Person-Centered Counseling (How the theory is used in counseling)


Application: Therapeutic Techniques and Procedures

In counseling, there was an early emphasis on reflection of feelings.  Carl Rogers stressed the importance of grasping the world of the client and reflecting this understanding.  Rogers’s basic assumptions are that people are essentially trustworthy and they have a great potential for understanding themselves and resolving their own problems without direct intervention of the therapist.

In a counseling setting, it is more important that the client-therapist relationship be the prime determinant of the outcome of the therapeutic process.  According to Rogers, there are three therapist attributes that create this client-therapist relationship.  One is congruence (genuineness, or realness), second is unconditional positive regard (acceptance and caring), and lastly accurate empathic understanding (an ability to deeply grasp the subjective world of another person). 

In counseling, these therapist attributes should be utilized so that clients will become less defensive and more open to themselves and their world. The person-centered approach rejects the role of the therapist as the authority who knows best and of the passive client who merely follows the dictates of the therapist.  This approaches also stresses the importance for therapists to modify their therapeutic style to accommodate the specific needs of each client. 

In rehabilitation counseling, many aspects of the person-centered therapy can be used.  By using nonjudgmental listening and acceptance, counselors can better help their clients.  According to Rogers, human beings have a basic drive to have fulfillment and people will move toward health if the way seems open for them to do so.  Therefore, therapy is rooted in the client’s capacity for awareness and self-directed change in attitudes and behavior. 


Quick Reference Guide for Person-Centered Counseling (From Corey text- Chap 7)

Carl Rogers (1902-1987)  developed the person-centered approach based on concepts from humanistic psychology.  The core theme in his theory is the necessity for nonjudgmental listening and acceptance if clients are to change (Heppner, Rogers, & Lee, 1984). 

Four Periods of Development of the Approach

  1. Nondirective counseling – developed by Carl Rogers in 1940’s, which provided a powerful and revolutionary alternative to the directive and interpretive approaches to therapy being practiced.
  2. Client-centered therapy – developed by Carl Rogers in 1950’s, reflects its emphasis on the client rather than on nondirective methods.
  3. Period from late 1950’s to 1970’s where Carl Rogers addressed the necessary and sufficient conditions of therapy.
  4. Person-centered therapy – developed by Carl Rogers during 1980’s and 1990’s, where his approach was broadened to education, industry, groups, conflict resolution and the search for world peace. 

Existentialism vs. Humanism – both share a respect for the client’s subjective experience, the uniqueness and individuality of each client, and a trust in the capacity of the client to make positive and constructive conscious choices. However, Existentialism takes the position that we are faced with the anxiety of choosing to create an identity in a world that lacks intrinsic meaning. Humanists take the position that each of us has a natural potential that we can actualize and through which we can find meaning.

View of Human Nature – Rogers firmly maintained that people are trustworthy, resourceful, capable of self-understanding and self-direction, able to make constructive changes, and able to live effective and productive lives.

The Therapeutic Process – Goals are to aim toward the client achieving a greater degree of independence and integration. Role of person-centered therapist is rooted in their ways of being and attitudes, not in techniques designed to get the client to “do something.”

Application: Therapeutic Techniques and Procedures – There is an early emphasis on reflection of feelings. The person-centered approach has been applied to working with individuals, groups and families.  This approach is also, applicable in crisis intervention and group counseling.

Person-Centered Expressive Arts Therapy – developed by Natalie Rogers (1993), theory of creativity using the expressive arts to enhance personal growth for individuals and groups.

Person-Centered Therapy from a Multicultural Perspective – Strengths is the impact on the field of human relations with diverse cultural groups. Carl Rogers’ work has reached more than 30 countries, and his writings have been translated into 12 languages. Shortcomings are that many clients who come to community mental health clinics or who are involved in outpatient treatment want more structure than this approach provides.


Resources and References


Association for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach, Inc. (ADPCA)

P.O. Box 3876

Chicago, IL 60690-3876



Journal Editor:

Association for Humanistic Psychology

1516 Oak Street #320A

Alameda, CA  94501-2947

Telephone: (510) 769-6495    Fax: (510) 769-6433



Journal Website:

Carl Rogers: A Daughter’s Tribute


Center for Studies of the Person

1150 Silverado, Suite #112

La Jolla, CA  92037

Telephone: (858) 459-3861



Saybrook Graduate School



Recommended Supplementary Readings

On Becoming a Person (Rogers, 1961)

A Way of Being (Rogers, 1980)

The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing (N.Rogers, 1993)

Humanistic Psychotherapies: Handbook of Research and Practice (Cain & Seeman, 2002)

The Carl Rogers Reader (Kirschenbaum & Henderson, 1989)

On Becoming Carl Rogers (Kirschenbaum, 1979)

Freedom to Learn (Rogers & Freiberg, 1994)


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