Psychotherapists will often inform clients about the approach or modality they practice from, and this can sometimes be confusing for individuals who do not specialize in psychology. Evergreen Therapeutics plans to publish several blog posts surrounding different modalities and approaches to help better inform clients entering therapy. A popular therapy implemented by therapists is Client-Centered Therapy, and so this will be where we begin.
Client-Centered Therapy (CCT), also known as Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the subjective experience of an individual and emphasizes the therapeutic relationship as a vital contribution to change in clients. CCT is one of many therapies under the umbrella of Humanistic Theory, which focuses on the principle that people are unique and not defined by their pathology. Humanism and CCT focus on empowering clients by increasing their choice and capacity to find solutions to their problems without feeling dependent on the therapist for answers. CCT takes an unstructured and non-directive approach. Unlike some other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), this approach does not set an agenda or take place over a limited number of sessions. Nor, does it expect clients to stick to one topic or concern.
The therapeutic relationship between the client and therapist is an important concept of CCT and Humanistic theory. CCT therapists offer unconditional positive regard, empathetic understanding, honesty, and integrity, to the therapeutic relationship. Carl Rogers, an influential figure within humanism and the founder of CCT, believed that an individual’s experience of an event is more valid than an idea or concept coming from another person and that providing a safe, non-judgemental, and positive environment to explore these experiences is crucial to the therapeutic process and relationship. Rogers also focused on the concept of power and the importance of creating a relationship that emphasizes equal power between clients and therapists. Where simply, clients teach their therapist about their individual experiences and therapists use their knowledge, genuineness, unconditional support, and empathy, to guide them in finding solutions.
How Does CCT Work?
This approach puts the client in the driver’s seat where they direct their own sessions and find solutions to their problems, with the therapist taking a back seat. Rather than focusing deeply on the problematic habits of the client, the therapist focuses on the client’s needs. This requires the therapist to understand the client’s worldview, which often occurs via questions or reflections, especially in moments where the therapist needs clarification. The goal is to remove any interfering factors that might skew the client’s ability to freely make decisions without the worries of external influences. Examples of interfering factors can be negativity, judgement, advice, and bias from others. As a result of clients looking inward and gaining control over their decision-making, clients may experience increased self-awareness, clarity, self-esteem, and self-reliance.
The therapeutic techniques implemented into treatment vary on the client’s concern and therapeutic journey. Some examples are:
- Boundary Setting: both in session and in the external world. In the session, boundaries might be placed by the therapist surrounding session duration, whereas in reality, therapists may help facilitate clients with setting boundaries using their developed awareness of self and values.
- Active Listening: this is a way of listening and responding which in turn improves mutual understanding, self-reflection, and results in the client’s feeling heard. This might be shown through non-verbal cues, and/or paraphrasing, reflecting, or summarizing.
- Calm and Positive tone: therapists are expected to respond differently to clients compared to the outside world. Therapy has the potential to bring out uncomfortable emotions and vulnerability in clients, and so, therapists maintaining a calm and positive tone encourages clients to freely express their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgement.
- Resourcing: client-centered therapists might refer out when it becomes clear that the client requires more help than this approach can offer or alternatively take an integrative approach.
Several therapists integrate CCT with other talk-therapy approaches. Some client concerns might require more help than CCT can offer, and so these integrative therapists might include interventions or tools from other approaches or modalities while still maintaining the core values of this approach. (e.g., a therapist may implement a calm and positive tone, active listening, and unconditional positive regard, while also implementing a CBT tool for a client who requires more structure with a particular topic)
What Are CCT Therapists Like?
Roger’s outlines three crucial qualities that therapists must have in common:
- Unconditional Positive Regard
- Empathetic Understanding
The therapist’s genuineness may present itself through the modeling of transparent, honest, and open communication with clients. This quality can be essential in promoting trust and strengthening the therapeutic alliance and supporting a reciprocal relationship. Genuine support can also be crucial when working with one’s sense of self, specifically exploring and increasing one’s self-esteem.
Unconditional positive regard is basically non-judgement. It is pivotal that clients feel free to express and explore their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement. This quality provides clients with a unique and safe space that sometimes the outside world cannot offer.
Therapists are empathetic toward clients’ concerns and use it to understand their worldviews. Empathic understanding can aid clients to develop insight into their situation and themselves and promote clarity when looking for solutions.
Pros and Cons
This approach can be effective in managing difficult situations largely due to its focus on the present as opposed to past events. Its non-directive nature also encourages clients to rely less on the therapist for answers and rather look inward for solutions. CCT can be seen as a safe space to think out loud to learn more about oneself, which in turn empowers clients in solving their problems independently. This approach is great for someone who does not prefer a structured session and is open to self-exploration on their own terms.
Cons of this approach surround the non-directive structure and its vague principles. Often therapists align with the values of this approach but integrate other therapeutic approaches to increase its applicability with different clients and mental health concerns. Aka, to better meet clients where they are at. If you prefer more structure in your sessions, a therapist who only practices CCT might not be the right fit for you.
Mental Health Concerns That Benefit From Using CCT
CCT helps increase self-esteem and overall helps individuals to trust themselves to make important decisions, increase their capacity to express and experience their feelings as they show up, and apply their increased sense of agency to new experiences.
Other concerns known to benefit from a CCT approach are:
- Relationship problems
- Panic attacks
- Substance abuse
- Personality disorders
- Low self-esteem linked to depression
- Stress management
- Eating disorders
- Trauma recovery & more
Client-centered therapy plays an important role in helping clients process and understand their responses to life experiences in a way that is healing, empowering, and self-compassionate. Learning to process this way can be instrumental to achieving future life and therapeutic goals. It is also important to acknowledge that therapy is not always about getting rid of pathology but also largely focuses on learning how to live a more joyful and functional life.
If you are looking for a remote therapist and you reside in Ontario, check out Evergreen Therapeutics. We have a team of therapists who treat individuals, couples, and families through an integrative, trauma-informed, and anti-oppressive approach. Please feel free to visit the website to book a consultation, or to learn more about the services offered.
- Adikwu, Marris. “What is Person (Client) Centered Therapy? Web blog post. Talkspace. 12 November 2020
- Takens, R.J. (2020). Person-Centered Therapy (Client-Centered). In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_1494
- Rogers, C. R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships: As developed in the client-centered framework (Vol. 3, pp. 184-256). New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://bibliotecaparalapersona-epimeleia.com/greenstone/collect/ecritos2/index/assoc/HASH01a5/4583605e.dir/doc.pdf