Person-centered therapy is a type of psychological therapy based on the humanistic perspective. This approach posits that each person is innately good, but may be improperly influenced by environmental factors. Person-centered therapy is also referred to as client-centered therapy, non-directive therapy, or Rogerian therapy, after the psychologist Carl Rogers who developed it. There are three types, or developmental phases, of person-centered therapy: nondirective psychotherapy, reflective psychotherapy, and experiential therapy.
Nondirective psychotherapy is considered phase one of person-centered therapy. This phase gives the therapist the ability to approach the patient permissively resulting in the patient feeling accepted. This is the main goal of nondirective psychotherapy, and it is designed to help patients achieve clarification and insight in their lives. The therapist accomplishes acceptance by treating the patient with unconditional positive regard (UPR) — a type of non-judgmental behavior the therapist portrays towards the patient making him feel accepted.
The second phase of person-centered therapy is reflective psychotherapy. A patient in this phase is allowed to develop congruence between the ideal self-concept, the way a person desires to be, and the real self-concept, how the person actually is. Therapists accomplish this by reflecting the feelings the patient displays, causing the patient to feel comfortable and trusting. The main goal in this phase is trust; the patient has to trust the therapist in order for any type of psychotherapy to end in success.
The goal of the therapist during experiential therapy, the third phase of person-centered therapy, is to create a safe relationship so the patient can value internal needs and understand emotions. Therapists can use empathy, the accurate awareness of the patient’s emotions, to create this relationship. During this phase, the therapist focuses on the patient’s self-actualization — his desire to fulfill his potential — by encouraging him to experience and express his feelings rather than repress them.
Person-centered therapy has achieved successful results in patients suffering from psychological disorders including schizophrenia, depression, and substance abuse. This form of therapy is commonly used in individual cases as well as in group therapy and family therapy. If appropriately conducted, person-centered therapy can result in the patient having higher self-esteem and a positive outlook on life. After successful treatment, patients may appear open to change and new experiences regardless of their mental illness. The stable relationship and trust they build with their therapist helps patients achieve stability and trust in other relationships.