A History and Comparison and Contrast of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

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The main goal of psychiatry is to help people. There are many methods and approaches specialists like psychologists use in the field of psychiatry to help their patients. Psychotherapy is aimed at strengthening an individual’s mental and emotional resources so that they can function more effectively. In the following paper, I will analyze by comparison and contrast two of the most common used therapies in the field – person centered therapy (PCT), developed by Carl Rogers and rational emotive therapy (REBT), developed by Albert Ellis. Both men were pioneers in the world of psychology and played a vital role in the influence on psychology treatment approaches. According to many survey’s both Carl and Ellis were ranked as the most influential psychotherapists, with Ellis ranking just behind Rogers, who was known as the “father of client-centered therapy” and one of the most eminent thinkers and founding figures of humanistic psychology, which looks not only at the human behavior through the eyes of the observer, but through the eyes of the person doing the behavior.

Carl Rogers and Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)

Who was Carl Rogers? Carl Rogers was born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. Rogers was an over-achiever in school from an early age. He was reading before the age of 5 and skipped kindergarten and first grade to go directly into second grade. In college he enrolled with the intention to become an agriculture major, but later switch to study religion with the intention of becoming a minister. It was a Christian conference trip and a bout with illness that caused him to question his career choice. After taking a course in psychology taught by Leta Stetter Hollingsworth, he decided to abandon his pursuit of theology and pursue his degree in clinical psychology at Columbia University.

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Development of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)

Carl Rogers received his PhD and continued to work within the academia field. It was during this time that he developed his approach to therapy, initially termed “nondirective therapy.” This approach involves the therapist acting as a facilitator rather than a director of the therapy session and this eventually became known as the “client-centered therapy.” Rogers believed that all people possess an inherent need to grow and achieve their potential. With this self-realization, he believed it was the primary motive driving one’s behavior. He also thought it was imperative that the psychologist and the psychotherapy needed to offer support and a lack of judgement, no matter what the client felt, did, or experienced; another wards, the therapist accepts the client as they are with no judgement or reproach. Rogers also believed that a healthy self-concept was shaped by life’s experiences and was heavily influenced by parents beginning in childhood. He believed that parents who loved their children unconditionally were more likely to foster a healthy self-concept, whereas, children who had to “earn” their parents love may end up with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. Rogers also felt that the same concept of unconditional applied to their concept of their “ideal self” but didn’t always match up with the actual perception of who we are today. He believed that people who continually strive to fulfill their actual tendency could become what he referred to as a fully functioning person, who has the ability to live in harmony with others (Thorne, B & Sanders 2103). “I believe it will have become evident why, for me, adjectives such as happy, contented, blissful, enjoyable, do not seem quite appropriate to any general description of this process I have called the good life, even though the person in this process would experience each one of these at the appropriate times. But adjectives which seem more generally fitting are adjectives such as enriching, exciting, rewarding, challenging, meaningful. This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint fainthearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. Yet the deeply exciting thing about human beings is that when the individual is inwardly free, he chooses as the good life this process of becoming (C.R. Rogers 1961).”

Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Albert Ellis on the other hand came from a very different lifestyle and family. He was born in 1913 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He came from a very unaffectionate and emotionally distant family. He was sick a lot growing up and spend a lot of time in and out of the hospital growing up. His parents rarely visited him or offered him comfort and support. He was rather shy in his younger years but developed into a very outspoken person and set a goal for himself to speak to every woman he encountered. By doing this he desensitized himself from the fear of speaking to women. He utilized this same approach to overcome his fear of public speaking.

After high school, he earned a business degree and spent some time pursuing a business career and then attempted fictional writing. After struggling with both, he decided to pursue his PhD in clinical psychology. His initial training was in psychoanalysis, but he soon saw the weaknesses in the method and its passivity and ineffectiveness. Influenced by other works by Alfred Adler and such, he began to develop his own approach to psychotherapy.

Development of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Dr. Albert Ellis took his cognitive behavior therapy and shaped it into an action-oriented approach to managing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disturbances. Because REBT is so focused on the thinking about events that lead to the emotional and behavioral upset, clients are taught how to examine and change their unhelpful thinking, to not self-sabotage or defeat oneself. REBT is successful in addressing conditions like depression, anxiety, guilt, unhealthy eating, sleep disorders and addictive behaviors. REBT then provides different methods to help people rethink or reformulate their dysfunctional thoughts and turn them into more realistic and sensible ones, by “disputing” – a technique that helps individuals develop a philosophy and approach to living that will increase their effectiveness and satisfaction at work, living successfully with others, in parenting settings, educational facilities and within communities that enhances their own personal welfare and emotional health.

“Let’s suppose somebody abused you sexually. You still had a choice—though not a good one—about what to tell yourself about the abuse. Given that you’re still upset about the abuse, you probably told yourself two things about it. First, you said things like: ‘I don’t like it. I wish to hell it weren’t so. How unfair.’ That made you feel sorry and regretful, which is okay. But you also in all probability told yourself that the abuse should not exist. You were disturbed as a child because of both the adversity you experienced and what you told yourself about that adversity. If adversity alone caused disturbance, then everybody who experienced such adversity would turn out the same, but we know they don’t. So, we teach people that they upset themselves then and that they’re still doing it now. We can’t change the past, so we change how people are thinking, feeling and behaving today (Epstein 2001).”

Which Therapy is more effective Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) or Relative Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)?

Person-Centered Therapy focus is on the client. It states that the problems appear because of the imbalance between the clients ideal (the idea they have form in their head) and the actual self-perception of their real selves as a person. When these are out of balance there lies a mental health issue. Similarities exist between Person-Centered Therapy and Relative Emotive Behavior Therapy ‘s in that both see oppositions as the source of the main problems. In REBT the opposition is created by higher moral standards and the will and wishes of the person whereas, in PCT the opposition is created by ideal and real selves. Where they differ, they propose different ways to solve the problems. REBT aims to change the “should” and “musts” in order to justify a person’s wants and desires. PCT tries to establish a balance between the two and how to resolve the inner conflict. PCT focuses on a person’s present situation or reason that led to the current situation at hand. PCT is a very hands-off approach. The psychologist or therapist does not direct actual actions for the client or doesn’t force the client to feel or impose feelings, thoughts or conclusions to solve the problem. REBT is the opposite is very hands on and directive, making the clients actions and thoughts change to help them change some of their concepts and ideas. PCT is a very positive approach making sure all the client’s actions, emotions, and behaviors; along with wishes and desire are good. This positive or good allows the clients to rid themselves of guilt and doubt that were formed when the problem arose. The expression of thoughts and feelings that are free from shame or fear is of the utmost importance in this theory. The focus being your feelings as a result of an experience that you are going through at a certain point in your life.

The biggest difference between both therapies is the focus on the treatment. PCT focuses on the feelings, assessing and reflecting on those feelings, so therapists must be very good listeners and have the ability to understand the client’s feelings. It is a very passive form of treatment, where a client just expresses their feelings to a therapist and no direct action is taken. Some therapists argue that Person-Centered Therapy is not effective with non-verbal or poorly uneducated individuals; others maintain that it can be successfully adapted to any type of person. The Person-Centered Approach can be used in individual, group, or family therapy (Kensit 2000). REBT focuses on the problem and possible disturbances caused by the problem; another wards, after a client recognizes the problem, he or she must find philosophical believes that resulted in the appearance of the problem. REBT focuses on changing your way of thinking that will lead to a change in behavior; it is based on a learning theory. Some examples of this could be through relaxation, coaching, modeling or new social skills development. This therapy has become very successful in helping those who are dealing with depression, sexual disorders, or disorder in children’s behavior (Windy Dryden 1993). PCT on the other hand, is used successfully to treat schizophrenia, addictions such as alcoholism and people with cognitive dysfunction and other different kinds of personality disorders.

Whether one therapy or the other is better for a client depends on the therapist, their client and the client’s current situation. It is a personal choice that requires the careful assessment of the clients needs and which treatment will be successful. Studies and practices over the years have shown that a combination of therapies can give very good results. In this case, different therapies supplement each other, and clients can choose the one that is most appropriate for them. (Hatcherson-Brown, 2020)


Epstein, R. (2001, Jan. 01). The Prince of Reason. Psychology Today

Thorne, B & Sanders, P. Carl Rogers. Los Angeles: Sage Publications; 2013.st Name, F. M. (Year).

Kensit, Denise A. ‘Rogerian Theory: A Critique of the Effectiveness of Pure Client-Centered Therapy.’ Counselling Psychology Quarterly 13, no. 4 (2000): 345-351.

Windy Dryden, Larry K. Hill, editors, Innovations in Rational-Emotive Therapy (1993)

Rogers, C.R., On becoming a person: a therapist’s view of psychotherapy: Sentry

Edition, Houghton Mifflin (1961)

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A History and Comparison and Contrast of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). (2022, Nov 30). Retrieved from


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