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Person Centred Counselling and the Core Conditions

The Core Conditions


The Core Conditions

The three main core conditions that Carl Rogers considered essential for effective counselling are:

1. Unconditional Positive Regard. (UPR)

2. Empathy.

3. Congruence.

However in Roger’s paper “The necessary and sufficient conditions of Therapeutic personality change” he lists six conditions in total.

1. Two persons are in Psychological contact.

2. The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.

3. The second person, whom we shall term the therapist is congruence or integrated in the relationship.

4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.

5. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the clients internal frame of reference and endeavours to communicate this experience to the client.

6. The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved.

No other conditions are necessary . If these six conditions exist and continue over a period of time, this is sufficient…(Rogers Reader p221)

Unconditional Positive Regard, Empathy & Congruence are the counsellors or therapists conditions needed to facilitate change. Without these conditions being present a healing relationship cannot form. In the six conditions above we see that the client also has to ‘play ball’, Psychological contact is needed. If the client does not want to be there they are free to withdraw and the counselling processes cannot continue. The client too it seems needs to realise that there is something not working for them in their lives.

So what are these conditions? Roger's three core conditions for therapeutic change as explained by the good man himself:

"The first element could be called genuineness, realness, or congruence. The more the therapist is himself or herself in the relationship, putting up no professional front or personal facade, the greater is the likelihood that the client will change and grow in a constructive manner. This means that the therapist is openly being the feelings and attitudes that are flowing within at the moment. Thus, there is a close matching, or congruence, between what is being experienced at the gut level, what is present in awareness, and what is expressed to the client.

The second attitude of importance in creating a climate for change is acceptance, or caring, or prizing--what I have called 'unconditional positive regard.' When the therapist is experiencing a positive, acceptant attitude toward whatever the client is at that moment, therapeutic movement or change is more likely to occur. The therapist is willing for the client to be whatever immediate feeling is going on--confusion, resentment, fear, anger, courage, love, or pride. Such caring on the part of the therapist is non-possessive. The therapist prizes the client in a total rather than a conditional way.

The third facilitative aspect of the relationship is empathic understanding. This means that the therapist senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the client. When functioning best, the therapist is so much inside the private world of the other that he or she can clarify not only the meanings of which the client is aware but even those just below the level of awareness. This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know."
(Rodgers, 1980)

There is a lot packed in to the above descriptions, at a glance it does not seem much but upon examining them closely the basic framework of Rogers counselling work is described.

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The first condition is named as congruence, realness, genuineness. That is to say that you are present and aware with the client. If we look back historically to the time Rogers was writing in the 1950’s I think he was saying to drop the facade of Doctor or Psychoanalyst to come out from behind the white coat and meet the person as another person, while still remaining in the role of therapist. My understanding of the therapeutic climate of the time is that the therapist took on an almost authoritarian role as a ‘fixer’ of a ‘broken’ patient. Rogers was the one who helped change the ‘Patient’ into a ‘Client’.

Once the client is treated as an equal communication will start. If the therapist comes across as an authority or an expert the client will start to tailor their answers to suit this. As Wilson points out in Prometheus Rising:

“Accurate communication is possible only in a non-punishing situation;
communication occurs only between equals”

I think that Rogers was also saying that we should be ‘real’ with who we are as a therapist. If we are only putting on the counsellor mask it will be picked up upon, much like when we visit a show room and get greeted by an over-zealous sales person, we can easily sense that they are not genuine or that they are only giving us attention because they are after a sale.

Unconditional Positive Regard:


Unconditional Positive Regard: UPR in a nutshell simply means that the counsellor listens in a non-judgmental warm way to the client. There are no conditions put upon the relationship. By taking this position in the relationship the client will be able to talk about what they are thinking and feeling without fearing a judgment or a rejection. It strikes me as ironic that one of the core conditions is a condition of unconditional positive regard. Nevertheless UPR is one of the bits of magic in the relationship that makes the listening and healing possible. It also ties in nicely or is on a similar continuum to congruence, as again communication occurs only between equals. Initially when I first came across this concept I wondered if I could hold it with all persons. I thought of an extreme case of an abuser, I wondered if I could hold this UPR? I thought about this and discovered that it is possible to separate the person from their behaviour. It is only when UPR is present that the client will trust the therapist enough to be open and honest about their inner world. I have faith in UPR so much so that no matter how much a person feels that they have slipped from society’s grace that they will be able to gain UPR for themselves and others and hopefully start anew. Rogers was quite wise to say that we all have potential for change up to the moment of our death. If find this concept wonderfully optimistic and applaud it.

Empathic Understanding


Empathy or empathic understanding is the next core condition. This is where the therapist picks up on the feelings of the client and reflects this back to the client. This is the process where the therapist can act as a support to the client by making them feel ‘as if’ the therapist is there experiencing their array of emotions. There is an expression that I like that illustrates empathic understanding the term is ‘Grok’ it’s taken from the novel ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ (Heinlein, 1961), literally it means ‘to drink’ but is taken to mean 'understanding.' It is often used by programmers and other assorted computer geeks while discussing computer code. To ‘Grok’ means to become one with, understand and empathize with something or someone to the extent that the object or person becomes part of one’s sense self. I think that empathy in the person centred world is a ‘Groking’ of the other person, without getting so caught up in the experience that you react and become lost in it. Not to lose the ‘as if’ quality.

Do the Core Conditons Improve all relationships?

I am going to take a leap of faith and say that the core conditions do improve all relationships. I have all ready experienced the power of the conditions in my own personal counselling and have felt how powerful they are. Without a doubt in my mind I will say that within the therapeutic setting that they are essential for a healing relationship to occur.

I was debating with myself around the question of them improving
all relationships. Initially I thought that that this would not be the case so I decided to bring the conditions out into the playing field of life and experiment. I have been having a lot of fun with this. I decided to be congruent as far as its possible to be with anyone I met on the street for the last few weeks in as far giving a nod or saying ‘hullo’ if eye contact was made, rather than doing my usual paranoid ‘I’m too busy and important to be dealing with the likes of you’ walk. The response was phenomenal. One gent I’ve passed dozens of times while out walking my dog actually stopped for a chat for the first time, it consisted of no more than six words but it was a start. I’ve been getting smiles and salutes from perfect strangers when I pass them on my bike too. Saying that I’ve also encountered a few zombies too, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before contact is made. I think that time is a dimension of a relationship that gets overlooked sometimes, trust can take time.

Personal Anxiety & Fear

I have also recently had the fortune of being harassed by the local teenagers that live in the council estate adjacent to my house. As my house is the first house on the corner our cars get targeted frequently, windows smashed, set alight, stolen etc ... I saw some teenagers out in the garden the other night and went out to them. My usual approach is to tell them to clear off, usually in colourful language, this time however I went out and tried out the magic of unconditional positive regard with them. I met them as people rather than ‘bloody hooded youths’ and asked them what they were up to? This was taken as an accusation, I told them that I wasn’t blaming them for anything, only that we had been getting vandalised and that since they were in my garden I had a right to ask them what they were doing there. I asked them what they were doing out on such a cold night and they said that they where board. They had nothing on that night. I asked them what they thought should be there for them to do and one of them was quite keen on a racetrack another on somewhere to play ‘Xbox’. Admittedly one of the girls launched into a rant about how “youse (the people in the new houses) moved into our area and we’re going to smash up your stuff and houses and you until you all move away” and “ ‘cos you are the corner house that you are going to get it ‘cos your easy to run away from”, rather than rising to this bait I reflected this back to them saying that I understood that they were upset and felt like smashing up the place but asked them if they thought that this was fair? After some time they said that no it wasn’t fair but that it would probably continue. To cut a long story short I returned to my house and thought that I had made no head way with them. However, I felt that I had made some with myself. I lost my fear of the ‘youths’ and gained an understanding that these people are just board children that lack boundaries and parental control in their lives. This has made living here less scary for me and this was only through having UPR, empathy and congruence present in my dialogue with them that this change in me occurred. As a foot note to this story, the next night 12 cars on the road got their windscreens smashed, mine however was not one of them yippee! – perhaps I did get through in some small way!

More Fear and Loathing

Something similar happened again but this time with a group of younger teens from the area. Without going into too much story I started to apply the core conditions to my dealings with them whenever I had cause to. It really has made a huge difference with them. I realise that they were picking up on my distrust and judgement of their behaviour; once I started to meet them as real people I have had very little hassle with them. In fact they will now come up and chat the way children do whenever I am out working in the garden or on the cars. The other morning when I went to walk the dog there was a small group of them sitting on the wall. Rather than getting the usual dirty looks I got a ‘howareya mister!’ from them. So I can say that even in the most difficult relationships no matter how troubled they seem, using the core conditions will help improve them for the better. Perhaps only small steps at a time but steps towards something better never the less.




Heinlein, R. A. (1961). Stranger in a Strange Land. Berkley Publishing Group.

O'Farrell, U. (Reprint 2001). First Steps in Counselling. Dublin: Veritas.

Rogers, C. (1980). Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C. (2005). The Carl Rogers Reader edited by Kirschenbaum & Henderson. London: Counstable & Robertson.

Sanders, P. (2006). The Person Centred Counselling Primer. Trowbridge, UK: Cromwell Press.

Wilson, R. A. (1994). Prometheus Rising. Arizona: Falcon.

© 2009 Gareth Martin


Tiffany Payne from Dallas TX on July 30, 2019:

I enjoyed reading your article

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on May 22, 2016:

Thanks Baz!

Flex on October 09, 2015:

I have just started my counselling level 5 and my first assay struggling with the six core condition s any help

Judy on May 19, 2014:

Hi Abel,

I love your article too - but would also welcome some advice. Person-Centred Counselling is all I know, but I'm working with children now and finding its turned things on its head. If I reflect they look at me as though I'm mad and have nothing to say back at all. I feel I'm compelled to ask questions as that is all they respond to unless its very surface stuff. Some of the children have disclosed things that shock me and I do not know how to respond - any suggestions?

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on May 07, 2014:

Hi Abel,

Glad you like the piece!

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on May 07, 2014:

Hey Sharon,Glad you like the article - what parts are you having difficulty with?

Abel on April 17, 2014:

Hi Martin...... I must confess that the content of this hub has redefined my view on counseling.Thanks.

Sharon on January 12, 2014:

I have loved reading this site love Rogers theory although I struggle putting the personality into practice HELP?

Philip Wall from Dublin, Ireland on March 15, 2013:

This is a really useful article explaining the core conditions of Person Centred therapy. It gave me a better understanding of how Rogerian counselling works. Thanks.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on July 02, 2012:

Well done Kitty and and the Northhall Action group - Great to see you being the change you want in the world!

Kitty Clark on June 07, 2012:

Hi Gareth... I have consistently applied the core conditions to my everyday life, as well as my professional life and have found that it is the sure fire way to establish a feeling of community. We have to lean to relate to each other, to our neighbours, our 'enemies', our elders and youngers too..And you are right, it starts with a 'Hello' and a smile... I also firmly believe that you have to be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi) and I have always set aside time for community projects in the village were I live. I was instrument in organising and effecting a community direct action for lower speed limits in my own village and the surrounding ones too. anyway, continue to experiment and integrate with the core conditions, it is worth it!! Cosmic Blessings, Kitty.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on April 19, 2012:

Keep breathing Mary - and enjoy your drink - lol

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on April 19, 2012:

Glad it helped you Tracey - it keeps on giving!

mary on April 04, 2012:

Thank you, I really enjoyed your summary, it made things a lot clearer and I loved the humour that ran through. I am - or should be - writing up my first case studies for my level 4 diploma and struggling with the format, what needs to be said? which clients to use? How can I get my remaining criteria from it? Should I forget about it today and go for a drink? Will I have a hangover tomorrow if I do? Why did I start this course? Where did I put my other reading glasses? Who am I and what day is it? Yes, I' struggling alright and so far the going for a drink is winnig!

Tracey Challinor on April 02, 2012:

Thankyou for a better understanding of advanced empathy, I'm currently doing an assignment for level 3 and this helped me greatly. & you're right it helps in not only my professional but personnal life too.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 22, 2012:

Yup Carl's approach is good alright, i find that his approach really helps me in my life in general as well as in my professional life. Good luck with the studies Chanelle!

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 22, 2012:

No Problem Jen - I hope you passed your exam :)

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 22, 2012:

Good luck with your studies Melaine

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 22, 2012:

you are welcome Michelle

chanelle on February 10, 2012:

Carl Rodgers is my great teacher and hero in his work on the person centered counseling i.e his core conditions:Empathetic listening unconditional positive regard,congruence,accurate listening.I get inspired everyday of my life and as am studying Counseling Psychology.

Jen on January 03, 2012:

Thanks for sharing these, great summary. I've got an exam in a couple of weeks and this really helped to clear up a few things that I didn't quite understand. Thanks again!

Ms Melanie Watts on November 16, 2011:

thanks for sharing the core conditions, Carl Rogers conditions have help me with day to day living. and with my studying.

michelle wynn on October 13, 2011:

You have shared a great summary of a a wonderful approach. Thank you.

Christine Louis de Canonville on May 30, 2011:

I agree with you Berga, but may I add another perspective to your understanding of what Empathy is? Empathy is a core concept in counselling that is used for information processing. However, in reality, it is much more than putting oneself in the other person’s shoes , the “as if quality”, but I agree that that is a good starting point to begin.

Empathy manifests itself on many levels of consciousness, from Surface Structures (the lightest form), to Deep Structures (middle form), and finally, to True Structures (highest form). In effect I am making the distinction between two major dimensions; what are referred to as Primary and Advanced Empathy. In Primary empathy the counsellor attends to listening to the client, and communicating back their understanding of what the client is experiencing. Whereas in Advanced empathy, the counsellor takes a more active role, for example, the counsellor may incorporate some self-disclosure, directiveness, and interpretations in order to provide the client with more self-awareness.

These deeper levels of empathy border on the mystical. While identifying with the “other”, the therapist is also able to identify with their own sense of “Self”. In order to work at the deepest levels of empathy it is crucial that the therapist is able to differentiate between their own and the client’s feelings, that is why it is imperative for counsellors to do their own inner work before embarking on this journey with another. Failure to do so may result in the therapist projecting their own perspective on to their client. So to my mind, empathy is a mutually constructed reality shared between two people, not wholly owned by either, but co-owned in a beautiful “mystical dance” that goes beyond the five ordinary senses to extrasensory perception…… what is commonly called “tapping into our sixth sense”.

Berga from SKIEN on May 06, 2011:

very useful...I take this with me, thanks a lot !

"empathic understanding. This means that the therapist senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the client. When functioning best, the therapist is so much inside the private world of the other that he or she can clarify not only the meanings of which the client is aware but even those just below the level of awareness. This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know."

(Rodgers, 1980)

Jane on March 27, 2011:

Hi Gareth

Thanks so much for putting your piece together, it was so enjoyable and easier than many to understand, it has focussed my mind and thoughts on Rogers. What a wonderful thinker and person he was...

garyyoungberg on January 29, 2011:

Great article, Gareth. Excellent material concerning human relations.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on December 27, 2010:

Thanks Mavis :)

Mavis Nong from United Kingdom on December 23, 2010:

Hey Gareth,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hub. Well done for putting this together.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on December 23, 2010:

Hey Sharanya - thanks for your comments, good luck with your Thesis!

Article Magick from Dublin on December 22, 2010:

Excellent article. I particularly like the way you have taken these teachings and applied them to your own everyday interractions and seem positive results. Not always easy to apply theory and put it into practise under periods of high stress..

sharanya dinesh on December 06, 2010:

hi, A very precise and deft writing:-). Will surely use it my thesis on child development. thank you for putting up this information. anything else you can add on bringing awareness into children, through counselling? will be waiting to read more. love always, sharanya

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on November 26, 2010:

Thanks Tina

TINA V on November 19, 2010:

Carl Rogers is also one of the most influential American Psychologist. His person-centered approach can be considered as a distinct way of understanding personality and human relationships. It is very useful in counseling. There’s a lot more to his Psychotherapy theory. Indeed, you have started to write a very interesting hub. It was also great that you wrote your book references at the end of your article. Keep it up!

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on November 04, 2010:

Hi Annette, thanks for the message - Good luck with your studies I hope you enjoy them as much as i did :)

Annette on October 12, 2010:

Love reading all the comments etc. as I have just recently started my dip in counselling and psychotherapy, finding it all really interesting and looking forward to learning more. Love C. Rogers too!

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 27, 2010:

Hi Christine, firstly, thank you for your kind comments; & I would agree with you that Jung & Rogers would make interesting reading if they were writing today. It's an exciting time to be doing this work as I feel like we are only just starting to get a bigger picture of the potential of our evolution as a species. It seems to me like every day we are growing toward a new understanding and definition of what being human is all about; spiritually, emotionally & psychologically.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 27, 2010:

Hi Anonymous, try a local search for low cost counselling or free counselling in your area. There is also the Samaritans if you really need to talk to someone if you are in Ireland or the UK I'm not sure if they are in other countries; but make the effort and reach out to someone and hold the hope in your heart that what ever you are feeling at the moment will pass with time. Wishing you all the best for now and in the future.

anonymous on September 26, 2010:

I dont know why but i think should share i m fed up with thingsi do looking prones feelingguilty everytime leaving things incomplete an yes disgusting myself and being angryeverytime and everywhere with everyone and especially myself i really need help but dont have money for it. is there anyone to understand and help me out

Maggie on June 26, 2010:

I found this site really great.Love the cartoon.

Christine Louis de Canonville on June 11, 2010:

It is clear that you have a very good understanding of what Carl Rogers was trying to teach. There is much criticism of his work, many see it as being "Airy Fairy". For me he has a mystical approach, he learnt to operate from the intuition, from advanced empathy where he could not just put himself into the shoes of the client (the "as if" quality), but rather enter into the process where he intuted the feelings and reality of the individual (Oneness). This is the place of true compassion, where you meet the person "heart to heart". When working from this level of self it is almost impossible to judge another. Your are in your head when you make judgements. What he was trying to teach his students was to work in a higher level of consciousness, what we would now call working in a "spiritual way". However, at the time he was in practice, it would not have been considered appropriate speaking of such matters, spirituality was tied to reliosity, not Spectrum of Consciousness. To-day Transpersonal and Integral Therapies are becoming a much more holistic approach to working with the whole person. Rogers and Jung were men before their time, imagine how they would write today with the shacles off. Nice piece of work, keep up your writing.

electric go kart on May 30, 2010:

Wow! What a great piece of writing... Looking to see more from you...

bridgend counsel on May 06, 2010:

Tonight i experienced a new outlook to person centerd theory, reading your simplifyed way of expressing the core conditions thankyou hub a hub a hub a (ciaran)

bridgend counsel on May 06, 2010:

person centerd based case study exam coming up 5 days to go any tips peope of the new world.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on May 05, 2010:

Hi Tony, Sounds like an incredible experience. I'd have loved to hear him speak my self. I went to see his daughter Natalie talk in Dublin about creativity recently and it was very interesting indeed.

Pauline M-W on April 11, 2010:

Hi, Thank you so much for this. I was searching for inspiration to do my essay as part of my Diploma and your hub is so timely and refreshingly easy to follow and empathise with. The examples you give are so now - realistic of today so I can visualise what was actually taking place.

Brilliant - thanks again your knowledge is greatfully received. :-)

Tony McGregor from South Africa on April 07, 2010:

I found this Hub very good indeed. As a fan of Carl Rogers it spoke to me. I had the immense privilege of hearing Carl Rogers speak in Johannesburg some 20 or more years ago. It remains in my memory as one of the peak experiences of my life. The way he was able to listen to and understand incredibly different points of view in the deeply polarised society that South Africa was at that time was a revelation. He was simply amazing.,

Thanks so much for this excellent Hub.

Love and peace


Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on April 07, 2010:

No problem Pauline - I'm glad you have found it useful.

Pauline on April 07, 2010:

Excellent just found this on the web and as I am looking for stuff for my theoretical counselling essay and have decided to write about the core conditions I have found this helpful and extremly useful thankyou once again

Stacey on November 22, 2009:

Thank you for including the bibliography and I love your hub. We're fans and hope that you will become our fans too.

I'm just learning to write lit reviews and will include love Carl Rogers.

Stacey and Bobby

michelle on November 12, 2009:

hi there, was just lookin up some stuff on the net as i can not think of my first sentence for my counselling skills 1 essay, i thought if i read a few reviews it would help. I know it all in my head, just have trouble putting it in words.. You've given me some inspiration! Thank you and good site! :-) x

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 08, 2009:

Thanks for your kind comment Donotfear great name! by the way!

Annette Thomas from United States on September 07, 2009:

Wow, this is deep. I can certainly say that applying these conditions DOES work.

Gareth Martin (author) from Dublin, Ireland on August 07, 2009:

Hi Jennifer - Thanks for your comment - Carl Rogers is one of my heros too! Everytime I think I need something to my approach I bring it back and test against the Core conditions. I your phrase 'hear centred' :)

jennifergolden from Dallas, Texas on August 03, 2009:

I love your hub. Carl Rogers is one of my heros, his approach is so hear centered. Thanks for helping to spread this consciousness!

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