered counseling to be considered a success is the connection between the client and therapist. As mentioned when discussing the qualities of a therapist, if there is a fallout between the two during a session, it will be difficult for the client to open up again. If that is the case, the therapy might lead to a failure.
This is the reason why the client and the counselor must have a strong bond between them. They must also meet the other six conditions that Rogers mentions.
- There is a good relationship between the client and counselor
- The client is emotionally distraught (incongruence)
- The counselor is honest and open about their feelings
- The counselor gives unconditional positive regard to the client
- The counselor has empathy towards the client
- The client sees and feels the unconditional positive regard the counselor has for them.
If these six conditions are met, then there should be a positive change in the client.
Client-Centered Counseling emphasizes that it primarily focuses on clients who want to work on self-actualization. However, according to one study, this type of therapy is much more effective on individuals who struggle with mental health. This shows that though Client-Centered Counseling only started from one side of the population, it is inclusive of the rest.
As long as you are willing to open up and share your story, Client-Centered Counseling will be helpful and will bring you so many insights about your life.