We are only as sick as our denial.

Person Centered Therapy is sometimes called Rogerian Therapy or Non Directive Therapy.

The therapist provides a safe space for someone to experience and explore what they are really thinking and feeling. This is not often available in day to day relationships that are mostly restricted by expectations and mutual obligations.

Carl Rogers' three principles of Person Centered Therapy are a therapist's guide to how to be rather than what to do. They are often summed up as unconditional, positive and authentic regard. Real and friendly interest, no matter what.

These three principles provide safe and reliable guidelines for a therapist to perfect themselves in this art.

Some therapists who say they are “Person Centered” are in reality quite directive. And many therapists who say they use some other method in fact follow these three principles.

first principle – unconditional, unprejudiced, open
Theory and method and personal prejudice are put aside to connect with another person and be open to experience them as they are. The therapist becomes the theory and the method and is uniquely different in each encounter.

A therapist’s Personal reactions to stories of suffering are not easy to put aside. Mirroring and internalizing them can be disturbing.
But a therapist’s personal reactions can block their client’s unfolding ideas. Skirting around or glossing over uncomfortable topics with reassurance or chatter signals that the topics are taboo.

It can be tempting to point out the obvious or recommend changes of thoughts, feelings or behaviour. Or try to bully or blackmail someone to change.

Anything a therapist misses or finds uncomfortable or exciting may be avoided from then on. Lost opportunities are rarely repeated.

opinions can get in the way

  • Seek to understand rather than to be understood. Perhaps check to see you understood what was just said

  • Be interested rather than interesting.

expectations can get in the way

  • Set aside anxieties, biases and prejudices so they don't colour or distort understanding.

  • Set aside memories of previous conversations. Start where the other person is right now.

  • Stay with where they are without anticipating what will be said next and without preparing responses.

  • Allow preoccupations to be brought up and elaborated freely. Especially fleeting allusions to topics that are being floated to test the waters but can't quite be voiced yet.

  • Give people enough time to hear what they are saying.

self determination
Allow the other person to own the healing space and work out what to do and what to think rather than think for them. Facilitate instead of joining in and becoming a part of the story.

A therapist's brochure, website or business name are part of therapy. They begin to define the therapeutic space and relationship and prepare a newcomer for when they first walk through the door. By reading these and turning up a contract is already forming in a client’s mind and the terms are being accepted.
But a full blown treatment plan even if it is negotiated
takes therapy down predetermined paths and silences thoughts and feelings that have not quite found their way into consciousness.

When you find yourself wanting to ask a question, check how you are feeling to see if you have sensed something emerging. Then, don’t ask that question.

A question is a kind of needy anxiety that usually reveals more about a questioner than what is inquired about.

Questions gain attention and communicate their underlying assumptions, they set the tone and vocabulary of a conversation. Some are commands to stop talking or to retrieve and divulge information. Some are are commands to think about something else. Some questions may be intrusive or offensive.

A querent is not only seeking satisfaction from an answer but also from the effect of the question on their listener.

Only ask questions that are reflective, affirming or rhetorical, lubricating the conversation without any obvious demand for attention or answer.

no diagnosis - nonjudgmental
Our everyday personal assessment of others is mostly a projection of our own accumulated ideas and assumptions. Similarly a diagnosis arising from a formal assessment protocol describes someone though the lens of its underlying cultural conventions and assumptions.

Formal assessment questions impose a language, logic and topics on the therapeutic conversation.

A diagnosis sets the direction of therapy and can override common sense, impair connecting and alienate, especially if the therapeutic conversation goes into orbit around a diagnosis. This can disable or sideline therapy.

second principle - positive, empathic, loving, warm
To connect with someone, we have to like them and enjoy being with them and feel their discomfort without revulsion, fear, or dislike.

Connection shows as we mimic and pace each others' movements, rhythms and postures.

Criticism or threats of abandonment, however subtle they are, build on someone's negative experiences and just get in the way. A therapist’s lack of empathy is noticed even if not consciously and the response is often to collude, keep a distance or try to make reparation.

Being nice, sympathetic or condoling may be cheering, validating or motivating but it suppresses trains of thought that would eventually lead to core problems. This is therapist-centered activity.

Having said that, punitive and sympathetic responses are automatic reflexes that are impossible to exclude entirely. They are part of the currency of human interactions. At least we can look out for them and try to compensate for them.

third principle – authentic, congruent, spontaneous, real
Being the same on the inside as the outside – open and truthful - without pretense.

When a therapists feelings and demeanour in therapy are congruent with the rest of their life they can be themselves without the effort and distraction of putting up a front. Then they can be fully present with all their energy.

It is not possible to imitate all the subtleties of someone else's approach. Each therapist finds their own voice and style within a theoretical framework and use it in ways that fit their personality.

Embodying these qualities is not enough. They might not be obvious to someone who is distressed or intoxicated. To be effective they have to be noticed. A connection is needed.

The awareness-therapy pages put the principles into practice by showing ways to expand awareness and ways for two people to connect.

The Heart Sutra on the mind pages suggests a single under lying principle. This is an example of the ideas that Carl Rogers explored later in his career.