This is my essay on the person centred approach, to counselling. In this essay I will demonstrate my understanding of the philosophy and theory of the approach, including Carl Rogers’ personality theory in relation to myself and my life. I will also be talking about the nature of the learning process, as I am experiencing it, in terms of individual learning and working as part of the group and how this has impacted on me, and some of what I have experienced in my own personal counselling will also be included.
The person centred approach has an optimistic view of human nature “… is essentially constructive and not destructive. ” ( Mearns and Thorne 1999 pp17) and Rogers believed that people were basically good. Also it has an emphasis on every human being as person that is unique and individual, and as an individual all the things that I see and hear and all the experiences and events of my life are perceived and internalised according to my frames of reference, which are completely unique to me.
For me doing the counselling course and being in counselling is my way of helping myself to change and grow for the better, even though I feel that it was not a conscious decision, I believe that I was drawn to it on a subconscious level and this is for me, is proof of the actualising tendency in process. The actualising tendency is believed “… to be the sole motivation for human development and behaviour… ” ( Merry 2002 pp. 21) in the person centred approach and it makes up a part of the personality theory.
It is applicable to all forms of organic life and as I see it, it is the tendency that I have within me to grow and develop, to know what is best for me and that I strive to be the best that I can be regardless of the situation that I may be in. It feels empowering to know that I have it within myself to fulfil my potential and that it is inherently within me to do so. I feel that it has given me the strength to take ownership of my own path in life; I am capable of overcoming problems, this has had a positive impact on me and I feel that I am working towards removing the blocks I have that have stopped me from realising my full potential.
I know that I am experiencing the conditions that are necessary to for me to release and express the tendency, through my learning at college and my self exploration in counselling. For me at this point, it feels as though everything within me and around me is changing “life, at its best ,is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed. ” ( Kirchenbaum and Henderson 1990 pp28), and I feel that my whole being is enveloped in the person centred, ‘way of being’.
Carl Rogers believed that every person could realise their self actualising tendency if the core conditions were in place. These core conditions are also central to the therapeutic relationship and I experience them being in place when I am with the counsellor. The first of these core conditions is congruence, which is a state of being. When I am with my counsellor I experience her as being real, and authentic. She is in the moment with me and her being real helps me to be more open and genuine with her and I feel relaxed.
The counsellor’s congruence means that, I do not experience her as being better than me, we are equal. Her congruence is in the context of her responses to my experiences, her relevant response is what she is genuinely feeling at that time, and her inner feelings are being reflected on the outside too. This also applies in college, in the past I have viewed teachers as being authoritative, powerful and better than me, but I experience the facilitators as being real, genuine and open. The second core condition is unconditional positive regard.
This is an attitude that is held by the counsellor, it is an acceptance of the client as a person even though they may not agree with what the client does. “Valuing the client as a person of worth is not conditional. ” ( Mearns and Thorne, 1999 pp. 66). This is probably the core condition that, for me, has the biggest impact, I really value the acceptance without conditions that I receive both in counselling and at college and I feel sad when I think that this is something that I have rarely experienced in my life.
This has only become apparent to me now that I am on the course and I am aware that I have felt guilty for a long time because I thought that I was a bad person for all the things that I have done wrong. This had made me defensive and I found it very difficult to be open. But the acceptance without conditions that I have felt towards me, within my group has really touched me and I value it so much. I have found that as a result of this acceptance I feel free to be myself “… to be oneself is worth a high price. ” ( Kirschenbaum and Henderson 1990 pp.
167) in college and in counselling, I feel valued for the person that I am, I feel as though the cycle is breaking and that my locus of evaluation is steadily moving from being external to being more internal. I am aware that I do not have to hide my true self behind a mask anymore because “what I am is good enough if I can just be it openly”. (From handout, week 5). The third core condition is empathy; this is a continuous process, whereby the counsellor is sensing my world ‘as if’ it were her own, this is very important as it refers to her being along side me, in my frame of reference, in the moment.
Empathy is not just about thinking how the other person is feeling; it involves my counsellor, feeling the feelings as I am feeling them. I find empathy one of the hardest conditions to hold because I find myself slipping back into my own frames of reference, when I feel as though I have had a similar experience to the other person. But I also find it difficult when a group member is sharing something that is painful or sad, and I really start to feel how it is for them, as I sometimes find it difficult to step out of their frame so I find myself carrying this pain and sadness around with me.
Practising empathy has made me a lot more sensitive to other people’s feelings and experiences and even when I am not at college I am surprised by how I sometimes step into someone else’s frame and feel in depth what that person is feeling. I can be empathic when I am actively able to listen and this is a skill that I feel is very important to the whole person centred approach. Self actualisation can occur when the conditions of worth are no longer present and if the core conditions are in place then it is believed that there will be no more conditions of worth.
The conditions of worth are a part of Rogers’s personality theory; this is the process by which I have developed my self concept. Rogers believed that the personality started to develop from the moment of birth, but I wonder if it might start sooner, as perhaps the pregnant mother’s experiences, genetics and the experience of the unborn child might also have an effect on the personality. As soon as I was born I had potential- actualising tendency was present, but at that point I had no experiences or history, I was the organismic self, I see it as being like a blank tape.
At about roughly three months of age, although this varies in each individual, I would have started to realise I was separate to my mum, an individual in my own right, my self concept started to develop, and I would have probably realised things such as if I cry I will be fed. This is when the realisation of having a world unique to ‘me’ would have emerged. Gradually when the urge to grow is added to my potential, I can get the toy if I move from here to there, I would have entered into the process of self actualisation, which is discovering what is going on inside, recognising and knowing that something can be done if I choose to do it.
For example, I can see a toy but it’s on the other side of the room and mummy is not available to get it for me, but if I want to get to it I can hold on to things and somehow get to it. Or my nappy is feeling uncomfortable, and I want it changed, to achieve this if I cry then mummy will come and change it, or I could just leave it and go to sleep and cry when I wake up! My experiences while growing up and the conditions and behaviours I learnt or was taught are what then form the conditions of worth, which are a valuing system and affect the way I value myself.
For example, I was taught as a child that I should do as I was told by my mum or else I will be punished and I feel this has stayed with me throughout my life and I still have a fear of my mum and the repercussions if I do not do as I m told or I do something that she does not agree with. , and I can now connect this with how my personality and the way I have developed and it saddens me to think that these conditions have impacted on my life so much.
These conditions have been from external sources to and I feel that they have led to me having an external locus of evaluation and I think that for a long time I have lived my life and done things in certain ways to get approval from other people as I believed that this was what was important, but now that I have identified this behaviour and pattern I, with the help of my counsellor and group at college, am able to accept that this I how I am and that I can change this, which is what I intend to do.
This is a self actualisation and an acceptance of who I am as a person, and now that I have this acceptance of myself and the way it is for me I do not need the approval of others, and I can see myself moving towards a more internal locus of evaluation. This eventually will lead to me being a fully functional person ” … is more able to live fully in and with each and all of his feelings and reactions.
” ( Kirschenbaum and Henderson 1990 pp416), knowing that the resources for change are within me and that I have acceptance for myself and that is what matters, no matter what is going on in the external world. At the moment I feel as if I am “… completely engaged in the process of being and becoming… ” myself. (Rogers, 2004 pp192). I feel that a big part of person centred learning is based on personal growth and an understanding of my inner self, and I find that the group work is essential to developing the core conditions.
For me the most difficult aspect has been the triad work, at first I found it difficult to be open and to share my thoughts and feelings within the triad, as I thought that I would be judged and this became a block to my congruence, also I felt I could not relate to the triad members. But as my counselling skills have developed, I am more able to hold the core conditions and therefore I feel that I have accepted the triad and the experience is much more real now.
When I started college it was quite daunting to be in a big group of people I did not know and I found the first experiential very difficult as I felt exposed, but it has now become one of my favourite parts of the day as I know that I can talk if I want but I don’t have to and it is, there is no pressure to do anything but if and when I do share I feel that I am listened to and my input is valued. I have had some very touching feedback from what I have shared and some of these make me smile even when I think of them now.
I feel comfortable and accepted within the group and although I am a part of the group I am still respected for the unique individual that I am. The other group activities, such as games and role play are fun and I feel these help me to bond with the group, and develop trust in them, which for me is central to being a part of the group; I would not be myself if I felt I had no trust and the experience would not be real. But being in the group and interacting with so many different people has helped me to see how unique every person really is and it has aided me in removing a lot of barriers and perceptions that I have held for a long time.
, this is especially true in relation to the male members of the group. I have come to respect every member of the group for the individuals that they are and I appreciate everyone’s willingness to share. The environment also makes a difference in my ability to share, especially with my counsellor. The fact there is a confidentiality agreement, means that I feel safe to be open as I know what I say will go no further and, this is also true in college.
The physical surroundings are also important and I feel comfortable and safe when I am with my counsellor, as the room is relaxing and it is intimate as it is not too big. Also the fact she always greets me with a smile and comes to the front door makes me feel welcome and respected. If I experienced the counsellor as being cold or I felt uncomfortable in her room then I don’t think that I would be able to be myself as it would be distracting and I wouldn’t be able to build a relationship with someone if their was no warmth.
My experience, thus far, of the person centred approach has been very empowering and positive. I think that this is the first time in my life that I have been so self aware and have appreciated being ‘me’; I have taken the risk of being open and looking at feelings and experiences that I never thought I could deal with, I am building a whole new relationship with myself and I feel that I am in this process all the time. I know that I am growing and developing and I find that I have self acceptance.
I am so in touch with what I am feeling and thinking constantly and other people are noticing the change in me as well. I am learning to love myself, unconditionally. REFERENCE LIST; Kirchenbaum H and V. L. Henderson ( 1990) The Carl Rogers Reader Mearns D and Thorne B ( 1999 ) Person- centred Counselling in Action Merry T ( 2002 ) Learning and Being in Person- centred Counselling Rogers C. R. ( 2004 ) On Becoming a Person