PERSON-CENTERED THERAPY

This approach to therapy is low in structure, and the focus is on the client and client needs, facilitating meaningful direction toward constructive outcomes for the client using empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence. The purpose of person-centered therapy is to provide a nonjudgmental, understanding venue allowing the client to explore what he/or she needs to explore.

Some of the techniques used in person-centered therapy include:

1. Active listening: when the client makes a statement, rephrase it back. This can be done verbatim, to ask for additional information, or clarify the emotional state. For example: Joan says, "I had an argument with my mom and we haven't spoken in two weeks." The therapist replies, "You had an argument and you guys are not talking." Joan says, "Yes, we fought because I want her to come to my house for Thanksgiving, but she says it is just much better at her house because it's always been there. I was angry when it happened, but now I feel almost sad because things are changing for her since dad died." The therapist says, "You were arguing about how to spend the time together as a family, but now with some thought about what the holiday has always meant to your mom, you feel sad."

2. Reflect the feeling/paraphrasing non-verbals: with this technique, the therapist moves from the content of what the client is saying and focuses on the underlying feeling in the client's message without judgment. For example, Brian says, "My roommate is always late with his part of the rent, never cleans up after himself, and thinks he can just eat my food without replacing anything. What a pig!" The therapist responds, "You sound exasperated because he does not respect your boundaries or take his responsibilities seriously."

3. Congruence: the therapist acts as a role model for the client and models the human struggle toward greater realness and a space in which the "real" self and "ideal" self are the same.

4. Unconditional positive regard: the therapist accepts the client without judgment. The therapeutic relationship is primary. To accomplish this task, the therapist must listen without interrupting, listen actively, and avoid giving advice.

5. Empathy: the person-centered therapist engages the client by understanding and sharing the feelings of the client, expressed through body language, eye contact, and general sensitivity.