Rogerian Theory I knew very little about the Rogerian theory before taking this class. I felt the least comfortable with this theory when compared to the others and their brief descriptions of what each theory entailed. The Rogerian theory, related to the humanistic approach, is described as “…people naturally moving in a positive direction and growth. A person who has trouble growing toward self actualization needs a positive, caring environment to grow psychologically. A therapist should not give advice or self disclose. A therapist should simply provide a warm caring environment and the client will solve his/her own problems.” This depiction of what the Rogerian theory is all about just seemed much too simple to me. There was no probing into the clients unconscious past or childhood experiences in order to unlock present behaviors or explanations. The uncomplicated idea of just being there for your client in a kind and caring way and they will figure out their own problems just did not seem realistic to me.
Counseling, to me, demanded more then that and involved figuring out the past before working on the present. Also, a therapist and client involves a special relationship, giving and taking both ways. This Rogerian approach seemed very one sided to me, involving mostly the client. I do agree that the therapist and client role is very specific and needs to remain so that the client is the one in therapy, however interaction and sharing of feelings and thoughts I feel is a necessity for both parties in order to eliminate the pressures of having the “therapist” and “client” labels. The client needs to feel at ease knowing that the therapist sees them as an equal. The therapist must also isolate themselves from being an extension of the person making them attend therapy. When the labels have been eliminated the client will be more willing to open up and can feel more comfortable with sharing their thoughts. If the client never feels comfortable in the situation it is very difficult to gain their trust and confidence, thus having success with the therapy sessions. I do agree that while doing all this the therapist must provide a warm and caring environment to enhance the success of the therapy, however, I believe the therapist is also there to help guide and advise their clients with their problems and concerns.
Carl Rogers was an American psychologist beginning his career as an intern in the late 1920’s. He was the founder of humanistic psychology and part of the Human Potential Movement which happened around the middle of this century. The Human Potential Movement was greatly influenced by the Existential approach believing that man’s entirety is to be sought through direct experience rather than analytical reflection. Contrary to the Existential view was the Psychoanalytical view, proposing that man was at the mercy of his own unconscious drives and instincts. There’s also the Behaviorists view which suggested that man was prepared by his environment and learned all behaviors. Rogers, on the other hand, believed that man has his own potential for growth and the ability to use what is available to his consciousness as a way of finding the truth. Rogers also believed that “given the right conditions the tendency for, and direction of, growth comes from within the organism; that the tendency is operative at all times, that it is indicative of life, and it responds in a fluid and changing manner to a variety of stimuli, both internal and external, as they come into the awareness of the organism” The Rogerian Approach to Counselling Theory. Rogers also believed that the core of man’s nature is positive, and that man is socialized, forward moving, rational and realistic, not destructive like Freud suggested.
Throughout Rogers’ development of humanistic psychology he was not only influenced by existentialism but also by others involved with the Human Potential Movement, including Maslow, Combs and Snygg. Through his work as a psychologist he became increasingly interested in the communication between two people in a relationship. This lead him to research what motivates a human being. The Rogerian theory is grounded by the study of persons, leading to its strong applied value in many areas of real life. Rogerian therapy involves the therapist getting into the client’s world. When learning about this world, the therapist does not disagree nor do they point out any contradictions. The focus is on the immediate conscious experience, there is no attempt to probe into the clients unconscious mind. Because of his emphasis on the conscious experiences, Rogers has been criticized for his lack of attention on the importance of the unconscious, which is the basis of Freud’s theories and probing techniques. By Rogers continuing to focus on the conscious he discovered an actualizing tendency that is inherent in all organisms – this being the basic drive towards completeness and actualization to its fullest potential.
Rogers would describe his kind of therapy as a process of freeing a person and removing any obstacles that would inhibit them, in hopes that normal growth and development can advance and the client can become independent and self-sufficient. Certain conditions are necessary for this process to become successful. A growth promoting environment requires the therapist to be congruent, have unconditional positive regard for the client, as well as show empathic understanding. It is necessary during therapy for the therapist to try to be completely congruent, meaning absolutely genuine no matter what their own beliefs are nor what the clients case is at hand. Another condition that is necessary is having accurate empathy, which refers to understanding the client’s feelings and personal meanings as they are experienced and communicated back and forth. Most importantly, as Rogers sees it is having unconditional positive regard at all times. This “unconditional positive regard involves relating from therapist to client, not as a scientist to an object of study, but as a person to a person. He feels this client to be a person of self-worth; of value no matter what his condition, his behavior or his feelings. He respects him for what he is, and accepts him as he is, with his potentialities (Rogers, 1965, p.22)” (Pescitelli, 1996, p. 1). The client can then feel accepted, not feel judged, whereas this tends to reduce the need to defend his self-concept and begin to accept and value himself. In order for the client to be able to accept experiences that have been distorted or denied to their own awareness, there must be a decrease in the client’s conditions of worth and an increase in the client’s unconditional self-regard. If the therapist can demonstrate unconditional positive regard for the client, then the client can begin to become accurately aware of experiences that had been previously distorted or denied because they experienced a loss of positive regard from significant others. These “significant others” most times are the clients parents, teachers, bosses, someone that is seen to have some control over the client. When a client perceives unconditional positive regard, their existing conditions of low worth are weakened and are soon replaced by a stronger unconditional positive self-regard.
Rogers strong belief in the unconditional positive regard method and the positive nature of human beings led him to the theory of person-centered therapy, which suggests any client, no matter what their problem, can improve once he/she accepts and respects themselves, without being taught anything specific by the therapist. The resources all lie within the client. This theory further focuses on the whole individual as they experience the world. Agency and free will are not undermined in this model. It gives considerable attention to the concept of the self and the suggestion that we can all overcome damages inflicted upon us from even early childhood.
The main problems with this theory of personality are related to the lack of precision and specificity regarding some of the terms and concepts. The concepts of congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard allow too much room for interpretation. While this theory has become increasingly comprehensive over time, a major weakness is that it does not sufficiently address the stages of development gone through by the client throughout their childhood. This theory keeps most ideas practical and bases them on human experience, yet leads to the extension of concepts that are appropriate to therapy, but may not be comprehensive or specific enough to apply to all people, however Rogers was able to apply his ideas to his own personal development. The system he developed nevertheless was not a closed system and he was always open to criticism and updating his work upon any further investigations.
In comparison to Rogers therapy, Existential Psychotherapy is a form which aims to enhance selfknowledge in the client and allows them to be the soul person responsible for their own lives and choices. The main difference between the two is that existentialists focus largely on discovering the clients past and how it is influencing their present condition. Some goals of existential therapy are to enable people to become more honest with themselves, to widen their perspective on themselves and their surroundings, and to take what they’ve learned from their past experiences and use it in their present day lives. The purpose of this type of therapy is to help clients face and overcome the anxiety that emerges from a person’s attempts to cope with the stresses of their existence. Rogerian therapy keeps things very optimistic, keeping the pretty picture on the front line for the clients, helping them focus on the positive aspects. Rogerian keeps the focus on the conscious experiences. Whereas existential therapy may drag some unpleasant memories up in hopes to get at the root of their present problem. They both have positive and negative aspects, each suitable for different individuals. Any situation depends on what kind of therapy is needed and which one best suits each individuals needs.
Every situation will be different and will have to be approached at different angles and with different techniques. There are many benefits with this Rogerian approach. It’s main focus is to attempt to keep things as positive as possible, and motivate the client to live a more positive life for themselves. It is important for the client to loose the mentality that they have to please other people in order to feel better about themselves. The largest fault that I see with this approach is that it is not as simple as it is made out to be. There needs to be some probing into the unconscious mind, difficult or not for the client. I feel the past needs to be examined and essentially repaired before anyone can expect change in the present or the future. If the conscious mind continues to be the only factor looked at, like in this Rogerian approach, the possible root of the problem will continue to be pushed deeper and deeper into the unconscious mind. One thing remains the same in any and all approaches of therapy, that is the client has a high quality of life.