Client Centered Therapy - Goals and Process

Client-centered therapy was not intended for a specific age group or subpopulation, but has been used to treat a broad range of people. It has been applied for use...

What are the goals of client centered therapy?

Client-centered therapy differs from other forms of therapy because client-centered therapy does not focus on therapeutic techniques. What's most important in client-centered therapy is the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client.

Client-centered therapy was not intended for a specific age group or subpopulation, but has been used to treat a broad range of people. It has been applied for use with people suffering from depression, anxiety, alcohol disorders, cognitive dysfunction, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.

Goals of Client-centered therapy

Basic goals for the client: 
Considering this is a non-directive technique the therapist does not prescribe the goals. Instead the client chooses his own goals, and also bears the responsibility of the treatment process. However there are some basic goals that are there – the four basic goals a person will achieve in successful person-centered therapy. They will become:

  1. open to experience - more positive and comfortable relationships with others; and an increased capacity to experience and express feelings at the moment they occur.
  2. learn to trust themselves and have increased self-esteem: thus, have lower levels of defensiveness, guilt, and insecurity.
  3. develop an internal evaluation of themselves: include closer agreement between the client's idealized and actual selves; better self-understanding 
  4. have a willingness to continue growing.

Goal for the therapist: 
A major goal is to provide a climate of safety and trust in the therapeutic setting so that the client, by using the therapeutic relationship for self-exploration, can become aware of blocks to growth. The client tends to move toward more openness, greater self-trust, more willingness to evolve as opposed to being a fixed product, and a tendency to live by internal standards as opposed to taking external cues for what he or she should become.

The aim of therapy is not merely to solve problems but to assist in the growth process, which will enable the client to better cope with present and future problems. Person-centered therapists are in agreement on the matter of not setting goals for what clients need to change, yet they differ on the matter of how to best help clients achieve their own goals.

Discuss the process adopted in client centered therapy.

The three phases are:
  1. Catharsis: Catharsis involves a gradual and more complete expression of emotionalized attitudes. The conversation goes from superficial problems and attitudes to deeper problems and attitudes. This process of exploration gradually unearths relevant attitudes which have been denied to consciousness.
  2. Insight: involves more adequate facing of reality as it exists within the self, as well as external reality; that it involves the relating of problems to each other, the perception of patterns of behavior; that it involves the acceptance of hitherto denied elements of the self, and a reformulating of the self-concept; and that it involves the making of new plans.
  3. Positive choice and action: In the final phase, the choice of new ways of behaving will be in conformity with the newly organized concept of the self; that first steps in putting these plans into action will be small but symbolic; that the individual will feel only a minimum degree of confidence that he can put his plans into effect, that later steps implement more and more completely the new concept of self, and that this process continues beyond the conclusion of the therapeutic interviews.

Roger further described the continua of change in a client comprising of the following seven stages:
  1. Loosening of feelings
  2. Change in the manner of experiencing: therapists have a modest amount of success working with clients at this stage
  3. Shift from incongruence to Congruence: Therapy typically begins at this stage
  4. Change in the manner and extent of communication
  5. Loosening of the cognitive maps of experience
  6. Change in the individual’s relationship to his problems: the moments of immediate, full accepted experiencing are in some sense almost irreversible
  7. Change in the manner of relating

There is a stage beyond therapy in which the client is not much in need of the therapist’s help – ‘transference cure’.

Rogers believed that the most important factor in successful therapy was not the therapist's skill or training, but rather his or her attitude. Three interrelated attitudes on the part of the therapist are central to the success of person-centered therapy: 
  1. Congruence refers to the therapist's openness and genuineness—the willingness to relate to clients without hiding behind a professional facade. Therapists who function in this way have all their feelings available to them in therapy sessions and may share significant emotional reactions with their clients. 
  2. Unconditional positive regard means that the therapist accepts the client totally for who he or she is without evaluating or censoring, and without disapproving of particular feelings, actions, or characteristics. The therapist communicates this attitude to the client by a willingness to listen without interrupting, judging, or giving advice. 
  3. The third necessary component of a therapist's attitude is empathy (""accurate empathetic understanding""). The therapist tries to appreciate the client's situation from the client's point of view, showing an emotional understanding of and sensitivity to the client's feelings throughout the therapy session. 

According to Rogers, when these three attitudes (congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy) are conveyed by a therapist, clients can freely express themselves without having to worry about what the therapist thinks of them. The therapist merely facilitates self-actualization by providing a climate in which clients can freely engage in focused, in-depth self-exploration. 

This list has since been expanded to:
- Unconditional positive regard (discussed above)
- Empathetic understanding (discussed above)
- Genuineness and congruence (discussed above)
- Transparency: All feelings about the client are expressed, even if negative.
- Self-disclosure: Degree to which therapists may express and disclose themselves
- Concreteness: Focusing discussion on specific, events, thoughts and feelings that matter
- Cultural awareness: therapist should be cognizant of cultural differences and their impact
* * *

Person-centered therapy is based on an organismic psychology which describes the innate and unforced tendency of human beings, given a conducive environment, to actualize their potential. The major goal for the therapist is to provide a climate of safety and trust so that the client is able to achieve the four basic goals of becoming – open to experience, learning to trust themselves and have increased self-esteem, develop an internal evaluation of themselves, and have a willingness to continue growing. The process of therapy involves three phases of catharsis, insight and positive choice and action.

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy By Gerald Corey (free preview)
Person Centred Therapy 100 Key points By Paul Wilkins (free preview)
Significant Aspects of Client-Centered Therapy By Carl R. Rogers (free)
Person-Centred Therapy: A Clinical Philosophy By Keith Tudor, Mike Worrall (free preview)

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IGNOU Solved Assignments: Q3 - MPCE 013 PsychoTherapeutic Methods - MPCE 013/ASST/TMA/2015-16
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