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Carl Rogers Humanistic Theory

This article is a condensed version of Carl Rogers' theory of counselling.


Carl Rogers Humanistic Theory

Carl Rogers, 1902-1987 one of the founding figures of Humanistic Psychology. Rogers worked in an environment where the fields of social work, psychology, and psychiatry had combined to diagnose and treat the problems of living. Rogers became discouraged with the current diagnostic, prescriptive, and expert approach to treatments, feeling that the medical approach to dealing with depression resulted in human beings being reduced to the level of objects and placed disproportionate power in the hands of others.

According to Rogers, all humans are born good, with nothing evil about them. Each person is unique and, no matter how evaluated or labelled, s/he is a human being first. Roger's theory suggests that we are all born with innate resources to deal with the problems of life, and, given the right conditions and opportunities, we will move towards autonomy and self-direction.

Core conditions of unconditional positive regard, congruence, and empathy are necessary conditions for bringing about therapeutic change. Rogers believed that all humans, from birth, need unconditional positive regard. (UPR) If they are to be self-accepting and feel accepted by others. For some, unfortunately, love, warmth, respect, and total acceptance are usually conditional, and should negative, critical, and condemning attitudes surround a person, s/he will develop a negative self-concept of self.

A person with a negative self-concept lacks an internalised locus of evaluation and is unable to trust their own feelings when making life decisions. Instead, they often seek external sources of help. Those with a negative self-concept or low self-esteem spend their time trying to please others so much that they become alienated from their true or organismic self, the person they were born to be. According to Hough (1998) "When there is a vast difference between a person's self-concept and the real self, problems of identity will certainly arise at some stage in life".

The desperate need for approval from others means that for some, their range of behaviours could become restricted out of fear of rejection from people important to them. The result of this fear is the person's inability to function fully, and they become depressed.

The attribute of congruence in the counsellor implies that s/he will be genuine, authentic, and open during the session. This attitude helps to develop trust between the client and counsellor. The counsellor offers empathy and, by being empathic and understanding, the counsellor will often reflect the client's feelings, enabling the client to become more aware of how they are feeling.

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Rogers's theory of personality claims that humans are essentially growth-oriented, and have a natural tendency towards self-actualisation. The actualisation tendency, according to Mearns (1988) is the "innate capacity in all human beings to move towards the fulfillment of their potential. This idea stems from the belief that all organisms, including humans, have an instinctive need to grow and achieve their goals in life. According to Rogers (1973), if humans are to survive the problems of human evolution, "the human must become more readily adaptive to new problems and situations".


Goals of Humanistic Therapy

The goals of Humanistic therapy are to help remove the blocks to self-development, to put people in touch with the true self, and to promote continued growth rather than allowing external factors to determine behaviour". Gross (1996) Practitioners of Humanistic therapy, Person Centred Counsellors, believe that we all have within us, vast resources we can tap into for development. These resources can often be unused and so forgotten, however, they are always available with growth potential, given that conditions are suitable.

Humanistic therapy aims to create a setting in which one feels free from psychological and physical threats and which will allow the client to explore their own beliefs, feelings, and experiences.

The role of the humanistic counsellor is to offer themselves as a congruent empathic listener and to facilitate the session, enabling the client to feel safe to become aware and find their inner resources to deal with life.

Hough M (1998). Counselling skills and theory. Hodder and Stoughton
Gross R Mcilveen (1996). Abnormal psychology. Hodder and Stoughton


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