theory and practice of counseling  CLIENT CENTERED APPROACH:

Affective Approaches: Common Characteristics

Our next few lectures now will focus on affective approaches to counseling, in which the counselor focuses on the client’ feelings and gives secondary consideration to thoughts and behaviors. Client-centered therapy and Gestalt therapy will be discussed, along with a brief analysis of existential therapy.

  • Focus on primary affect as the cause of certain human actions and reactions
  • Help clients cope with/ change their emotions for making life alterations
  • Emphasize human phenomenology
  • Emphasize person-to-person relationship
  • Humanistic in orientation: It emphasizes an optimistic view of human beings, as persons who have the ability to grow (human potential)
  • All affective approaches share vagueness in their description of techniques; weakest among all is existential and strongest is Gestalt.

Types of Affective Approaches

  • Client-Centered Approach
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Existential Counseling

Client-Centered Counseling

Carl Rogers (1902-1987)

  • Born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA; fourth of six children; had an evangelical background.
  • Belonged to a fundamentalist Christian family
  • As a sophomore, went to an international Christian student conference in Bejing., and so moved away from conservative Christianity to very liberal beliefs.
  • Later he studied in New York, and then transferred to Columbia to study psychology
  • After PhD at Columbia, began work at a child guidance clinic at Rochester
  • There he came in touch with Otto Rank (will therapy) and Jessie Taft. Rank. Rank believed that a person should have opportunity to exert free will and dominate therapist. Taft was a social worker, and had humanistic views. Rogers was influenced by their ideas.
  • He brought these ideas to USA; A belief that no man has the right to run another man’s life.
  • He worked both in academic and clinical settings.

Background of his approach

Client-centered therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in reaction to the traditional, highly diagnostic, probing, and interpretive methods of psychoanalysis. Counseling and Psychotherapy (Rogers, 1942) was the first attempt to present his new approach, one which emphasized the importance of the quality of the relationship between the client and the therapist. Rogers saw the therapist as the creator of a facilitative environment that would allow die client to move toward self-growth. Of his many books, Client-Centered Therapy (1951) and On Becoming a Person (1961) are considered classics. Although client-centered counseling has evolved into a per son-centered view with a wider range of applications—teaching, administration, organizational behavior, marriage and parenting, and interpersonal relations in general—the term client-centered will be used here both because it generally refers to counseling alone and because it is more frequently used in the literature.

View of Human Nature

A belief in the dignity and worth of each individual

• Rogers is strongly committed to the belief that all persons should have the right to their own opinions and thoughts and should be in control of their own destiny

A phenomenological world of the client

• Rogers clearly emphasizes that the ways in which individuals behave and adapt to situations are always consistent with their perceptions of themselves and their situations. Threats are different for different people, for example, a person who perceives himself as being very attractive to women, may get threatened if rejected by a woman, may adopt a variety of defenses. Truly adjusted person is that who can integrate all experiences into phenomenal field. even his most objective functioning, in science, mathematics, and the like, is the result of subjective purpose and subjective choice”

A tendency toward self actualization

• The inherent tendency of people is to move in directions that can be described roughly as growth, health, adjustment, socialization, self-realization and autonomy. He calls this directional tendency the actualizing tendency, and he defines it as “the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which serve to maintain or enhance the organism; tendency is a function of the total organism rather than of one or more parts of that organism. Rogers’s conception is similar though not identical to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

A belief that people are good and trustworthy

• Rogers knows that people sometimes behave in untrustworthy ways, that they are capable of deceit, hate, and cruelty. But he believes that these unfavorable characteristics arise out of a defensiveness that has alienated individuals from their inherent nature. This defensiveness is the result of a widening in-congruence between the individuals’ ideal selves—the way they believe they ought to be, and their real selves—the way they think they are.

Role of the Counselor

  • Promotes a climate in which the client is free and encouraged to explore all aspects of self
  • To work as a facilitator rather than a director
  • Makes limited use of psychological tests. If the counselor has to use the test, then the focus is on the meaning rather than on scores of test. Q-Sort techniques are used quite often to evaluate the clients. A total of 100 cards with different statements are employed. The clients arrange the cards in 9 piles, ranging from most like me to least like me. Another trial is to arrange them according to how he would like to be, and then the counselor calculates the correlation between both ratings.


“As if” approach to counseling: Client-centered counseling can be described as an “as if” approach to counseling: If certain conditions exist, then a definable process is set in motion, leading to certain changes in the client’s personality and behavior. The basic premise of client-centered counseling, then, is that once the proper conditions for growth is established, the client will be able to gain insight and take positive steps toward solving personal difficulties.

Conditions for Growth

  • Psychological contact: He defines this contact as a situation in which each person makes a difference in the experiences of the other. From the very beginning, then, Rogers is setting the groundwork for a two-way interaction rather than a process where the counselor does something to or for the client.
  • Minimum state of anxiety: Rogers believes that the more anxious the individual is about this incongruence, the more likely successful counseling will take place.
  • Counselor congruence
  • Unconditioned positive regard: Unconditioned positive regard: As every citizen is entitled to vote; test of therapist’s tolerance
  • Empathic understanding
  • Client perception: Finally, the client must perceive, at least to a degree, the counselor’s unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding.

Goals: outcomes

  • As the result of counseling, the client is more realistic, objective, and extensional in his perceptions, and consequently, more effective in problem solving. The client’s vulnerability to threat is reduced because of the increased congruence of self and experience. There is less discrepancy between his real and ideal self.
  • He feels more confident and more self-directing; his values are determined by his own valuing process.
  • He accepts more behaviors as belonging to himself and conversely has fewer behaviors that he denies as part of his own self-experience. Others also see his behavior as more socialized and mature.


  • The development of client-centered therapy shifted the focus from what the therapist does, to who the counselor is.
  • The “techniques” are simply ways of expressing and communicating an attitude; self is used as an instrument.
  • As such, the “techniques” are simply ways of expressing and communicating genuineness, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding in such a way that the client knows that the therapist is attempting to fully understand the client’s internal frame of reference.
  • Thus techniques are unacceptable since they would destroy the genuineness of

the therapist, by being applied self-consciously. Therefore the only acceptable techniques are those that represent implementation of the therapist’s philosophy and attitudes in facilitating the client’s personal growth.

Certain Emphases within Client-Centered Approach Emphasis on the here and now

• The counselor does not need knowledge of the “nature, and history of the client’s difficulties. What has happened in the individual’s past to cause the present difficulties is not important to the counselor. Instead, how the client is now operating is more important to the counselor. As a simple illustration, consider a client who feels hatred for her brother. The client-centered approach takes the position that it makes little difference that this hatred developed because of a particular situation. Rather, how the client now feels toward her brother and how her feelings affect her whole pattern of behavior are important. Thus one emphasis is to help the client focus on her present feelings by examining them verbally. This emphasis on the here and now replaces diagnosis in counseling.

Diagnosis is undesirable because:

• Only the client can diagnose the difficulty. Only the client can accurately see the internal frame of reference. It is dangerous for counselors to attempt diagnosis, no matter how accurate they feel their perception of the client’s internal frame of reference may be.

• Finally, diagnosis implies a denial of the unique qualities of each person. To diagnose is to place individuals in categories, and the client-centered counselor wants to avoid this trap. Instead, the counselor responds to the individual with a potential for self-diagnosis and remediation.

Concentration on the emotional rather than the intellectual elements:

• Intellectually, the client may know what the real situation is but, because the client responds emotionally, this knowledge does not help to change behavior.

The counselor must be a patient and expert listener

• Boy and Pine (1982), however, suggest that the client-centered viewpoint has been expanded and that there are two phases to this effective client-centered relationship.

  • The first phase consists of those dynamics that have been traditionally identified by Rogers as essential in building a therapeutic, facilitative, and substantive relationship—empathy, acceptance, genuineness, liberality, involvement, sensitive listening, and equalizing.
  • The second phase, which depends on the effectiveness of the relationship, built in the first phase, centers on the needs of the client. Although they give but little emphasis and clarification to this phase and the needs of clients, they do point out that clients often need the intervention of counselors to obtain such basic needs as a job, adequate housing, and access to governmental agencies.

Evaluation: Strengths

  • Revolutionized the counseling profession demystifying it with the publication of an actual transcript of counseling session
  • Providing clients with the kind of facilitative environment in which the focus is fully on their concerns
  • Has generated a lot of research
  • Empowering clients: leaving responsibility with clients and thus helping them recognize their own power over themselves.
  • The client-centered concepts are applicable to a wide variety of helping situations and problems, such as adjustment, interpersonal issues, mild to moderate anxiety, frustration tolerance, uncomplicated bereavement, and defensiveness.

Evaluation: Weaknesses

  • Approach without clearly defined terms and techniques: Some counselors often fail to distinguish between the use of techniques and the use of their own personality, their self-as-instrument
  • Clients often fail to understand what the counselor is trying to accomplish. Such clients, since they are unaware of any positive effects resulting from their interactions with the counselor, may withdraw from the counseling process.
  • Ignores diagnosis and unconsciously generated impulses
  • Deals only with surface issues
  • Deals only with bright, insightful and hard working clients: persons who do not voluntarily seek counseling, who have limited contact with reality, or who have difficulty communicating usually are not very fit for client-centered approach. Hence, it is less effective with these clients: resistant, limited contact with reality, or who have difficulty communicating.
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