Client-centred Psychotherapeutic Phenomenology

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Phenomenology is a branch of western philosophy which takes as its moto the central idea that new discoveries can be made "if we return to the things themselves". Those already-made principles and other prior understandings that we constantly use in order to understand things, experience or phenomena, are 'put aside' as much as possible so as to let the 'new' emerge. This is not an easy way of thinking as we are all 'naturally' immersed everyday in the 'taken-for-granted', if not at least in the very language we have no choice but use to describe what we perceive.

The phenomenological implications in the domain of Psychotherapy & Counselling are for the most part illustrated by the American psychologist and founder of the humanistic approach to psychology Carl Rogers (1902-1987). In my view it is doubtless the case that Rogers offers a solid and crucial foundation for practitioners new in the field of psychotherapy and counselling. This book is a selection from Rogers' published work and develop the 'client-centred' approach to therapy. Rogers' concern is mainly based around three principal ideas which are ultimately meant to form such an integral part of the therapist practice as to become 'a way of being', as opposed to merely be used as a therapeutic technique.

The core principles around which the person-centred approach is based are 1) Congruence: the therapist is meant to be 'real' in that he/she is directly and genuinely in touch with the various feelings which emerge in the session, and most importantly, act accordingly. 2) Unconditional positive regard: the client is accepted 'unconditionally' as a person without any judgement on the part of the therapist. 3) Empathy: the therapist 'imagines' how it is for the client in the situation he or she is presenting in order to better apprehend and consolidate the therapeutic alliance.

While In my view the person-centred approach is arguably the most appropriate start in the domain of psychotherapy and counselling it is also true that Carl Rogers was born and raised in the West American humanist tradition of the 60's. In the light of other theories (psychoanalytical, existential and post-modern) the person-centred approach could appear somehow to be based on a positive 'can-do attitude' whereby the mind is in absolute control. How about the Others and the society at large? What influence does it have on us? How about those ulterior motives so deeply ingrained in us and which we don't have immediate access to? Indeed there doesn't seem to be any place in Rogers for what the Others think of us and how they influence our feelings. Perhaps those questions show the limits of the client-centred approach which still remains nonetheless very insightful towards a general approach to psychotherapy and counselling. KIRSCHENBAUM, H & HENDERSON, J (1989), The Carl Rogers Reader. London: Constable. ISBN 9780094698406


Below is a video by Carl Rogers himself where he sets out to explain the three 'core conditions' that make up the therapeutic approach that he developed all along his career: the person-centred approach.

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