Person-centred approach

"Evaluate the main elements of a Person-Centred approach to counselling using one other approach of your choice. In Part 2 reflect on and write about which of the two approaches discussed in your essay you prefer and why.

Part 1,

To begin considering the values of the person-centred approach compared with a psychodynamic approach to counselling, focusing on how each method views the person and their mental life, explains the problems being experienced and the help offered to relieve psychological stress, also looking at how the client is encouraged to change, the techniques used and the role of the counsellor within each therapy. Concluding by summarising how this shows the worth of the person-centred approach within counselling. Although they originate from different theoretical and philosophical structures and at first they seem to offer differing methods of treatment, there are similar features, which are common to all effective counselling therapies, particularly ingrained in the beneficial relationship itself and in the merits and expertise of the counsellor.

The person-centred approach, as shown in McLeod (2008) was developed by Carl Rogers, the core elements of Rogers' approach, which he referred to as counselling rather than psychotherapy, are taken as being that each person has internally, all the resources they need to grow, its main aim being to construct conditions, which allow that person to grow, consisting of unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence and stressing also the here and now instead of the past. In order for the person to reach their highest potential, favourable conditions are required, and that if these are not met they may not grow and develop in a positive way. For example, when people are not regarded in a positive light and accepted for who they are, particularly when that regard is made conditional, they may lose touch with their inner-self and begin to develop in a way that is not true to that self. Psychodynamic counselling as Jacobs (2004) states incorporates many different approaches from psychoanalytical theory, and is usually understood to centre upon the unaware activity of the consciousness. The inner characteristics of the consciousness are seen as taking form during childhood growth and compose elements of the child's connection with significant people, particularly the mother and father. Therefore, psychodynamic therapies tend to give consideration to "the importance of the child's early environment as promoting the foundation of later personality strengths or areas of vulnerability Jacobs (2004, p.9). At moments of emotional stress we can be driven back to this basic and childlike way of thinking, feeling and behaving in agreement with our idea of those early relationships.

The similarities of the person-centred and psychodynamic approaches according to McLeod (2008) are that, both explore the consciousness focusing on the client, whilst highlighting the importance of the counsellor and client being comfortable with each other, forming a rapport, bearing in mind their situation. Both person-centred and psychodynamic counsellors have broad-based approaches, which include specialists with different opinions under the same approach. Again through McLeod (2008) the differences can be shown to be that the person-centred approach focuses on the conscious process, it does not emphasize dreams and the therapist may divulge information about themselves, helping the client feel settled. This is different from the psychodynamic approach, which looks at the unconscious processes, dreams are emphasised and there is certainly no self disclosure. It is also suggested the person-centred therapist is friendly, aiming towards articulating feelings and seeing people as essentially good and trustworthy, this contrasts with the psychodynamic therapist who should keep a practised detachment, looking at fundamental anxieties, with a view to understanding the person's feelings and can see people as hostile or untrustworthy. The person-centred approach is that they look at the past, present and future where as the psychodynamic connects the past with the present.

Jacobs (2004) suggests that the psychodynamic approach, therapists look for explanations for the client and can see reluctance as conflict within the client. They actively seek for what is hidden by the client, offering up their own opinions on aspects of the clients psyche. Also time and boundaries are fixed, and the approach struggles to accommodate different cultures, although it aims to promote self-understanding and has a vast theoretical basis. Compared with the person-centred approach which Mearns and Thorne (2007) shows that the therapist allows the person to make their own analysis, concurring on what is to be talked about, it's a shared decision, aiming to promote personal growth. They have flexibility with time and boundaries easily adapting to cultural diversity, and that it has a limited theoretical structure.

In summary, it could be seen that creating a good person-centred therapeutic climate is what all counsellors should be doing anyway, but this misses the point of how difficult this is to achieve consistently, in particular being truly congruent. In the psychodynamic method the therapist can often be perceived as something of an expert, solving the client's problems for them, and leading them along. If they were to try and establish a true person centred climate, they would have to conceal their judgements about the client with a tendency to hide behind a professional face. This therapeutic climate is seen within the person-centred approach as being enough on its own to promote change, therefore it follows that anybody in the client's life could create the right atmosphere and achieve change, possibly devaluing the counsellor's role. I think that what else the therapist brings to the table, in terms of themselves, is also important, as surely if they are being transparent with the client, the client will see the therapists true self and beliefs, which I think may have an impact, not necessarily positively, on the therapeutic relationship. Each approach as its advantages and disadvantages, and each has its place within counselling, which method is to be used would depend on the therapist's personal choice and philosophies, and what type of person the client is, as the two approaches would suit different clients. I feel that the psychodynamic approach is a more structured method than the person-centred approach, and would be suitable for clients who are comfortable with introspection, requiring a large background theory, a diagnosis of their problems or to have their psyches analysed. With the person-centred approach I believe it develops a very effective client-counsellor relationship, it is more suited to people who have an ability to explore themselves and their beliefs and who value taking personal accountability and who don't need a more formal approach with their counsellor or a large theoretical structure.

Part 2,

Having looked deeply into each approach for this essay, and of having no personal experience of each, I feel that I would prefer the person-centred approach. This is because I feel that person-centred counselling fits closely with my own philosophies for life, mainly being the ability to freely express myself, without having to meet any goals or satisfy any needs of the counsellor, that the person is viewed as their own best authority on their own experience and is fully capable of reaching their own highest potential, the focus is always on the persons own thoughts and feelings, not those of either the therapist or on any diagnosis or pigeon-holing, the idea is for the client to know themselves. It also develops what I feel to be a very effective client-counsellor relationship, friendly and personal which I feel is more in tune with modern society. And although a large part of the psychodynamic approach is relevant to both me and modern society as a whole, I do not like the fact the therapist is seen as the 'expert' and cultures a distant relationship, pigeon-holing me with a analysis and allowing my personal theories to take a back seat. Ultimately both approaches have a place within counselling, although I would take the person-centred approach as my main approach I am quite eclectic in my view and would be happy using the other approaches to tackle particular situations as they arose, focusing on the appropriate methods inherent strength. I guess that would class me as having an integrationist approach!


  • Jacobs, M. (2004) Psychodynamic Counselling in Action (3rd edn), London, Sage.
  • McLeod, J. (2008) Introduction to Counselling [Ed. D. Langdridge], Maidenhead/Milton Keynes, Open University Press/The Open University.
  • Mearns, D. and Thorne, B. (2007) Person-centred Counselling in Action (3rd edn), London, Sage.
  1. I found at first the large amount of academic reading a challenge, I feel that I have now got to grips with it and enjoy actively reading the course book.
  2. I found the essay a real challenge, with numerous rewrites and no confidence to let it go. This is my first ever essay and I am still not happy with it at all.

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