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What is Client-Centered Therapy?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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Also known as person-centered therapy or Rogerian psychotherapy, client-centered therapy is an approach to psychological counseling that allows the patient to have a great deal of influence on the structure and progression of the therapy. Developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s by Dr. Carl Rogers, this approach calls for the therapist to work with the patient to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for each session. The creation of this safe haven makes it possible for the patient to work through his or her issues without embarrassment or any hesitancy to be fully forthcoming during the time spent with the therapist.

While considered somewhat unique for its time, client-centered therapy has become one of the most popular of all psychotherapy models. Within the safe environment that is established by the joint efforts of the patient and the therapist, it is possible to articulate any and every thought or feeling that is of importance to the process of recovery. For the most part, the patient conducts most of the verbal communication. The therapist listens carefully, asks clarifying questions to make sure he or she grasps the meaning behind the words spoken by the patient, and assists the patient in exploring possible ways to move past the current trauma and enjoy life to the fullest.

Client-centered therapy does not create an environment where the therapist will tell the patient what he or she should think or do. Instead of providing answers or solutions for the patient, the role of the therapist is to assist the patient in finding his or her own answers. This process, while sometimes slow and cumbersome, has the benefit of helping the patient develop confidence in his or her ability to face life situations, examine them, and ultimately find a way to effectively deal with them.

Throughout the process of client-centered therapy, the therapist must maintain a supportive and non-judgmental approach to the patient and the sessions. Any input by the therapist is aimed at helping the patient find answers to their questions and move closer to resolution of whatever is causing distress. Because of the investment in the client-therapist relationship, the therapist can feel free to share life experiences that may provide the patient with food for thought, but never in a fashion that expresses displeasure or any negative emotions toward the patient.

Along with functioning in therapy sessions with a single patient, client-centered therapy can also be successfully employed in group or family therapy. With group therapy, the psychologist may choose to invite certain patients to participate in a group of people who are dealing with similar issues. Family therapy may be helpful when issues exist within a family unit that require discussion in a safe and unthreatening environment. In both situations, the therapist continues to function as a facilitator rather than providing the participants with specific instructions on how to resolve their issues.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By Heavanet — On Sep 23, 2014

@talentryto- I think your nephew would do very well in this type of therapy. Since it focuses on the needs of the client and lets him or her be in control, it helps get to the root causes of the issues.

This type of therapy is also good for teens because it allows the therapist to be very sensitive. This is especially important when it comes to delicate issues like peer relationships, drugs, and family problems.

By Talentryto — On Sep 22, 2014

Is client centered therapy a good option for teens? My sister is looking for the best kind of therapy for her son who is having adjustment issues in high school. He is also very anxious, and is having a hard time concentrating in class.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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