Person-Centered Therapy (Rogerian)



Person-centered therapy is a form of psychotherapy that gets the client fully involved with his or her treatment process as the therapist helps in a more indirect way. Other names for this psychotherapy include non-directive, client-centered, or Rogerian therapy. This form of psychotherapy was developed by an American psychologist by the name of Carl Rogers in the 1930s and 1940s, hence the Rogerian title. In the 1960s, Rogerian therapy started to become associated with the human potential movement of the early 1900s. This movement believes in self-actualization, or the idea that we as humans strive to grow to our fullest potential and move forward in a positive manner, whereas traditional psychological theories held the belief that we as humans are inherently evil. This form of psychotherapy keeps the belief of self-actualization in mind.

Goals of Rogerian Therapy

Rogerian Therapy seeks to decrease the client’s guilt, insecurities, defensiveness, and even close-mindedness by allowing them to think about life in new ways, thus warming up to different levels of experience. The goal is to let the client tell his or her story without the therapist asking questions, agreeing or disagreeing, offering reassurance or advice, pointing out contradictions, or diagnosing the client. Rogerian Therapy tends to increase the client’s self-esteem, learning abilities from making mistakes, trust in themselves, positive relationships, and idea of who they are. Clients should be able to express and experience their emotions better in real time as well.

When is Rogerian Therapy Used?

Originally having been developed in a clinic for children (today this is called “play therapy”), Rogerian Therapy can be used on anyone regardless of age. However, this form of therapy has proven to be more ineffective to deaf and uneducated patients. It also may not work for those who suffer from a mental disorder that distorts perception of reality. Those who find talking about themselves to be difficult will also have a disadvantage with this form of psychotherapy. Rogerian Thrapy has the potential to be a group or family therapy as well as individual. Disorders that have been treated with this form of therapy include interpersonal relationship issues, alcoholism, anxiety, physical or sexual abuse, cognitive dysfunction, low self-esteem depression, general unhappiness with life, and personality disorders.

How Rogerian Therapy Works

There is no one structure for this form of therapy due to the fact that the client is going it on their own as the therapist listens, respects, and understands while keeping a form of transparency. They do not steer the client in any particular direction, but instead make themselves known and open to the client. There are three attitudes that the therapist should uphold: congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy.

Congruence is when the therapist remains open, relatable, and genuine towards the client instead of playing a role where they are these things. This allows for better trust between therapist and client.

Unconditional positive regard occurs when the therapist completely accepts the client for who they are without censorship regardless of said client’s particular actions or feelings. The therapist is not there to give the client advice or judge them, but instead to listen with an open ear.

Empathy is the most important attitude involved in the therapy. The therapist must be able to understand thoughts, behaviors, and feelings from the client’s perspective.

This form of therapy is obviously very patient-focused. The patient controls what topics are discussed during each session, what ways to go about uncovering solutions to their problems, even how often the sessions occur, and when the sessions stop. Sessions typically occur for an hour weekly.

The therapist often mirrors the patient in order to gain a better understanding of his or her perspective. By restating what has been said by the patient, the patient can clarify and point out any misunderstandings made by the therapist as a means of reaching a mutual level of understanding. Letting go of harmful behavior patterns should be much easier to attain when defenses are let down and feelings are confronted.

Criticisms of Rogerian Therapy

It has been said that this form of therapy is lazy because this is something that therapists should generally practice anyway on top of giving advice to the client. It has also not been addressed if other factors about the therapist besides the three listed above should matter when being paired up with particular clients. Indeed, the principles involved with Rogerian Therapy are vague. The emphasis of the client’s self-evaluation as a means of judging the therapy’s outcome and the lack of diagnosis makes this form of therapy questionable.


Greenberg, Leslie S., Jeanne C. Watson, and Germain Lietauer, eds. Handbook of Experiential Psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press, 1998.

Kensit, Denise A. "Rogerian Theory: A Critique of the Effectiveness of Pure Client-Centred Therapy." Counselling Psychology Quarterly 13, no. 4 (2000): 345-351.

Association for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach. <>.

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