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   Client-Centered Therapy

Client-Centered Therapy (CCT) was developed by Carl Rogers in the 40's and 50's. It is a non-directive approach to therapy, "directive" meaning any therapist behavior that deliberately steers the client in some way. Directive behaviors include asking questions, offering treatments, and making interpretations and diagnoses. Virtually all forms of therapy practised in the US are directive.

A non-directive approach is very appealing on the face of it to many clients, because they get to keep control over the content and pace of the therapy. It is intended to serve them, after all. The therapist isn't evaluating them in any way or trying to "figure them out".

But what is in CCT, one may ask, if the therapist isn't interjecting their own stuff?

The answer is, whatever the client brings to it. And that is, honestly, a very good answer. The foundational belief of CCT is that people tend to move toward growth and healing, and have the capacity to find their own answers. This tendency is helped along by an accepting and understanding climate, which the CC therapist seeks to provide above all else.

So, this is what CC therapists do:

  • Listen and try to understand how things are from the client's point of view.

  • Check that understanding with the client if unsure.

  • Treat the client with the utmost respect and regard.

  • There is also a mandate for the therapist to be "congruent", or "transparent" - which means being self-aware, self-accepting, and having no mask between oneself and the client. The therapist knows themselves and is willing to be known.

CCT may sound simple or limited, because there is no particular structure that the therapist is trying to apply. But when I watch CCT in action I see a very rich and complicated process. People unravel their own stuff. They discover new things, take brave steps, and don't have to cope with a therapist who is doing things to them in the meantime. The therapist strives to understand and accept the client's stuff, which is no simple feat. Over time, the client increasingly seeks to understand and accept their stuff too.

That CCT is effective has been amply demonstrated by decades of research. Furthermore, recent research has shown that the most significant variables in the effectiveness of therapy are aspects of the relationship and the therapist's personal development - not the particular discipline they practise or techniques they employ. C-C therapists focus more attention on these variables than therapists in any other discipline.

 Remarkable as it may seem, research has never shown that it is more effective to address specific problems with specific therapy techniques. Amazing, yes? Without this result, there is no justification for a therapist to make diagnoses in the first place.


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