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What Is Person-Centred Therapy? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

Updated: Sep 10, 2023


What Is Person-Centred Therapy? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

Interestingly enough in August 2023, I started four weeks of psychotherapy to help me deal with trauma and abuse from my past and I have only recently learnt that the counsellor (or as I call her ‘therapist’) uses a person-centred approach to therapy. I have only just heard about this approach to mental health to be honest, so I want to explore it further. Since I found it rather useful. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, we’ll explore what is person-centred therapy, how does it work, what to expect and so much more. If you’re interested in psychological therapy, mental health and clinical psychology, then you’ll be in for a treat.


Today’s podcast episode has been sponsored by Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments of Depression, Anxiety and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley


What Is Person-Centred Psychotherapy?

Person-centred therapy is a client-based psychotherapy that uses a non-authoritative approach to mental health difficulties that allows clients to take the lead in therapy sessions so they can discover their own solutions to their difficulties.


This particular approach to mental health was started by Carl Rodgers because he believed that every person is unique (which we are) and everyone’s view of their world should be trusted. In other words, he believed we should never ever doubt our clients and how they describe the world, because to them that actually is how the world works.


Personally, I do understand this because everyone interprets different situations and events differently depending on their past experiences. This is basically what the cognitive approach is saying just with different words. Due to the cognitive approach believes it isn’t the events themselves that cause mental health difficulties it is our beliefs and interpretations of them that lead to difficulties.


Furthermore, Carl Rodgers firmly believed in self-actualisation. This is the idea that all of us have the solutions, knowledge and power to make the changes we need in our lives. As well as this therapy is non-directive so the therapist doesn’t take the lead and instead follows the client and doesn’t engage in any direct discussions.


However, something I am seriously starting to notice is that all these different approaches to mental health are basically just rehashing what another has already said. For example, every single psychotherapy I can think of is about self-actualisation and making sure the client realises they can make the changes needed in their lives using the tools and guidance the therapist gives them. Yet only they can make the changes for themselves.


This actually isn’t unique to any approach.


Moreover, I will admit that the non-directive part of person-centred therapy does require a bit of getting used to. Since I love cognitive-behavioural therapy, which is very structured, I had to let go of the idea that she was going to lead, and I had to lead instead. Thankfully I have so much mental health difficulties tied up in different parts of abuse and trauma that I have more than enough things to talk about, but it still did require a bit of relearning.


Anyway, during person-centred therapy, a therapist isn’t the lead as we know. Instead the therapist is known as a “compassionate facilitator” because they listen to the client without judgement, they acknowledge the client’s experiences without changing or moving the conversation and they are there to support the client without interrupting them. Or impacting on their own process of self-discovery.


In my experience that acknowledgement and “validation” in a fashion is extremely important and it does feel great to have someone else call your abuse and trauma, well, abuse and trauma. And I will happily admit that the process of self-discovery it is scary how much you can actually discover about yourself when we free yourself up. Like I literally cannot share everything I’ve discovered about myself on the podcast because that’s like another twenty episodes in itself, but it’s a lot of fun. And honestly, as much as really don’t want to discover anything more about myself, I know I will and that’s okay.


Overall, the reason why the therapist doesn’t interrupt this process of self-discovery and lead is because it is down to the client to uncover what hurts them and what they need to do to repair it. That is a very powerful realisation when it hits you.


How Does Person-Centred Therapy Work?

The entire point of person-centred therapy is to step away from the more traditional psychotherapeutic models where the therapist is the leader and expert and instead the client is the expert in themselves. Again that is something I have mentioned a thousand times before on the podcast and in books.


Therefore, person-centred therapy has three central tenets that allow the therapy to be successful. Firstly, the therapist has an unconditional positive regard so they are empathetic and non-judgemental. Due to the therapist accepts what the client is saying as true and they want to convey to the client that they are understood, confident, trusted and they are valued. As well as the client is free to make their own better choices and decisions in their life.


This tenet I think is very powerful and helpful because I have tried to talk about my past before and there are only ever three outcomes really. None of which I blame on people. Firstly, they call me a liar because they don’t want to hear it because what I have to say is too painful.


Secondly, they are sorry for what’s happening but they can ultimately never ever understand it at a deep level. Thirdly, they understand it but the problem with that is it is common trauma and abuse so they aren’t comfortable listening to it and because of emotional dependency and other difficulties, I burn them out too much.


That’s why having a therapist that can just listen to me talk is extremely helpful.


Secondly, there is congruence or genuineness so the therapists have no air of authority to them. Instead they present themselves as an accessible and their true self that clients can see is honest and transparent. And this is definitely true, I might be autistic so reading and understanding people is always going to be hard but I know my therapist is very honest and transparent.


Finally, there is empathetic understanding where the therapist wholeheartedly accepts and understands the client’s views as well as feelings in a way that can be helpful in reshaping the client’s sense of their experiences.


Normally, I think this final part is done by “accident” in a fashion because just by talking and listening and offering up good psychological insights. My therapist has helped me to realise a lot about myself and how I view my Self and my past and my relationships.


On the whole, in this therapy, whenever the therapy is working well the clients feel they are better understood in these sessions and this leads them to feel better understood in other areas of their lives as well. This does have research support, especially whenever a client identifies the unconditional positive regard in their therapist there is an increased chance in positive outcomes. Since the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client is a type of therapy in itself.


When Is Person-Centred Therapy Used?

A person-centred therapeutic approach might be used with groups and individuals, be it adults or adolescents in a short- or long-term fashion. The people that tend to take this approach and benefit from it are people that want more self-confidence, a stronger sense of identity and authenticity, increased trust in their own relationships and more success in establishing (and maintaining I will add) their interpersonal relationships.


In addition, like other approaches to mental health, the person-centred approach doesn’t have to be used only because it can be combined with other therapies to treat depression, grief and anxiety. Although, it can also be treated to treat trauma, family stressors, abuse and so much more.


And because this is a client-led psychotherapy, it is the more motivated and determined clients that tend to do better and be more successful at the therapy.


Personally, even though I didn’t choose person-centred therapy, I am more than glad I ended up with it. Since I’ve only had two sessions so far and I have found it so useful in understanding my own relationships, my identity, self-confidence and it has basically taught me to let go of what other people want from me and their expectations. I talk about this a little more next week in the Emotional Dependency and Locus of Evaluation podcast episode but person-centred therapy has been immensely useful to me.


What To Expect In Person-Centred Therapy?

Even though I’ve mentioned my own experience through the podcast episode, the only other thing I want to say is that the therapist might repeat your words. This isn’t them trying to be annoying or anything, it is simply them trying to understand what happened, what you mean and how you feel. It is them trying to draw out a little more information from you too.


Of course, they might have misunderstood you and I think that’s happened once or twice with myself. One time was when, because I laugh as a coping mechanism when I have seriously screwed up, she didn’t understand why I was laughing about something extremely serious (well at least it was to me). This allowed me to rephrase my response in a way both of us could understand.


Moreover, there might be moments of silence in the therapy and this can be good because it allows us to process our thoughts and realisations. Since person-centred therapy is all about self-acceptance and self-discovery. Or if you’re like me and you have so many things to unpack, you basically don’t stop talking for the entire session.


Then you end up at the end of the therapy feeling a little overwhelmed because of everything you’ve learnt, discussed and it can take a little while for you to realise what the takeaways are for you.


Clinical Psychology Conclusion

Overall, person-centred therapy is all about allowing a client to talk, explore their difficulties and find the solutions for themselves. This is extremely helpful in my experience but then again I’ve learnt recently I have very high emotional intelligence, which is funny because I used to be extremely bad at it.


A Person-centred Therapist should always have the ability to be calm in sessions and they need to let a client verbalise their frustrations and disappointments too. Since this can all help a client to gain insights into what’s hurting them and most importantly how they can move forwards.


Personally, I am willing to say that person-centred therapy has already changed my life for the better and I still have two more sessions, so I am actually really excited to see what will happen, what will I learn and most importantly how else can I change my life for the better.

Therapy can be seriously fun, interesting and life changing if you want it to be.


I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.


If you want to learn more, please check out:


Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments of Depression, Anxiety and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley



Have a great day.


Clinical Psychology References

Bower P., Byford S., Sibbald B. et al., Randomised controlled trial of non-directive counselling, cognitive-behavior therapy, and usual general practitioner care for patients with depression. II Cost Effectiveness. British Medical Journal. Dec 2000;321:1389.


Hazler, Richard J., Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories and Interventions. Chapter 7: Person-Centered Theory. 6th Ed. 2016. American Counseling Association.


McCormack, B., McCance, T., Bulley, C., Brown, D., McMillan, A., & Martin, S. (Eds.). (2021). Fundamentals of person-centred healthcare practice. John Wiley & Sons.


McCormack, B., McCance, T., Bulley, C., Brown, D., McMillan, A., & Martin, S. (Eds.). (2021). Fundamentals of person-centred healthcare practice. John Wiley & Sons.


Mearns, D., Thorne, B., Lambers, E., & Warner, M. (2000). Person-centred therapy today: New frontiers in theory and practice. Sage.


Renger, S. (2023). Therapists’ views on the use of questions in person-centred therapy. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 51(2), 238-250.


Rogers, C. (2000). Person-centred therapy. Six key approaches to counselling and therapy, 1, 98-105.


Tudor, K., & Worrall, M. (2006). Person-centred therapy: A clinical philosophy. Routledge.

World Health Organization. (2021). Guidance on community mental health services: promoting person-centred and rights-based approaches.


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