The client-centred approach
The client-centred approach to counselling was pioneered by Carl Rogers in the middle decades of the twentieth century and is founded on the not-unreasonable assumption that the client is the foremost expert on their own lives. As Rogers said:
“It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried………..Unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for the direction of movement."
Carl Rogers, On becoming a person, 1961
Consistent with this philosophy, counsellors working in a client-centred way take a non-directive stance, allowing the client to set the counselling agenda and to explore their own issues in their own way. They do this on the assumption that, if the right conditions are provided, then what Rogers referred to as the client’s “actualising tendency” will prevail and the client will discover and develop their own solutions to the problems they face.
Stephen’s experience is that for some clients it is enough to provide a safe, empathetic and non-judgmental therapeutic relationship within which the client feels comfortable to explore their own innermost thoughts and feelings and through which the client can tap into their deepest inner wisdom about what is right for them. For these clients, Stephen focuses on providing the congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard that Rogers believed to be both necessary and sufficient to bring about therapeutic change.
However, for many clients a higher level of input from the counsellor is warranted, often to help them deal with unhelpful patterns of thoughts and emotions that have been established as a result of early experiences with parents, siblings or peers. In these cases Stephen might turn to a therapy approach that seek to effect deep and lasting change in underlying emotional processing patterns, Emotion-Focused Therapy.