Client centered therapy goals

10 Person-Centered Therapy Techniques & Interventions [+PDF]

The idea of client-centered therapy might seem redundant – after all, when is therapy not centered on the client?

This term seems redundant now, but when it was first developed, it was a novel idea.

Before the humanistic therapies were introduced in the 1950s, the only real forms of therapy available were behavioral or psychodynamic (McLeod, 2015). These approaches focused on the subconscious or unconscious experience of clients rather than what is “on the surface.”

Many of today’s popular forms of therapy are more client-centered than the psychotherapy of the early 20th century, but there is still a specific form of therapy that is set apart from others due to its focus on the client and aversion to giving the client any type of direction.

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

Lao Tzu

So, how does this Lao Tzu quote apply to client-centered therapy? Read on to learn about how knowing one’s self and others is key to the person-centered approach.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

This Article Contains:

  • What is Client-Centered Therapy? A Definition
  • Carl Rogers: The Founder of Client-Centered Therapy
  • Goals of Client-Centered Therapy
  • How Does It Work? The Person-Centered Perspective
  • Client-Centered Therapy Method and Techniques
  • A Take-Home Message
  • References

What is Client-Centered Therapy? A Definition

Client-Centered Therapy, also known as Client-Centered Counseling or Person-Centered Therapy, was developed in the 1940s and 50s as a response to the less personal, more “clinical” therapy that dominated the field.

It is a non-directive form of talk therapy, meaning that it allows the client to lead the conversation and does not attempt to steer the client in any way. This approach rests on one vital quality: unconditional positive regard. This means that the therapist refrains from judging the client for any reason, providing a source of complete acceptance and support (Cherry, 2017).

There are three key qualities that make for a good client-centered therapist:

  1. Unconditional Positive Regard: as mentioned above, unconditional positive regard is an important practice for the client-centered therapist. The therapist needs to accept the client for who they are and provide support and care no matter what they are going through.
  2. Genuineness: a client-centered therapist needs to feel comfortable sharing his or her feelings with the client. Not only will this contribute to a healthy and open relationship between the therapist and client, but it also provides the client with a model of good communication and shows the client that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
  3. Empathetic Understanding: the client-centered therapist must extend empathy to the client, both to form a positive therapeutic relationship and to act as a sort of mirror, reflecting the client’s thoughts and feelings back to them; this will allow the client to better understand themselves.

Another notable characteristic of person- or client-centered therapy is the use of the term “client” rather than “patient.” Therapists who practice this type of approach see the client and therapist as a team of equal partners rather than an expert and a patient (McLeod, 2015).

Carl Rogers: The Founder of Client-Centered Therapy

Carl Rogers is considered the founder of client-centered therapy, and the godfather of what are now known as “humanistic” therapies, While many psychologists contributed to the movement, Carl Rogers spearheaded the evolution of therapy with his unique approach.

If his approach were to be summed up in a quote, this quote would be a good choice:

“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me.

Carl Rogers

The individual experience of the client is paramount in client-centered therapy.

The Rogerian Approach to Psychotherapy

Rogers’ approach to therapy was a simpler one than the earlier approaches in some ways. Instead of requiring a therapist to dig deep into their patients’ unconscious mind, an inherently subjective process littered with room for error, he based his approach on the idea that perhaps the client’s conscious mind was a better focus.

In Rogers’ own words:

“It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried. It began to occur to me that unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for the direction of movement in the process.”

Carl Rogers

This approach marked a significant shift from the distant, hierarchical relationship between psychiatrist and patient of psychoanalysis and other early forms of therapy. No longer was the standard model of therapy one expert and one layman – now, the model included one expert in the theories and techniques of therapy, and one expert in the experience of the client (the client themselves!).

Rogers believed that every individual was unique and that a one-size-fits-all process would not, in fact, fit all (Kensit, 2000). Instead of considering the client’s own thoughts, wishes, and beliefs as secondary to the therapeutic process, Rogers saw the client’s own experience as the most vital factor in the process.

Most of our current forms of therapy are based on this idea that we take for granted today: the client is a partner in the therapeutic relationship rather than a helpless patient, and their experiences hold the key to personal growth and development as a unique individual.

In addition to this client-focused approach, Rogerian psychotherapy is also distinct from some other therapies in its assumption that every person can benefit from client-centered therapy and transform from a “potentially competent individual” to a fully competent one (McLeod, 2015).

Rogers’ approach views people as fully autonomous individuals who are capable of putting in the effort required to realize their full potential and bring about positive changes in their lives.

Goals of Client-Centered Therapy

“In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?”

Carl Rogers

Like many current forms of therapy (like narrative therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, for example), the goals of client-centered therapy depend on the client. Depending on who you ask, who the therapist is, and who the client is, you will likely get a range of different answers – and none of them are wrong!

However, there are a few overarching goals that the humanistic therapies focus on, in general.

These general goals are to (Buhler, 1971):

  • Facilitate personal growth and development
  • Eliminate or mitigate feelings of distress
  • Increase self-esteem and openness to experience
  • Enhance the client’s understanding of him- or herself

As it is, these goals span an extremely broad range of sub-goals or objectives, but it is also common for the client to come up with his or her own goals for therapy. Client-centered therapy posits that the therapist cannot set effective goals for the client, due to his or her lack of knowledge of the client. Only the client has enough knowledge of themselves to set effective and desirable goals for therapy.

Other commonly gained benefits include:

  • Greater agreement between the client’s idea and actual selves
  • Better understanding and awareness
  • Decreased defensiveness, insecurity, and guilt
  • Greater trust in oneself
  • Healthier relationships
  • Improvement in self-expression
  • Improved mental health overall (Noel, 2018)

How Does It Work? The Person-Centered Perspective

“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.”

Carl Rogers

The quote from Carl Rogers above highlights an important point: the success of this form of therapy rests on the extremely important connection between the client and therapist. If this relationship is not marked by trust, authenticity, and mutual positive feelings, it is unlikely to produce any benefits for either party.

Rogers identified six conditions that are required for success in client-centered therapy:

  1. The client and counselor are in psychological contact (a relationship).
  2. The client is emotionally upset, in a state of incongruence.
  3. The counselor is genuine and aware of their own feelings.
  4. The counselor has unconditional positive regard for the client.
  5. The counselor has an empathic understanding of the client and their internal frame of reference and looks to communicate this experience with the client.
  6. The client recognizes that the counselor has unconditional positive regard for them and an understanding of the difficulties they are facing (Noel, 2018).

When these six conditions are met, there is great potential for positive change.

The way client-centered therapy works is a natural extension of these conditions: the therapist and client discuss the client’s current problems and issues, the therapist practices active listening and empathizes with the client, and the client decides for themselves what is wrong and what can be done to correct it (McLeod, 2015).

It is clear from Rogers’ works that he placed a great deal of value on the firsthand experience of the client, and much less in the “cleverness and learning” or technical expertise of therapists – including himself!

Client-Centered Therapy Method and Techniques

“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet [active] listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”

Carl Rogers

The only technique recognized as effective and applied in client-centered therapy is to listen nonjudgmentally. That’s it!

In fact, many client-centered therapists and psychologists view a therapist’s reliance on “techniques” as a barrier to effective therapy rather than a boon. The Rogerian standpoint is that the use of techniques can have a depersonalizing effect on the therapeutic relationship (McLeod, 2015).

In the words of Carl Rogers:

“When you are in psychological distress and someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!”

While active listening is one of the only and most vital practices in client-centered therapy, there are many tips and suggestions for client-centered therapists to facilitate successful therapy sessions. In context, these tips and suggestions can be considered client-centered therapy’s “techniques.”

Saul McLeod (2015) outlines 10 of these “techniques” for Simply Psychology:

1) Set clear boundaries

Boundaries are vital for any relationship, but they are especially important for therapeutic relationships. Both the therapist and the client need healthy boundaries to avoid the relationship becoming inappropriate or ineffective, such as ruling out certain topics of discussion.

There are also more practical boundaries that must be set, for example, how long the session will last.

2) Remember – the client knows best

As mentioned earlier, this therapy is founded on the idea that clients know themselves, and are the best sources of knowledge and insight about their problems and potential solutions. Do not lead the client or tell them what is wrong, instead let them tell you what is wrong.

3) Act as a sounding board

Active listening is key, but it’s also useful to reflect what the client is saying back to them. Try to put what they are telling you into your own words. This can help the client clarify their own thoughts and understand their feelings better.

4) Don’t be judgmental

Another vital component of client-centered therapy is to refrain from judgment. Clients are often already struggling with feelings of guilt, low self-worth, and the belief that they are simply not good enough. Let them know you accept them for who they are and that you will not reject them.

5) Don’t make decisions for your clients

Giving advice can be useful, but it can also be risky. In client-centered therapy, it is not seen as helpful or appropriate to give advice to clients. Only the client should be able to make decisions for themselves, and they have full responsibility in that respect.

The therapist’s job is to help clients explore the outcomes of their decisions rather than guide them to any particular decisions.

6) Concentrate on what they are really saying

This is where active listening can be put to use. Sometimes a client will feel uncomfortable opening up at first, or they will have trouble seeing something just below the surface. In these situations, be sure to listen carefully and keep an open mind – the problem they come in with may not be the real problem.

7) Be genuine

As mentioned earlier, the client-centered therapy must be genuine. If the client does not feel their therapist is authentic and genuine, the client will not trust you. In order for the client to share personal details about their own thoughts and feelings, they must feel safe and comfortable with you.

Present yourself as you really are, and share both facts and feelings with the client. Of course, you don’t have to share anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing, but appropriate sharing can help build a healthy therapeutic relationship.

8) Accept negative emotions

This is an important technique for any therapist. To help the client work through their issues and heal, it is vital to let them express their emotions – whether positive or negative. The client may even express anger, disappointment, or irritation with you at one point or another.

Learn to accept their negative emotions and practice not taking it personally. They may need to wrestle with some difficult emotions, and as long as they are not abusing you, it is beneficial to just help them through it.

9) How you speak can be more important than what you say

Your tone of voice can have a huge impact on what the client hears, understands, and applies. Make sure your tone is measured, and make sure it matches your non-judgmental and empathetic approach.

You can also use your voice to highlight opportunities for clients to think, reflect, and improve their understanding; for example, you can use your tone to slow down the conversation at key points, allowing the client to think about where the discussion has led and where s/he would like it to go next.

10) I may not be the best person to help

It is vital that you know yourself as a therapist and are able to recognize your own limits. No therapist is perfect, and no mental health professional can give every single client exactly what they need.

Remember, there is no shame in recognizing that the scope of a specific problem or the type of personality you are working with is out of your wheelhouse. In those cases, don’t beat yourself up about it – just be honest and provide any resources you can to help further the client’s healing and development.

This PDF from the Australian Institute of Professional Counselors also lists some useful techniques for client-centered therapy. Some of them overlap with previously mentioned techniques, but all are helpful!

These techniques include:

  • Congruence: this technique involves therapists being genuine and authentic, and ensuring that their facial expressions and body language match their words.
  • Unconditional Positive Regard: as described earlier in this piece, unconditional positive regard (UPR) is practice by accepting, respecting, and caring about one’s clients; the therapist should operate from the perspective that clients are doing the best they can in their circumstances and with the skills and knowledge available to them.
  • Empathy: it is vital for the therapist to show clients that s/he understands their emotions rather than just feeling sympathy for them.
  • Nondirectiveness: a cornerstone of client-centered therapy, non-directiveness refers to the method of allowing the client to drive the therapy session; therapists should refrain from giving advice or planning activities for their sessions.
  • Reflection of Feelings: repeating what the client has shared about his or her feelings; this lets the client know the therapist is listening actively and understanding what the client is saying, as well as giving them an opportunity to further explore their feelings.
  • Open Questions: this technique refers to the quintessential “therapist” question – “How does that make you feel?” Of course, that is not the only open question that can be used in client-centered therapy, but it is a good open question that can encourage clients to share and be vulnerable.
  • Paraphrasing: therapists can let clients know that they understand what the clients have told them by repeating what they have said back to them in the therapist’s own words; this can also help the client to clarify their feelings or the nature of their problems.
  • Encouragers: these words or phrases, like “uh-huh,” “go on,” and “what else?” are excellent at encouraging the client to continue; these can be especially useful for a client who is shy, introverted, or afraid of opening up and being vulnerable (J & S Garrett, 2013).

A Take-Home Message

We hope this information provides you with a better understanding of client-centered therapy, and that it will encourage you to think of yourself as the master and expert of your own experience. You are the only one who understands your problems, issues, needs, desires, and goals, and it is to you that you must turn to solve these problems and reach these goals.

It is an added responsibility when you understand that you are responsible for how your life unfolds, but it can also be extremely liberating.

We encourage all of you to work on building the trust in yourself and in your knowledge and skills that can take your life from “going through the motions” to living a life that is authentic.

As always please let us know your thoughts in the comments! Have you ever tried client-centered therapy, as either a client or a therapist? What did you think of it? We want to hear from you!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

  • Buhler, C. (1971). Basic theoretical concepts of humanistic psychology. American Psychologist, 26(4), 378-386.
  • Cherry, K. (2017, June 20). What is client centered therapy? A closer look at Carl Rogers’ person-centered therapy. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from centered-therapy-2795999
  • J & S Garrett. (2013). Person-centered therapy: A guide to counselling therapies. Counselling Connection. Retrieved from
  • Kensit, D. A. (2000). Rogerian theory: A critique of the effectiveness of pure client-centred therapy. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 13(4), 345-351.
  • McLeod, S. (2015). Person centered therapy. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from Person-centered therapy
  • Noel, S. (2018). Person-centered therapy (Rogerian Therapy). GoodTherapy. Retrieved from

Person Centered Therapy Techniques

Behavioral Health&nbspTypes Of Therapy&nbsp

Person-centered therapy, aka client-centered therapy, places an emphasis on the client as an expert. Originally founded by psychologist Carl Rogers, it posits that people strive toward a state of self-actualization and therapy can help a client reach self-awareness. A therapist’s job is to offer support rather than form judgment or offer advice. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the therapist to create the proper surroundings for a client to become a “fully functioning person”.

Focus on the Conscience

Person-centered therapy was a major departure from the popular theories of the time, namely psychodynamic and behavior therapy. These therapies focused on human behavior that the client was not consciously aware of. Rogers, on the other hand, thought that people wanted to focus on the aspects of their life that were part of their self-awareness. In other words, the client knows what is bothering them and just needs the appropriate environment to process it.


Why Person-Centered Therapy May Not Get Enough Credit

Most current popular therapeutic approaches focus on the actions of the client. Subsequently, numerous self-help resources have been developed for individuals to work on themselves within these orientations. Take cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance. There are hundreds of worksheets and exercises that people can use if they wish to practice the CBT orientation. In contrast, person-centered therapy concentrates on what the therapist does to promote a certain environment within the therapeutic milieu. It does not lend itself to specific activities that can be marketed to potential clients. Plus, these therapist techniques tend to be more general, rather than specific acts that can be easily replicated. As a result, person-centered therapy is not discussed as often as a specific treatment modality. But make no mistake. The principles of person-centered therapy have become mainstays of how to conduct psychotherapy. Almost all therapists use at least some client-centered techniques when performing therapy. They just may not realize they are doing it.

Techniques of Person-Centered Therapy

While some may argue that a person-centered therapist does not use techniques as much as they develop a therapeutic atmosphere, there are certain behaviors a therapist must perform to create the optimal environment. Let’s look at some techniques a therapist uses in person-centered therapy.


Be Non-Directive

Unlike most therapies, where a clinician may have an agenda for a particular session, Rogers advocated for a person-centered session where the therapist lets the client lead. It is the client’s journey and it is believed they are experts about their own lives. Thus, the therapist is seen as an equal collaborator, rather than an authority who knows how to guide a person toward self-actualization. This is the reason that Rogers referred to a person in therapy as a client rather than a patient. Although it may be tempting to offer guidance, it is important that the client is taking responsibility for their own life.


Unconditional Positive Regard

One of the most important aspects of the person-centered therapy technique is that the therapist must exhibit unconditional positive regard for the client. In short, this means that they accept and care for the client as they are. This does not mean that the therapist always has to agree with the client but it does mean that they refrain from judgment. It is essential that the client feels valued by the therapist. You might note that this resembles aspects of positive psychology.



The development of self-concept was key to Rogers. In order to be functioning at an optimal level, he thought that a person must balance their ideal self with how they experience their real self. When that is achieved, they obtain what he termed congruence. He believed congruence was necessary to become a highly functioning person and achieve life goals. It is thought that a client is usually in a state of incongruence when they enter therapy and a major part of their work is to achieve congruence.

To that end, Rogers believed that a therapist must be genuine with clients. He thought that their behavior and thoughts needed to match. In other words, the client should see the client’s authentic self. In order to be effective, a client needs to believe that what a therapist is saying is the truth. This is a major diversion from much of psychodynamic psychology, where therapists were encouraged to hide their true selves from patients. Being genuine allows the therapist and client to build trust and model a healthy relationship. If a therapist is not exhibiting congruence, a client will not be able to achieve a similar state.



It is essential that a therapist exhibit empathy while applying person-centered therapy techniques. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and relate to their experience. It should be noted that empathy is different from sympathy. Empathy is showing understanding for a person while sympathy is feeling bad for them. If a client does not feel understood they will not feel safe with the therapist and will be unable to be genuine and exhibit their true self.


Accept Negative Emotions

Remaining positive, supportive, and non-judgmental with a client can be difficult. There are times when a client is going to express negative emotions that elicit a reaction. At times a client may even direct negative emotions toward the therapist. A therapist needs to remember that person-centered therapy techniques are based on creating a safe environment for a client where they feel they can share information without negativity and judgment. A therapist needs to learn to not take words personally, especially from a client that is experiencing personal issues.


Active Listening

Active listening is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, you are listening to the client. In fact, truly listening to the client without exhibiting judgment is a fundamental part of person-centered therapy. But, active listening is not just listening. It is listening in such a way as to let the client know that you understand what is being said. Here are some critical aspects of active listening:

Body Language - One way to show a client you are paying attention is through body language. You want to maintain eye contact, lean slightly forward, and keep an open style of communication (e.g., arms and legs uncrossed).

Reflection - Another part of active listening is verbally responding to what is being said. In many therapies, the therapist is trying to interpret what the client means and see it through their own lens. In person-centered therapy, you do not try and change the meaning but rather simply reflect the client in an effort to further understanding.

Paraphrase - It is quite easy to misunderstand a client’s meaning. The goal in active listening is to clarify what is being said so you know you are hearing what they want you to hear. One way of doing this is to paraphrase their comments to ensure you are understanding their meaning.

Tone - Your tone of voice is an important consideration in person-centered therapy. Your tone should remain even and supportive. Large inflections may be interpreted by the client as a judgment or a lack of empathy.

Open-Ended Questions - When you ask a client a question you have a choice: direct them toward a certain answer or leave it open-ended. In person-centered psychotherapy, open-ended questions are superior. They are not leading, allowing the client to remain in control of their session. In addition, open-ended questions tend to elicit more information.

Affirmations - Affirmations can be both verbal and non-verbal. “I appreciate what you are telling me” is an example of a verbal affirmation. Even a small phrase like “go on” tells a client you are interested in what they have to say. A non-verbal affirmation can be something as simple as a head nod.


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Is Person-centered Therapy Effective?

One criticism of client-centered therapy is that it is vague and difficult to operationalize, therefore making it hard to adequately test its effectiveness. However, the concepts behind the theory have been more readily examined, leading to the following research conclusions:

  • One of the crucial aspects of person-centered therapy is the relationship between the client and the therapist. It is a more egalitarian approach aimed at making the therapeutic relationship more cooperative rather than authoritative. Feelings of collaboration between client and therapist have been linked to improved therapeutic outcomes.
  • Another pillar of the person-centered approach is the positive regard the therapist has for the client. For most of the 20th century, therapists were specifically trained to not engage interpersonally with clients. However, many aspects of therapist interpersonal involvement are related to therapy improvement. For instance, in a meta-analysis, therapist positive regard was significantly linked with positive treatment results.
  • The concept of congruence is a basic tenet of client-centered therapy but has since been adapted for use in CBT. The idea of helping a client match their real self with their ideal self is very similar to a client learning to think realistically about themselves or their environment. This is especially important for those clients that may suffer from mood disorders or other difficulties that result from a poor self-image. Just as we find that realistic thinking helps clients that undergo CBT, congruence has been associated with clinical improvement in psychotherapy.
  • Therapist empathy is not exclusive to person-centered therapy, but it is a hallmark of the genre. At the time of its emergence, a therapist showing empathy was groundbreaking. On the face of it, however, it makes perfect sense that therapist empathy would make a client feel better understood. Not surprisingly, therapist empathy is a moderately strong indicator of positive treatment outcomes.


Resources for Person-centered Therapy

Because client-centered therapy encompasses techniques that are geared more for the therapist than the client, it does not possess the activities and worksheets that you find for other therapeutic approaches. However, numerous resources still exist to educate yourself about person-centered therapy:

  • You can find readings, videos, and interviews about person-centered therapy concepts on psychotherapy. net. Some of these discuss client-centered therapy in general but also how to adapt it to work with children, adolescents, and minorities. It even has resources that talk about how to use it with art therapy. You will have to pay for these resources but you can earn continuing education credits for some.


  • One of the most helpful activities to learn about a particular therapy is to watch someone conducting a psychotherapy session. That is why many psychotherapy training programs use one-way mirrors and videotaping to watch particular sessions. Want to see an example of a therapist actually conducting person-centered therapy? You can find it here.


  • Counseling connection has a brief yet comprehensive guide to client centered therapy. It includes its history, applications, as well as potential strengths and weaknesses.


  • Although it can be difficult to find worksheets and activities involving person-centered therapy, Pinterest—as usual—has several. Most of these are educational, presenting information in an easy-to-digest manner.


  • There are a few professional organizations dedicated to all things person-centered therapy. One of the most well-established is The Association for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach (ADPCA). Having contact with members of a professional organization presents a wealth of information. Further, the ADPCA has its own journal and conducts an annual professional conference.

Person-centered therapy was ahead of its time. The focus on the therapist-client relationship, including empathy and positive regard for the client, set the stage for the birth of other schools of thought (e.g., positive psychology and interpersonal psychology) and a change toward a more egalitarian therapeutic technique. It is especially useful with clients that may be hesitant to engage in psychotherapy or have highly sensitive problems. What’s more, the fundamentals of the technique are associated with improved therapeutic outcomes. So, if you are interested in the benefits of a more collaborative therapeutic relationship, then person-centered therapy may be right for you.

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Psychoeducational Group Topics

Here are some ideas of psychoeducational group topics. These psychoeducational group topics are divided into topics that can be covered in most groups and topics geared towards specific mental disorders and challenges.


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Client Centered Therapy in Psychology - Blog Wikium

More than 70 years ago, the psychologist Carl Rogers introduced a new approach to psychotherapy, conceived as a contrast to the then dominant behavioral and psychoanalytic theories. Unlike behavioral therapy, Rogers' approach does not emphasize action on feeling and thinking and, unlike psychoanalysis, does not deal with unconscious desires and urges. At first he called his method non-directive therapy, later - client-oriented and person-centered therapy.

Rogerian therapists do not ask questions, diagnose or ask for a psychological test, evaluate or praise the client, or express their own opinion.

All that remains is to allow clients to tell stories at their own pace, using the therapeutic relationship in their own way. The therapist offers a model of reflective listening without attempting to point directions or suggest solutions. Rogers popularized the use of the term "client" rather than patient to establish relationships on more equal terms, emphasizing that the person being treated is not passive and the therapist is not an authority but an agent.


  • 1 Aims and Objectives
  • 2 Facilitating Conditions
  • 3 Criticism
  • 4 Client-Centered Therapy Today

Aims and Objectives

The principle is that clients know more about themselves than a psychologist can. They don't need guidance or expert wisdom. Instead, the clinician must create an environment in which clients can communicate their current thoughts and feelings with the confidence that they are understood and not judged.

Facilitating Conditions

According to Rogers, the therapist must provide what he calls enabling conditions: precise empathy, coherence or transparency, and unconditional positive regard.

Accurate empathy or empathic understanding means keeping a close eye on the client's current feelings and thoughts with all their nuances and implications, and partially communicating this to the client by summarizing or repeating what the person is saying.

Congruence or transparency means that therapists should not invent or deceive clients about their feelings. Answers should be formulated in the first person without false objectivity: “I feel”, “I experience it”, etc.

Unconditional positive regard or unattractive warmth is the therapist's way of communicating to clients that they are considered valuable and worthwhile without accepting or justifying anything they do or think. It means appreciating clients as individuals.

Sounds simple, but according to client-centered therapists, it can be difficult in practice. They say their methods require discipline, delicacy and restraint. It is too easy to interrupt, to use the wrong words, to reflect the content or object of the client's comment rather than the feeling behind it.


From the beginning, client-centered therapy has had its critics—for its apparent vagueness in its principles, its antipathy to diagnosis, its assertion that therapists need no special training, and its emphasis on the client's self-assessment as a way of judging the outcome of therapy. . Rogers acknowledged that his ideas leave a lot of room for interpretation. Many thought he was a gifted therapist, and it is difficult to tell whether those who follow his model or use his methods are practicing as he intended. Client-centered therapy may also work less well with people who have difficulty talking about themselves or who have a mental illness that distorts their perception of reality.

There are few controlled studies showing the effectiveness of client-centered therapy. Critics of Rogers' relieving conditions say they are only moderately correlated with successful therapy and may be the effect rather than the cause of improvement.

The criticism, made 60 years ago, is that the hallmarks of client-centered therapy are ineffective, while effective features are not hallmarks but characteristic of any good therapy. Today it is generally accepted that the most important condition for successful psychotherapy is a working therapeutic alliance - an understanding between the therapist and the patient about how they will work together and for what purpose.

Client-Centered Therapy Today

Rogers died in 1986, and today only a small percentage of mental health professionals consider themselves to be primarily client-centered or person-centered. But his ideas about personality can still be found in textbooks, and one study found that 50 journals and 200 organizations around the world are now dedicated to one form or another of client-centered or person-centered therapy. In addition, client-centered principles may have influenced the practice of many other therapists. For example, self-disclosure (transparency, consistency) has become more acceptable to psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapists.

Today, many people study psychology, its various directions, especially for the purpose of self-knowledge. Wikium offers many interesting and useful courses that help you get to know yourself and tune in to a prosperous life. For example, one of the most popular courses is Emotional Intelligence.

Client-centered therapy | PSYCHOLOGIES

This system of psychotherapeutic and counseling work, the most popular in the world (after psychoanalysis), is based on the belief that a person, asking for help, is able to find a way to solve his problems himself. The psychotherapist only creates the conditions for positive changes, a more complete realization of the client's potential, but it is the client who makes the choice and makes decisions.

How it works

Carl Rogers was convinced that the essence of each of us is positive. But this potential only manifests itself in an atmosphere of positive acceptance, empathic understanding and openness to one's feelings. Creating such an atmosphere is the main task of the psychotherapist.

  • Unconditional (non-evaluative) acceptance is the ability to respond to the emotional manifestations of a person, his actions, without judging them. This is a sincere attitude towards the other as an equal to himself and having the right to be what he is.
  • Empathy - the ability to accurately perceive the feelings of other people, empathize with them and accept them, even if he himself would have acted differently. Empathy is also called "emotional responsiveness".
  • Congruence - genuine, honest and open experience of one's own feelings, sincere self-expression in communication with another person.


The client-centered approach is called “non-directive”: the therapist does not direct, direct, or force the client. The therapist accepts everything the client says without judgment.

The therapy takes place in the form of a dialogue. The client himself determines what issues are relevant for him now, and the therapist helps him in the study and expression of his feelings, images, fantasies. Listening and answering, he is completely focused on the client: the very presence of an attentive, understanding interlocutor helps a person cope with fear and despair, instills self-confidence.

An atmosphere of trust, respect and unconditional acceptance allows the client to feel accepted for who they are. He can talk about anything without fear of judgment or disapproval. Feeling support, a person discovers in himself the means and ways of solving his problems.

As a result of therapy, the client begins to express his feelings more freely, he develops a stable positive self-esteem, which allows him to trust the world more. He becomes more realistic and objective, and also less vulnerable - he trusts himself more and understands others better.


In Client-Focused Therapy, published in 1951, the American psychologist and psychotherapist Carl Rogers (1902–1987) expressed an idea that radically changed the understanding of psychotherapy: not the therapist, but the client is the expert for himself.

The book was criticized by psychotherapists from various backgrounds who saw Rogers' position as a threat to traditional directive methods. But his next book, The Becoming of Man (1961), became a bestseller. For his work, based on seemingly extremely simple ideas of humanism, Carl Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Indications for use

Client-centered approach helps those who lack understanding, empathy, participation and warmth. It can be applied in all areas where mutual understanding is needed.

Unconditional acceptance of another person, empathy, openness to one's feelings contribute to the successful course of negotiations, the treatment of neuroses, and the resolution of social and family conflicts.

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