What Is Person-Centered Therapy?

Therapy, also referred to as psychotherapy, is a branch of medical treatment designed to address and treat mental health disorders. There are several variations and methods available, one of which is person-centered, or client-centered, therapy. Person-centered therapy empowers the client to take ownership of their mental well-being.

Read on to learn more about person-centered therapy, techniques, and benefits associated with this form of treatment.

Woman in therapy session

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Defining Person-Centered Therapy

Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy, was developed in the 1940s by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers. It is a form of therapy that shifts the focus from the mental health professional to the client, who is empowered to take control of the therapeutic process. Rogers believed that every person, regardless of their mental health struggles, desires and is capable of reaching their full potential.

This therapy practice steers away from the idea that human beings are flawed and require treatment for their problematic behaviors. Instead, it provides clients with the tools and resources they need to understand themselves and what they need to achieve positive change in their lives.

Client vs. Patient

The term client is used on purpose in this type of therapy to avoid implying that the person seeking therapy is sick. Using the word client instead helps to empower the person seeking help by emphasizing that they are in control of their life and future and are capable of overcoming any difficulties they face.

How It Works

In person-centered therapy, the client and the therapist work as a team. The therapist avoids the use of judgment, suggestion, or solutions toward the client's problems in a way that feels supportive.

Person-centered therapy is a type of non-directive therapy that is empathetically driven toward providing a person with a safe space to talk and self-actualize positive changes in their life.

Person-centered therapy can help with various types of mental distress including:

What Techniques Are Involved in Person-Centered Therapy?

There are three main techniques used in person-centered therapy. Each technique is designed to help a person become more self-aware of their own behaviors in a safe space. When this happens, they are then able to make the necessary changes needed to recover.

Genuineness and Congruence

The genuineness and congruence technique involves the therapist being genuine and harmonious toward their clients. The therapist is open and honest about their thoughts and feelings and, by doing so, teaches their clients the ability to do the same.

This technique also teaches the client self-awareness and knowing how thoughts and feelings affect a person’s experiences.

Clients feel safer when their therapist acts in this way, which in turn builds a trusting relationship between both client and therapist. Trust in the relationship allows clients to be more comfortable opening up in a genuine way.

Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional positive regard is total acceptance. This means that the therapist will always completely accept and support their client when participating in client-centered therapy.

The therapist takes all their client's feelings and emotions seriously and validates what they are feeling. They also offer reassurances through active listening and positive body language.

How Does Unconditional Positive Regard Help?

When your therapist practices unconditional positive regard, you are likely to feel safe opening up fully, without fearing how they will respond. When your experiences and emotions are validated, you are more likely to feel comfortable making positive changes in your life.

Empathetic Understanding

Empathy is the true understanding and sharing of feelings between two people.

In person-centered therapy, the therapist uses empathetic understanding in an effort to get to know who you are, the way your experiences shape your life, and your point of view of the world, yourself, and the people in your life.

The main goal of empathetic understanding is to ensure that the client feels completely understood in everything they say. This is done in a way that gives clients the opportunity to gain insights into themselves that they may not have had prior to beginning therapy.

What Are the Benefits of Person-Centered Therapy?

There are many benefits associated with person-centered therapy including:

  • Improved self-awareness
  • Improved self-concept (the way you see yourself)
  • Greater trust in oneself and one’s own abilities
  • Healthier relationships with others based on an improved view and understanding of oneself
  • Healthier communication skills
  • Improved ability to express opinions and feelings
  • Ability to let go of past hurt or mistakes
  • Ability to strive for healthy changes that make one's life better

Things to Consider

To be able to benefit from person-centered therapy, you have to be open to discussing your experiences, both good and bad. Therapists will not direct you in any way, so you must lead the conversation in a way that feels most comfortable to you. You must also establish a relationship with your therapist that feels safe and supportive.

How to Get Started

Person-centered therapy can be performed one-on-one or in a group setting. There are both inpatient and outpatient programs available for those who are interested in participating in person-centered therapy.

Your first session will begin much like a meet-and-greet, in which you will get to know one another. Your therapist will want you to talk about what brought you to person-centered therapy and go over how the therapy relationship will work if you choose them as your therapy partner.

If you are interested in person-centered therapy, you can contact your healthcare provider for recommendations.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Mental health issues can be difficult to cope with. Oftentimes, people aren’t sure where to turn or what type of help they need.

If you are dealing with mental health distress and are unsure of where to turn, you can contact your primary healthcare provider for assistance. They will likely direct you toward different types of therapists available to you.

Emergency Assistance for Mental Health Distress

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

Person-centered therapy, also called client-centered therapy, is a form of psychotherapy that places emphasis on the client over the therapist. It empowers the client to take control of their mental health without judgment, and helps improve the client's self-awareness. An open and trusting relationship between client and therapist is key in person-centered therapy.

A Word From Verywell

Coping with mental health distress on your own can be difficult, and may even feel impossible at times. Counseling options like person-centered therapy can help you take control of your mental health. Doing so will give you the tools and resources you need to feel better.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does person-centered therapy cost?

    The cost of person-centered therapy will vary significantly depending on factors such as how long you see yourself going, as well as the specific therapist. Where you are located will also play a role in the cost. In many cases, person-centered therapy is covered by medical insurance.

  • How many types of therapy are there?

    There are many types of therapy available. The main branches of therapy are psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, and integrative. Person-centered therapy is a form of humanistic therapy.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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