What is the Person-Centred Approach?
A brief introduction
The Person-Centred Approach (PCA) is an approach to human relationships. It values attitudes such as: not judging others, trying to understand the experiences of others from their point of view, and fully honouring the uniqueness of the individuals we meet in a genuine and heartfelt way. Also, and perhaps most importantly, PCA places a high value on autonomy. That is, the right of a person to be self-governing, make their own decisions and follow their own path in life. In essence, to live according to what feels right for them.
PCA originally developed as a humanistic approach to counselling individuals struggling with personal issues, known as Person Centred Therapy. The uses of PCA have been subsequently expanded to address problems in many other areas of human life.
It has been used in a wide range of health and social care settings, such as nursing, teaching & education. It has also been developed for:
- working with the elderly
- planning to care for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia in a humane and dignifying way
- business and management
- conflict resolution
- encouraging open and genuine communication within groups.
Why is PCA Important?
Person-centred approaches are important because they…
- Value relationships based on dignity and respect for individuals.
- Empower people to make informed choices that feel right for them.
- Take a holistic approach that supports the well-being of the person as a whole (emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually).
- Value each person’s unique differences, abilities, needs, preferences, beliefs, interests, ethnicity and cultural background.
- Foster supportive relationships in which individuals can feel listened to, accepted and positively valued.
Development of the Person-Centred Approach
The development of the Person Centred Approach began in America in the 1940’s with the work of Rogers, Maslow and others. Dissatisfied with the mainstream psychological theories of the day, this pioneering group began to formulate a new psychology.
Rogers and his colleagues were interested in improving the quality of human life. They concerned themselves with questions of how we grow and develop, find meaning in experience and deal with distress. They also considered how we can foster loving, supportive relationships and lead more fulfilling lives.
These developments, which became known as ‘Humanistic Psychology’, influenced a number of approaches to counselling and psychotherapy. Perhaps the most widely practiced of these today is Person Centred Therapy.
Carl Rogers was one of the leading founders of Humanistic Psychology. Today he is considered one of the most influential figures in the world of counselling and psychotherapy. The model of counselling which he developed, known as Person Centred Therapy (PCT), was informed by the many thousands of hours he spent listening to his clients. He and his colleagues also engaged in many research projects. Through these studies they began to determine the aspects of counselling relationships that were most effective in creating positive therapeutic change.
PCT differs from other counselling approaches in that it places the client at the centre of the therapeutic process, rather than the knowledge and expertise of the therapist. For this reason, it was originally called client-centred therapy. In this humanistic approach, clients are regarded as possessing within themselves the potential for growth and development required to overcome difficulties.
PCT allows clients to progress at their own pace and in their own unique way, enabling them to be more accepting and embracing of they who are. Finally, they can be more authentically themselves, enhancing their quality of life and effectiveness in the world. In academic terms this is referred to as ‘self actualisation’.
A person-centred counsellor’s role is to provide the therapeutic conditions in which this process of change can occur. By using the skills and attitudes that Rogers and his colleagues determined to be the most effective in facilitating lasting therapeutic change: attentive listening, empathy, being non-judgemental, and holding a positive belief in each individual’s unique capacities for growth and change, the counsellor forms with the client a warm, safe and trusting relationship in which effective therapy can take place.
Having successfully established the effectiveness of PCT through large-scale research studies, Rogers began to explore the ways in which his theories could be applied in other areas. Beginning in the 1950’s, the conditions for effective growth-promoting relationships were applied to fields such as: education (student-centred learning), marriage, groups and leadership, business, health & social care and conflict resolution (for which Rogers received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 1987).
This wider use of Humanistic Psychology and PCT became known as the Person Centred Approach (PCA). Today it is widely used in counselling and psychotherapy and in developing health and social care policies, as well as by people who use PCA in their day-to-day lives to enhance their relationships and general well-being.
For more information on PCA, you can visit the website for the Person Centred Association (TPCA).