Practicing Client-Centered Therapy

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Therapy should be a safe space where clients can express themselves freely and feel heard and understood. Client-centered therapy creates exactly that environment.

Client-centered therapy means focusing on the client’s experiences and perspectives and helping create a safe, nonjudgmental space where the client can explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Because of the individualized nature of therapy, you have to create therapeutic relationships with each of your clients and treat them as experts in their situation, with you as the knowledgeable guide.

In other words, practicing this type of therapy means one size doesn’t fit all, even if some of the principles apply universally.

Key Principles of Client-Centered Therapy

Client-centered therapy, also called “person-centered therapy,” puts the client at the center of the therapeutic process. Psychologist Carl Rogers founded this approach in the early 1940s, which is why it’s also known as “Rogerian therapy.” 

The key principles of this type of therapy revolve around the belief that people have an innate capacity for growth and self-actualization — that they can discover their own solutions to their problems. 

The therapist’s role in this type of therapy is to provide a supportive, non-judgmental environment for clients to explore their thoughts and feelings. 

The therapy focuses on the client’s experiences and emphasizes the importance of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness in the therapeutic relationship. 

This approach also highlights the client’s autonomy and self-determination, allowing them to take an active role in their own healing and personal growth. In other words, it empowers them to recognize their own solutions with the guidance of the therapist.

Techniques for Practicing Client-Centered Therapy

So, how does this therapy differ from other approaches? The critical difference is that it flips the script between therapist and client. The client is thought to be the one with the answers, while the therapist supports them in discovering those answers.

Practicing person-centered therapy means:

  • Actively listening to clients and responding positively to the things they say.
  • Being empathetic and understanding of clients’ views, regardless of whether you think they’re accurate or agree with them.
  • Working to build a rapport with clients that helps them feel comfortable and accepted.
  • Asking open-ended questions to help clients express themselves and discover their truths.
  • Allowing clients to lead sessions and trusting them to go where they need to go.

Of course, while person-centered therapy requires you to build a strong relationship with your clients, you still want to maintain professional boundaries and uphold your ethics in all interactions with them.

Benefits of Client-Centered Therapy

Some of the many benefits of client-centered therapy may be apparent at this point. Simply, clients are more likely to “buy into” solutions they play an active role in discovering. They feel empowered and more in control of their lives. 

Other positive outcomes of this approach include:

  • Better understanding of themselves
  • Feelings of autonomy
  • Increased self-esteem and confidence
  • Decreased negative feelings, including anxiety, regret, depression, and guilt
  • A greater ability to trust oneself
  • Developing healthier relationships

You can use the person-centered approach to help with various types of mental health concerns or as your default approach to treatment. Studies show that person-centered therapy is helpful in treating mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Limitations of Client-Centered Therapy

Of course, no modality or approach works for everyone or in every situation. Person-centered therapy is no different. 

If someone has a mental health concern that keeps them from practicing self-reflection or relating well to other people, this approach may not work well for them. If a client is conditioned to be closed off emotionally, it may be difficult for them to express themselves or talk through their feelings to come to resolutions to their concerns.

Also, people who need to see clear markers of progress may have issues with this approach, which may seem to work more slowly and be more agile than other modalities. Some people also may have issues with you looking to them to discover the answers instead of guiding them with your knowledge and expertise. They’re looking to you for absolutes and defined guidance instead of questions and reflection.

Finally, people who want therapy to be structured with the therapist as the leader may find this approach off-putting. They may not see the benefit of coming into sessions and speaking about whatever is on their mind at any given time. They perceive this fluidity as you not helping them or allowing them to flounder.

Practicing Client-Centered Therapy

You can’t go wrong with creating a therapeutic environment where clients feel safe, heard, and free to express themselves. Some clients may benefit from taking the active role required of them in person-centered therapy, while others may be more comfortable with you leading sessions with greater authority. The key to knowing what will work for each client is a tenant of patient-centered therapy: having a genuine relationship with and understanding of each client and their individual needs.

Wanting to add to your client load? All Counseling can help. Claim your profile today in our therapist directory to get exposure to people actively looking for mental health assistance.

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