Person-Centred Theory, sometimes otherwise referred to as “Rogerian” Theory is a younger concept than the Psychodynamic Theory. It is built on the work of Dr Carl Rogers who developed the core principles in the USA during the 1940’s. It effectively puts the speaker at the centre of the helping relationship on the premise that the client knows or can discover the ultimate truths about themselves and can be empowered to draw upon their inner resources to help and improve their situation, emotional pain or negative behaviours.
A key element of this Theory is the need for it to be non-directive on the part of the listener, so that the speaker is able to take responsibility in the process. The theory believes that this responsibility can and will be taken because we all have an innate capacity to fulfil our potential and to grow and become greater than we are. Rogers calls this the “Actualising Tendency”.
The other elements of Person-Centred Theory relate to structured ways of understanding the self and to what is required from the listener.
What is the Person-Centred Theory?
Regarding understanding of the self, this part of the theory is founded on the idea that our feelings drive our behaviour and that we use our behaviours and how these are perceived by others to reinforce our own “Self-Concept” (Rogers) of who we are. In other words, over time we build a conceptual construction of ourselves, including our perceived strengths and weaknesses.
This self-concept can be very powerful as an influencer of what we do or try to become in our lives. It is also shaped by our own “Conditions of Worth” (Rogers) which describe how we value ourselves related to the winning of approval or disapproval by others. Sometimes people can become too dependent on winning approval that they become victims in the sense that their own behaviour is inhibited by the need to be acceptable to others. In a way they have lost sight of their true self, known as the “Organismic Self” (Rogers).
The Organismic Self understands what it needs for improvement and sends out messages or clues, even if the speaker has a poor self-concept. This comes back to the person being at the centre of the process in that the listener’s role is to help unlock the problem (s).
Regarding what is required from the listener, Rogers teaches that while the listener should not direct or structure the sessions they should at all times seek to fulfill “Three Core Conditions”. These are Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard and Empathic Understanding, which are further explored in section 3 below in how the theory underpins the counselling skills.