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Carl Rogers Humanistic Theory

Updated on August 24, 2019
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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 in an effort to diagnose and treat the problems of living. Rogers became discouraged with the current diagnostic, prescriptive, and expert approach to treatments. He felt that the medical approach to dealing with depression had the effect of reducing human beings to the level of objects and also placed disproportionate power in the hands of others.

Rogers assumes that all humans are born positive and that there is nothing evil or bad about us. He believed that each person is unique and no matter how s/he is labelled or evaluated s/he is a human first. He believed that we are all born with innate resources to deal with the problems of life, and, given the right conditions and opportunities, they will move towards autonomy and self direction.

Core conditions of unconditional positive regard,congruence and empathy are necessary conditions to bring about therapeutic change. Rogers believed that all humans, from birth, need unconditional positive regard, UPR if they are to accept themselves and feel that they are accepted by others. For some,unfortunately, love, warmth, respect and total acceptance is usually conditional and so, should a person be surrounded by negative, critical and condemning attitudes, s/he will develop a negative self concept.

Such a person lacks an internalised locus of evaluation as they are unable to trust their own feelings when making decisions about life. 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 real 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 mean that for some, their range of behaviour is restricted out of fear of rejection from people that are important to them. The result of this fear is that they are unable to fully function, 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 creates helps to develop trust between the client and counsellor. The counsellor offers empathy. With empathic understanding the counsellor will often reflect the clients feelings enabling the client to become more aware of how they feel.

Rogers theory of the personality claims that humans are essentially growth oriented, 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 fulfilment of their potential. This idea stems from the belief that all organisms, of which humans are included, have a instinctive need to grow and achieve its goal 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 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 the potential for growth, given that conditions are suitable.

The aim of humanistic therapy then, is to create an setting in which one feels free from psychological and physical threat 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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