CH 5 Person-centered/Humanistic Therapy
• needs to experience the positive regard of those who care, whether she washes or not, whether she is obsessed or
not. → begin to understand that being positively regarded is not contingent on either washing or not washing. →
become a little freer to consider that maybe she, too, can love herself whether she washes or does not wash.
• Mrs. C has been providing unconditional cleaning, cleaning whether it is warranted or not, when what she really
wants is unconditional caring, caring whether she at this moment warrants it or not
Theory of personality
• Tendency toward actualization = the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which
serve to maintain or enhance the organism
o not only the tendency to meet physiological needs for air, food, and water and the tendency to reduce
tensions, but also the propensity to expand ourselves through growth, to enhance ourselves through
relating & reproducing
• Organismic valuing = value positively those experiences perceived as maintaining or enhancing our lives and to
value negatively those experiences that would negate our growth
• Our self-concept = our perceptions of what is characteristic of “I” or “me,” + our perceptions of our relationships
to others and to the world, & the values attached to these perceptions
• Need for positive regard = the need to be prized, to be accepted, to be loved
o Whenever another person, such as a parent, responds to a particular behavior with positive regard, our
total image of how positively we are prized by the other is strengthened
o More compelling than organismic valuing; individuals begin to guide their behavior not by the degree to
which an experience maintains or enhances the organism, but by the likelihood of receiving love.
• Self-regard → individuals’viewing themselves and their behavior in the same way that significant others have
• When individuals begin to act in accordance with the introjected or internalized values of others, they have
acquired conditions of worth
Theory of psychopathology
• Incongruence between what is being experienced and what is symbolized as part of a person’s self-concept.
• Psychopathology reflects a divided personality, with the tensions, defenses, and inadequate functioning that
accompany a lack of wholeness
• Subception is the ability of the organism to discriminate stimuli at a level below what is required for conscious
recognition. By subceiving particular experiences as threatening, the organism can use perceptual distortions, eg
rationalizations, projections, and denial, to keep from becoming aware of experiences, such as anger, which would
violate conditions of worth.
1 • If individuals were to become aware of unworthy experiences, their concepts of themselves would be threatened,
their needs for self-regard would be frustrated, and they would be in a state of anxiety → defensive reactions (eg
headaches); Those who have self-regard only for success may develop compulsions to work.
• Defenses help preserve positive self-regard, at a price. Defenses result in an inaccurate perception of reality due to
distortion and selective omission of information.
• The more defensive and pathological the person, the more rigid and inadequate are that person’s perceptions
• Whether a person enters psychotherapy because of a breakdown, inadequate functioning due to perceptual
distortions, because defensive symptoms are hurting too much, or a desire for greater actualization, the goal is the
same: to increase the congruence between self and experience through integration.
• The necessary and sufficient conditions for therapy are contained within the therapeutic relationship
• 6 conditions are necessary for a relationship to result in constructive personality change toward actualization:
1. RELATIONSHIP: being in a relationship in which each makes some perceived difference to the other
2. VULNERABILITY: The client is in an anxiety-provoking state of congruence. This vulnerability to anxiety can
be a motivational factor to seek and stay in the therapeutic relationship.
3. GENUINENESS: therapists being freely & deeply themselves
4. UNCONDITIONALPOSITIVE REGARD: to effectively weaken the existing conditions of worth in the client
& replace that with strong positive self-regard
5. ACCURATE EMPATHY: therapists exp client’s inner world
6. PERCEPTIONS OF GENUINENESS: therapists must be seen as genuine
Therapeutic processes – client-centered therapy
• Clients’work – clients direct the flow of therapy; inform therapists about personal exp
• Therapists’work – reflection
o Through a commitment to understand the client with accurate empathy, the therapist is telling the client
how or what to feel. Instead therapists are able to sensitively and exquisitely capturing the essence of the
client’s expressions. The therapist can reflect so empathically & accurately because there is no distortion
caused by interpretation or self-expression.
o More recently, person-centered therapists have recognized the mistake of equating the specific technique
of reflection with the complex attitude of empathy.
o Part of the person-centered therapist’s work is to help clients reallocate their attention so that they can
make greater use of the richness in their feelings → clients break through their perceptual distortions →
attend to the personal meaning of experiences that previously haven’t been processed into awareness
o If the therapist did not reflect some of the client’s threatening experiences, the client’s selective attentional
processes would cause such information to be lost in short-term memory [surrogate info processor]
2 o By selecting out such threatening information to process into awareness, the person-centered therapist is,
quite directive, but in a subtle and noncoercive style, and only by responding to info already in process in
the client.Actually they are relatively controlling of the process of therapy, but not its content
o As a surrogate processor, therapist helps the client adopt a more optimal mode of organizing information
(empathically organizing the information from a client’s experience in a concise and accurate manner)
• Clients’work - Clients will talk about emotional problems, but describe such problems as coming from outside
o Gradually, in response to the therapist’s empathy and positive regard, clients experience themselves as
accepted, they can begin to describe present feelings more freely
o Eventually, clients begin to fully express their feelings of the moment. These feelings are owned and
accepted as coming from within the person.
• Therapists’work - continually redirecting the client’s attention to the feeling aspect
o As the therapist explicitly reflects back to the client the essence of what the client is feeling implicitly, the
client eventually attends to and feels the emotion and the meaning of experiences.
o The theoretical justification for person-centered therapists disclosing their own emotional experiences of
the moment is that it allows for greater genuineness or congruence.
o The traditional view in client-centered therapy is that threatening emotions are implicitly present in clients
and are not being released because of the client’s defensiveness. Through the therapist’s emotional self-
disclosure and, most importantly, empathic communication of clients are gradually freed from denying or
distorting their emotions and can begin to speak and live out their strong