Carl Rogers – An Agent of Change
Carl Roger’s was the first therapist/counsellor who proposed the idea of ‘client-centred’ counselling which meant that the therapist is able to enter into an intensely personal and subjective relationship with the client – relating not as a scientist to an object of study, not as a physician expecting to diagnose and cure but as a person to a person.
Rogers treated his clients as a person of unconditional worth; of value no matter what their condition, behaviour or their feelings. It means the therapist is genuine, hiding behind no defensive façade, but meeting the client with the feelings which organically he is experiencing…that he can convey something of his empathic understanding to the client. It means the therapist is comfortable in entering this relationship fully, without knowing cognitively where it will lead, satisfied with providing a climate which will permit the client the utmost freedom to become himself.
Rogers believed that as the client feels free to experience their true feelings, being honest with themselves, they come to actually know themselves and can change their behaviour in accordance with their newly experiences self.
Rogers believed that living the good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination and the direction which constitutes the good life is that which is selected by the total organism, when there is the psychological freedom to move in any direction.
The first characteristic of the process, according to Rogers, involves an increasing openness to experience – the polar opposite of defensiveness. In order to do this the client needs to learn to listen to themselves, to experience what is going on within themselves and acceptance of self.
The second characteristic is for the client to learn live fully in each moment. By this Rogers meant an absence of rigidity, of tight organisation, of the imposition of structure on experience. It means instead a maximum of adaptability. He said that this is probably the most evident characteristic in people who are involved in the process of the good life.. One might almost say that it is the most essential quality of it.’
A third characteristic appears to be the client learning to trust themselves, doing what ‘feels right’ for them. Rogers said this proves to be a competent and trustworthy guide to behaviour which is truly satisfying. He said the clients are surprised at their own intuitive skill in finding behavioural solutions to complex and troubling human relationships.
According to his experience with clients Rogers said that the person who is psychologically free moves in the direction of becoming a more fully functioning person. They are more able to experience all of their feelings and are less afraid of them and live more completely in the moment and learns that this is the soundest living for all time.
Rogers talked about the dilemma of the Freedom/Determinism argument. He claims that the more the person is living the good life, that they will experience a freedom of choice and the more their choices will be effectively implemented in their behaviour.
According to Rogers, the person who is involved in the directional process, which he terms the good life, is a creative person. They would not, necessarily, be adjusted to their culture and they would almost certainly not be a conformist. But at any time and in any culture, they would live constructively, in as much harmony with their culture as a balanced satisfaction of needs demanded. In some cultural situations they might in some ways be very unhappy but they would continue to move towards becoming themselves and to behave in such a way as to provide the maximum satisfaction of their deepest needs.
Along with William Glasser then, Carl Rogers emphasises the need of people to make choices. Glasser, who trained as a psychiatrist but became disillusioned with the profession’s regular use of what he termed ‘brain drugs’, believed, as did Rogers, that good counselling skills, genuine empathy for the person before him, along with helping people to recognise that everything they do is a choice ; achieved much success in his career without the use of ‘brain drugs’.
M. McKenna 2010
Carl Rogers On Becoming a Person Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston 1961
W. Glasser M.D. Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous To Your Mental Health Harper Collins 2003