At the heart of the Person Centred approach is the firm belief that people have an innate drive to become all that they can be. We want to be fully human, fully alive! But stuff happens and we get stuck. Feeling stuck is not pleasant. Feeling that we have to pretend to be someone that we don’t really feel is our true self can be quite destructive. It can cut us off from others around us as we are unable to share our true self in intimate relationships. It can lead to anxiety or depression.
Sometimes people have felt bad for a long time. Other times there has been a more recent trauma of some kind causing intense suffering. Fear takes over. Confidence can be shattered. Self-esteem blown away.
Whatever it is, we know it is not right. It is not how we want to live. Counselling can help. Carl Rogers, who really began this way of working, wrote about what happens in the counselling relationship like this:
When a person comes to me, troubled by his unique combination of difficulties, I have found it most worth while to try to create a relationship with him in which he is safe and free. It is my purpose to understand the way he feels in his own inner world, to accept him as he is, to create an atmosphere of freedom in which he can move in his thinking and feeling and being, in any direction he desires.
Carl Rogers, On Becoming A Person (1967)
The focus in Person Centred work is creating an environment in which the client feels able to safely explore difficult feelings and events and beliefs. The client needs to believe that they are not being judged and not being directed. They are seen and heard. Their story is the one that matters. Their feelings are the ones being shared. The counsellor can hold these safely and not be overwhelmed by them. And in that space in my experience, growth and healing can take place.
So for me the key thing about the Person Centred approach is that the focus is you, the client. It is not the all-powerful counsellor who can diagnose and heal. It is not behaviour patterns that can be altered to bring relief. The focus is the unique individual who is offered a place of safety and acceptance. A place where you can rest from the storms that sometimes attack us. A place where you can catch your breath and focus on what you are actually feeling. A place in which you know you are valued, respected and safe.