Carl Rogers developed Person Centred Theory (PCT) in the
1950’s as a way of individuals identifying their full potential. Roger believed
that by using the three core conditions discussed in this writing, that the
therapist would create a safe and comfortable environment for their clients to
grow as individuals. Even though PCT has been successful for a voluminous
amount of people, it has been criticised by many professionals since it was
introduced. Through out this writing limitations and positive outcomes of
Rogers’s theory are discussed and criticised in order to give a clear outline
of the theory and the way in which it is delivered. This paper also involves a
personal opinion of the theory, based upon own experiences.
Three Core Conditions
Rogers expressed that there are three core conditions of PCT.
This includes congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard (UPR). ‘Rogers
calls these the ‘core conditions’: he considers them not only necessary but
also sufficient for a positive change to take place in the client towards
fuller functioning’ (Copson & Grayling, 2015, pg.117). If these are
followed, the professional creates a non-judgmental environment where the
client can feel accepted and this therefore encourages them to be open to
learning about him or herself.
According to Seligman (2006) the three core conditions
presented by Rogers, each condition has advantages for the client. Congruence
is the practice of being genuine and authentic. If the therapist successfully
practises this condition, the client will feel increasingly comfortable
expressing their thoughts and feelings. This therefore will lead to the continuation
of trust between the client and the therapist, which Rogers deemed so
Unconditional Positive Regard is a way in which a therapist
must accept their client’s thoughts without being judgmental. Seligman (2006)
argues that when unconditional positive regard is successful it will help a
client to encourage the change process, as they feel others will accept them
Empathy is the way in which the therapist can connect and
understand the way a client is feeling. Seligman (2006) states that empathy
shows the client that the therapist understands what they are communicating,
this leads to them being able to open up further and eventually reach
However, it can be questioned whether or not the therapist
can consistently deliver the core conditions. It has been argued by many
psychologist, that it is impossible for any human beings to be non-judgmental
at all times. Martin (2009) questions this critique and concludes that a
therapist requires the ability to separate the client from their actions. For
example, if an abuser was to engage in therapy session, the therapist must
accept them and understand that their actions are not a true representation of
them. Rogers argues that there is kindness within every human being and PCT
will help identify this. However, this belief can be argued as too optimistic
and will be looked into further later on in this paper.
There are many positive outcomes of PCT, if it is successful
and delivered correctly. Self-actualisation is considered to be a need in every
person’s life, as it is the realisation of ones full potential. Understandable it is therefore the fundamental
purpose of Rogers’s theory.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are many levels
in which an individual needs to achieve before reaching self-actualisation.
This can be a slow process and in some cases discouraging to clients. However,
once the ultimate goal is achieved, the client has therefore gained the
knowledge and skills to return to this level at any point in their lives if
Self-actualisation once reached, can lead to many positive
changes within the clients life. These
outcomes can include acceptance of oneself and others, frequent experiences of
happiness and a general positive outlook on life. Olsen (2013) states in her
article that self-actualised individuals are able to embrace changes that occur
throughout their lives without feeling intimidated. These persons can also
accept their own flaws and the flaws of others and are able to confidently make
their own decisions without conforming to societal and cultural expectations.
Even though Hoffman (1991) ultimately agrees that
self-actualisation is needed in ones life, he critiques the theory by arguing
that it is based on the assumption that a person wants to live. Hoffman
continues his argument by suggesting that when an individual is experiencing
negative thoughts regarding life, self-actualisation becomes irrelevant. The
theory therefore, relates only to people who wish to become happier, fulfil
their lives and experience positive personal growth.
A significant factor of PCT is the non-authoritive approach
it takes. This approach puts the client at the centre of the session and allows
them to identify solutions to their issues independently. Person Centred Theory
creates a safe environment for the client to explore their feelings and
discover solutions to their issues themselves, without the professional
forecasting their beliefs and opinions onto them.
The non-authoritive approach allows the professional to
comprehend the words used by the client in order gain a better understanding of
the way they are feeling. This therefore allows the client to self assess and
edit what they are saying in order to gain an accurate measure of their
emotions. According to Brown (2015) when a client becomes in tune with their
emotions they develop the ability to care for themselves and others. However,
it has been argued by critiques that this approach is just repeating what the
client is projecting and it can become exasperating.
The United Kingdom is an extremely cross-cultural country and
many individuals have different values, beliefs and traditions that others do
not understand or are aware of. This can cause misunderstandings between the
therapist and client, and lead to the sessions becoming unsuccessful.
According to Wressle & Samuelsson (2004) it would be
beneficial if the professional were to be multi-culturally educated. An example
of this is creating congruence when informing a client that their conduct is
unacceptable in western society could be an encounter. As the clients behaviour
may be acceptable in their society. It is possible by the professional studying
differing cultures it could minimise or eliminate difficulties and create a
more ethical, empathetic environment for individuals of different cultures.
An example of the way in which PCT is not culturally flexible
is the way in which Rogers viewed dependency on the family. Rogers (1961)
believed that dependency can act as a barrier of growth and did not embrace the
importance of the significant people in a client’s life.
A situation of where this may occur is with individuals in
the Asian community. It is known worldwide the Asian community is extremely
family-orientated and when this is incorporated with PCT it could possibly
cause discomfort, if the professional is encouraging self-direction. Asian clients may want to express their
feelings and consult with their families before making a decision and may take
offense to the suggestion of self-direction as this contradicts their cultural
In agreement to PCT being cultural specific, Cain (1989)
recognises that clients will reach self-actualisation if the professional
understands that each person is different and therefore therapy needs to be
When introducing Person Centred Theory, Rogers believed that
this type of therapy would suit every individual. This claim has been argued otherwise
and even proven incorrect by Rogers himself.
From 1957-1965 Rogers conducted research at the University of
Wisconsin studying whether Person Centred Theory had a positive effect on Schizophrenic
clients. Regardless of the three core conditions being shown by the therapist,
schizophrenic clients could not relate to them and the concept and therefore
there was no significant improvement in this client’s ability to
In addition to this, it can be argued that Person Centred
Theory has overlooked individuals who are autistic. As PCT relies heavily on
good communication skills from the client, this particular type of therapy can
cause discomfort for such persons. According to Buck & Buck (2006) people
who are on the autistic spectrum will engage more so if questions are asked
frequently. Person Centred Theory allows
open questions to be asked, but lack of direct questions may fluster these
Another challenge autistic individuals face is the way in
which they interpret body language and the meanings behind people’s words. As
discussed previously PCT is a non-authoritive type of therapy, so it is
important for the therapist to show good listening skills. A way in which a
therapist can show this is by nodding their head; this may cause some confusion
for this particular type of client, as they could interpret this action as if
the therapist is in agreement with what they are communicating. This can cause
confusion, as a therapist of this approach is not supposed to relay any opinion
of theirs onto the client.
Even though Buck & Buck (2006) argue that PCT has
bypassed individuals with autism, they state that with a few adaptations to the
theory it could become beneficial to their wellbeing.
It is argued by many psychologists that Person Centred Theory
lacks theory. However, Cooper & McLeod (2011) argue that due to the minimal
theory behind PCT, the focus of the therapist is entirely on the understanding
of the client’s individuality and uniqueness. This then suggests that sessions
can be adapted in order to suit.
Critics of Person Centred Theory have argued that Rogers
approach was too optimistic. They believed this to be a limitation, because
Rogers did not see the immoral side to people and the world ‘One of the major criticisms
of his work was that it was too optimistic and did not address the existence of
evil in the world’ (Carlisle, 2011, pg.5). It is a positive way of thinking that everyone
loves and is kind. However, it is a very naive approach to take and it could
possibly lead to therapist being faced with dangerous situations. As stated
previously it is important for a therapist to not connect a person with their
unacceptable actions. However, individuals who suffer with anger issues can
inevitably put the therapist at risk of harm if their anger presents itself.
It has also being argued that the belief of everyone having
the ability to become self-actualised is also too optimistic as well. Eysenck
(2015) states that research has shown that people in Britain spend 25 hours a
week engaged in television and argues that this shows how many individuals lack
motivation for personal growth. It would be an impossible encounter to provide
a client with motivation, and therefore without this being a natural trait self-actualisation
will not be met.
Bower (2011) takes a positive approach to Rogers’s optimistic
beliefs. Bower argues that Rogers’s optimism aids the balance at the frequent
pessimistic approach that is flooded in Britain today. Not only is a negative
approach often taken towards counselling, it is an approach many individuals
carry with them throughout their lives. He continues suggesting that having a
pessimistic approach to a particular theory can in extreme can be just as
damaging as an optimistic approach.
Personal Experience and
I have had a few different experiences with alternative types
of therapy, including Person Centred Theory and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
I personally found that PCT was and still is more beneficial for me for a range
of reason, but also discovered limitations of the approach too.
The therapist that I visited definitely followed the three
core conditions, and this led me to feel comfortable within the session. The therapist’s body language, facial expression
and focus on me, made me feel safe and abled me to speak my mind. Although at
times I found the silent moments slightly uncomfortable, it allowed me to
reflect what I was expressing, and gave me time to think how I felt about the
relevant issues I was facing at that time.
I surprised myself with some of the feelings I was projecting
within the therapy session. I found the issues that I believed to be the most
hurtful at that present time turned out to be the issues I discussed the least.
The encounters I believed to be the barriers restricting me from happiness were
actually just a small part. I figured that the issues that were most wounding
to me, I had hid from family members and I realised I had locked them away
through fear of judgment and misconception.
After reviewing my session I identified, that the more comfortable I
became in the setting, the more honest I was becoming.
I entered the room expecting more of a conversation with the
therapist, so it was surprising when I eventually discovered that I was leading
the session myself. Before the therapy, I believed I required guidance from a
professional in order to deal with the issues I was experiencing. However, post
the session, I felt I had a clear vision and understanding of how to deal with
these emotions. I then realised that Rogers belief in that the client holds the
answers to their concerns, for me were completely accurate.
I took an enormous amount of knowledge away from this
session, even though the therapist did not speak a great amount. I learnt a lot
about myself and have definitely made progression towards self-actualisation.
Even though I am aware the process is slow, the session gave me positivity that
I will experience true happiness throughout my life. I am also aware that I
will continue to face challenges but I am now confident in my ability to
overcome these adversities.
This writing provides a clear argument fore and against the
benefits and limitations of Person Centred Theory. The three core conditions
that Rogers deemed so important, in order for the client to reach
self-actualisation is debated. Self-actualisation is the ultimate goal for PCT,
however it is argued that it is impossible for therapists to be deliver
unconditional positive regard at all times. Within this literature it is argued
that the theory has overlooked certain individuals, and has even been confirmed
through research by Rogers himself. It also debates that PCT has limitations
with differing cultures and in order to eliminate these, adaptations need to be
made and therapist needs to be cross-culturally educated. This transcript also
addresses Rogers’s optimistic approach and how this can be beneficial to
society but also destructive. It finishes with my own opinion based on
experience of different theories. Although I found PCT beneficial to me, I have
witnessed first hand the limitations of the approach. This argument shows that
by updating the theory and educating therapist accordingly, it can be suitable
and helpful to all individuals.