The core purpose of person-centred therapy is to facilitate our ability to self-actualise – the belief that all of us will grow and fulfil our potential. This approach facilitates the personal growth and relationships of a client by allowing them to explore and utilise their own strengths and personal identity. The counsellor aids this process, providing vital support to the client and they make their way through this journey.
An important part of the self-actualising theory is that in a particular psychological environment, the fulfilment of personal potentials include; sociability (the need to be with other people, and a desire to know and be known by others); being open to experience; being trusting and trustworthy; and being curious, creative and compassionate.
This psychological environment is one where a person feels both physically and emotionally free from threat. There are three conditions believed to help achieve this environment, particularly in the therapy room.
- Congruence – the counsellor must be completely genuine.
- Empathy – the counsellor must strive to understand the client’s experience.
- Unconditional positive regard – the counsellor must be non-judgemental and valuing.
A number of factors can affect a person’s ability to flourish, including low self-esteem, a lack of self-reliance and very little openness to new experiences. The person-centred approach recognises that a person’s social environment and personal relationships can greatly impact these, so therapy is offered in a neutral and comfortable setting, where a client can feel at ease, authentic and open to learning about themselves.
By offering a safe, comforting environment, the client is able to understand the past experiences that have impacted the way they feel about themselves or their abilities, and take the steps to positive change. The person-centred approach can also help the client to:
- find closer agreement between an idealised self and actual self
- achieve better self-understanding and awareness
- release feelings of defensiveness, insecurity and guilt
- have greater ability to trust oneself
- develop healthier relationships
- see improvement in self-expression
- achieve a healthy sense of change overall