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Using Person-centered Therapy

          For those seeking therapy with situational and  less severe life problems, Person-Centered Therapy can be very helpful. It was used by me on a person, I’ll call Debby, a pretty, white, mid-western, 42 year old woman,  with an M.A. in Business Administration, who works in an advertising agency, has three children under the age of 12, and is “happily married” for 10 years to a kind, considerate man who runs his own tech company. Her life, as she described it, had been going along “pretty well.” But recently, she met a man in her office, John, newly transferred to her office from another state.  She described him as handsome, married, and very charming.  After taking more and more breaks to the water cooler, which is near his desk, to “bump into” him; and then having that escalate to lunches out with him,  He’s now started texting her several times a day. When  her husband commented  that she looks  “absent”, she got frightened and called me to set up an appointment, because she now finds herself with “very confused feelings”.  After the third session, she states that she is feeling that her life and she is “falling apart”.              

            She was diagnosed with excessive anxiety and worry regarding the event of meeting a man she is apparently attracted to while still maintaining a relationship with her husband.  She is finding it difficult to control the worry which is making her feel restless and keyed up. This worry is also causing physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, sleep disturbances, fatigue and muscle tension. Her progressively worsening job performance—absent-mindedness, lack of ability to concentrate, and so forth—is also negatively affecting her worry; and she has begun to worry and become anxious about losing her job. As the object of her romantic feelings works in the same office she feels a great turbulence because of her involvement with this man; her fear that she will lose her job, and guilt and worry that her husband will begin to suspect something is going on that could destroy their marriage.                                                                                                                            

The Chosen Model of Intervention---Person Centered Therapy

             Person-Centered Therapy was chosen to be used with this client because it seems to offer a more effective way of dealing with less complex forms of psychological or emotional impasses.  The Person-Centered modality seems to have a better goodness-of-fit for a demographic population that needs crisis intervention; for those in a relatively simple crisis or who are experiencing acute, negatively deteriorating feelings and emotions regarding an emotional crisis in their lives; and for those who, through the more-or-less natural course of things—have come to a difficult crossroad in their lives; have to make some important decision/s; have relatively short term conflicts, or are torn between opposing points of view in some  decision-making process related to this acute event or problem.

          Debby Smith has the potential for self-actualization, to perceive her challenges and the potential ability to put a plan into action to deal with her challenge and crisis.      

Description of the Model

            Person-Centered Therapy is one of the Humanistic therapies that appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s, and  was one of the therapeutic responses and reactions to the behavioral or psychodynamic interventions that preceded it.  It is Carl Rogers (1902-1987) who created an intervention that he believed could be much less complex, sympathetic, and positive than the previous models.  Rogers believed that clients would benefit more from a therapy that emphasized the client’s personal and subjective perceptual understanding of his or her present mental and emotional status, rather than having to go back to her history, unconscious motivations, and the therapist’s perceptions, understandings and interpretations of her and the things challenging her life in the present.  Roger’s belief was that a client improves his/her situation with the help of a kindly, sympathetic, authentic, and warm therapist—and not the impenetrable, aloof, unsmiling attitude and demeanor of the previous type of psychoanalytical therapist.  Rogerian therapy has at its core the belief that only the person—through a kind, gentle, helpful and understanding therapist—can find within him-herself the deep and widely spanning resources for understanding herself  in order to change the way she perceives him-herself, him-her attitude, behaviors and, ultimately, his-her crisis and impasse. It is only in an atmosphere of a therapeutically easy, kind and simple human approach that these resources can be brought out and implemented.                     

            Basically Rogerian therapy consists of an eight step process:  1).The person seeks the help of a therapist and thus indirectly states that he/she is ready to change him-herself and her life.  2).The client and therapist discuss the shape and form of the issue/s challenging the client. The therapist states that he/she cannot bring about the necessary changes; but that it up to the client to find the answers to the issue/s and challenge/s at hand.  3). The therapist gives free range to the client to express whatever he/she wishes in relation to the issue/s and creates a kindly, friendly, engaged and receptive environment that encourages the client to feel free to express whatever he/she wishes.  4).The therapist shows acceptance, recognition, and offers and asks only for clarifications of the situation, crisis, and so forth. 5). After the client expresses all that he/she wants to express of his/her fears, thoughts and feelings, the therapist then helps the client to realize the negativity in his/her thinking and feelings.  6). In the same way, the therapist helps the client perceive the positive as well and to accentuate the strengths and resilience the client possesses.  7). Insight comes about when the client begins to understand and accept him-herself and initiates positive actions. It is at this point that the therapist might speak more than she had spoken from the beginning of the session (Farber, 1976). The therapist might ask the client to imagine the best situation in the world and to describe what that situation would be. The therapist might say something such as:  “I have a Heavenly Question for you.  Let’s suppose that overnight an angel came and made your problem disappear. However, you didn’t know when you woke up that it had disappeared. What would be the first thing you would notice?” 8). The final step is for her to take positive actions, begin improving his/her life, and reduce the amount of assistance she needs from the therapist.                                                                                                                                                              It is, therefore, the object of the Person-Centered practitioner to make the client congruent or genuine with his-her idealized self and real self and for both to become congruent with each other.  Of equal importance is that the Person-Centered therapist should be congruent and most genuine with him-herself.  The person sitting across from the client is not the therapist, but another person like the client him-herself. As well, the practitioner must most positively accept the client unconditionally, and value the client in and of him-herself.  This includes having a deep and abiding sense of care, empathy, and, in a sense, love, for the beautiful humanity that the client represents.                                               

           At the end of the therapeutic process, the client should have become completely self-actualized through the totally accepting attitude and the method of reflection of the therapist.  As well, this method involves the restating by the therapist of everything the client says.  This is accomplished in order to let the client perceive any negative emotions.  The therapist, however, can utter a phrase or a word or two to vocalize particular areas to return to later on in the session.  On the whole, the client largely leads the sessions. 

To read more about this topic click on the titles below:

Person Centered-Therapy

Carl Rogers on Person-Centered Therapy Video

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