Three Person-Centered Therapy Techniques
The techniques employed in person-centered therapy are different from those employed in other therapies. The difference is that other therapies are often focused on something the client can do during the therapy session, whereas the techniques used in person-centered therapy are employed by the therapist to create an environment that facilitates the process of self-awareness. Following are three person-centered therapy techniques commonly used by therapists applying the person-centered approach: congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy.
Congruence is whether or not therapists are genuine and authentic in what they say and do. Quite often, if the therapist is saying one thing but the body language is reflective of something else, clients are aware of this and may impact on their trust and openness in the therapeutic relationship (Seligman, 2006). For example, a therapist may say “I understand where you are coming from” to a client but have a confused look on his or her face. The client can see this confusion and feels uncomfortable with expressing feelings from this point forward.
Therefore, a major role of therapists is to be aware of their body language and what they are saying as well as being in the present moment. If confusion arises, the therapist needs to be able to address this with the client. Going back to the previous example of the therapist stating understanding and having a confused look, the therapist notices the client looks uneasy after the comment about understanding and goes on to explain to the client why and how he or she understands the statement. This puts the client at ease and ensures the continuation of trust.
Unconditional positive regard
Unconditional positive regard refers to the therapist accepting, respecting and caring about clients (Seligman, 2006). It does not mean the therapist has to agree with everything the client says or does, however, the therapist should see the client as doing the best he or she can and demonstrate this by expressing concern rather than disagreeing with him or her. Unconditional positive regard allows clients to express how they are thinking without feeling judged, and help to facilitate the change process by showing they can be accepted.
Empathy is a skill used by person-centered therapists to show understanding of the client’s emotions. Empathy is different to sympathy in that sympathy is often seen as feeling sorry for the client whereas empathy shows understanding and allows the client to further open up (Seligman, 2006). An example follows:
Client: I feel as though no one cares about me and that I am all alone.
Empathy Response: So you are feeling alone at the moment and as if no one cares.
Sympathy Response: I’m sorry that you feel that way.