Person-centered therapy was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940s. This type of therapy diverged from the traditional model of the therapist as expert and moved instead toward a nondirective, empathic approach that empowers and motivates the client in the therapeutic process. The therapy is based on Rogers’s belief that every human being strives for and has the capacity to fulfill his or her own potential. Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy, has had a tremendous impact on the field of psychotherapy and many other disciplines.
Rogerian Theory in Psychotherapy: Rather than viewing people as inherently flawed, with problematic behaviors and thoughts that require treatment, person-centered therapy identifies that each person has the capacity and desire for personal growth and change. Rogers termed this natural human inclination “actualizing tendency,” or self-actualization. He likened it to the way that other living organisms strive toward balance, order, and greater complexity. According to Rogers, “Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”
The person-centered therapist learns to recognize and trust human potential, providing clients with empathy and unconditional positive regard to help facilitate change. The therapist avoids directing the course of therapy by following the client’s lead whenever possible. Instead, the therapist offers support, guidance, and structure so that the client can discover personalized solutions within themselves.
Person-centered therapy was at the forefront of the humanistic psychology movement, and it has influenced many therapeutic techniques and the mental health field, in general. Rogerian techniques have also influenced numerous other disciplines, from medicine to education.