Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Lincoln Counselling - Humanistic therapies evolved in the USA during the 1950s. Carl Rogers proposed that therapy could be simpler, warmer and more optimistic than that carried out by behavioural or psychodynamic psychologists.
His view differs sharply from the psychodynamic and behavioural approaches in that he suggested that clients would be better helped if they were encouraged to focus on their current subjective understanding rather than on some unconscious motive or someone else's interpretation of the situation.
Rogers strongly believed that in order for a client's condition to improve therapists should be warm, genuine and understanding. The starting point of the Rogerian approach to counselling and psychotherapy is best stated by Rogers himself:
"It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behaviour - and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided" (1980, p.115-117).
Rogers (1961) rejected the deterministic nature of both psychoanalysis and behaviourism and maintained that we behave as we do because of the way we perceive our situation. "As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves."
Believing strongly that theory should come out of practice rather than the other way round, Rogers developed his theory based on his work with emotionally troubled people and claimed that we have a remarkable capacity for self-healing and personal growth leading towards self-actualisation. He placed emphasis on the person's current perception and how we live in the here-and-now.
Rogers noticed that people tend to describe their current experiences by referring to themselves in some way, for example, "I don't understand what's happening" or "I feel different to how I used to feel".
Central to Rogers' (1959) theory is the notion of self or self-concept. This is defined as "the organised, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself". It consists of all the ideas and values that characterise 'I' and 'me' and includes perception and valuing of 'what I am' and 'what I can do'.
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Consequently, the self concept is a central component of our total experience and influences both our perception of the world and perception of oneself. For instance, a woman who perceives herself as strong may well behave with confidence and come to see her actions as actions performed by someone who is confident.
The self-concept does not necessarily always fit with reality, though, and the way we see ourselves may differ greatly from how others see us.
For example, a person might be very interesting to others and yet consider himself to be boring. He judges and evaluates this image he has of himself as a bore and this valuing will be reflected in his self-esteem. The confident woman may have a high self-esteem and the man who sees himself as a bore may have a low self-esteem, presuming that strength/confidence are highly valued and that being boring is not.