The client in the Person-Centered Approach

By Rodrigo O. L. Rezende (Brazil) & Marcel Gerrits Jans (The Netherlands) – Janeiro de 2023

In the Person-Centered Approach (PCA), the driving force is the client, who is responsible for directing and produces their own psychotherapy, through, and in close cooperation, with, the psychotherapist. The role of the psychotherapist is to create a favorable environment in which the client can explore their inner world and develop a better awareness and understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

A simple comparison is with exercise. In enrolling in a gym to improve physical health we neither pay for, nor do we automatically receive, a healthier, stronger, body, as part of membership. Rather, we pay to be able to use the gym’s resources (e.g. equipment, accessories, instructors, classes, etc.). Most of us understand that a healthier body will only occur if we engage and utilize the resources provided by the gym, i.e. we understand that improvement won’t occur without effort. Similarly, a client working with a PCA psychotherapist will only gain the benefits of psychotherapy if they are able to engage in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral “exercise”, with the therapist being analogous to the “resources” provided by the gym. It is the combination of the two, the client’s engagement, and the therapist’s provision of a favorable environment, that facilitates psychological growth.

The role of the psychotherapist in this process, again, is to create a favorable environment for the client’s development. To create this environment the therapist provides respectful, non-judgmental, and empathic listening, accepts the client unconditionally, and works to understand what it’s like to be the client in the world. This process can help the client deepen self-knowledge, gain clarity in regard to their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, which in turn may help them change behaviors outside of therapy and help them better deal with life stressors.

The “magic” of psychotherapy occurs when the above conditions are provided, and the client is able to engage in the effort or “exercise” necessary to truly come to know themselves. Thus, a successful outcome in PCA psychotherapy, psychological health, is akin to a successful outcome of joining a gym, physical health. As a strengthened body, through gymnastics, has the advantage of better health and improved mobility, the strengthened mind can also offer you meaningful things: more resilience, less anxiety or depression, and more connection and fruitful interactions with others, privately and professionally.

Tradução para o Português:
O cliente na Abordagem Centrada na Pessoa
Por Rodrigo O. L. Rezende (Brasil) & Marcel Gerrits Jans (Holanda) – Janeiro de 2023
Na Abordagem Centrada na Pessoa (PCA), a força motriz é o cliente, que é responsável por dirigir e produzir a sua própria psicoterapia, através e em estreita cooperação com o psicoterapeuta. O papel do psicoterapeuta é criar um ambiente favorável no qual o cliente possa explorar seu mundo interior e desenvolver uma melhor consciência e compreensão de seus pensamentos, sentimentos e comportamentos.
Uma comparação simples é com o exercício. Ao se matricular em uma academia para melhorar a saúde física, não pagamos nem recebemos automaticamente um corpo mais saudável e forte como parte da associação. Pelo contrário, pagamos para poder utilizar os recursos do ginásio (por exemplo, equipamentos, acessórios, instrutores, aulas, etc.). A maioria de nós entende que um corpo mais saudável só acontecerá se nos engajarmos e utilizarmos os recursos oferecidos pela academia, ou seja, entendemos que a melhora não ocorrerá sem esforço. Da mesma forma, um cliente que trabalha com um psicoterapeuta PCA só obterá os benefícios da psicoterapia se for capaz de se envolver em “exercício” cognitivo, emocional e comportamental, sendo o terapeuta análogo aos “recursos” fornecidos pela academia. É a combinação dos dois, o envolvimento do cliente e a provisão de um ambiente favorável pelo terapeuta, que facilita o crescimento psicológico.
O papel do psicoterapeuta nesse processo, novamente, é criar um ambiente favorável ao desenvolvimento do cliente. Para criar esse ambiente, o terapeuta oferece uma escuta respeitosa, sem julgamento e empática, aceita o cliente incondicionalmente e trabalha para entender como é ser o cliente no mundo. Esse processo pode ajudar o cliente a aprofundar o autoconhecimento, obter clareza sobre seus sentimentos, pensamentos e comportamentos, o que, por sua vez, pode ajudá-lo a mudar comportamentos fora da terapia e ajudá-lo a lidar melhor com os estressores da vida.
A “mágica” da psicoterapia ocorre quando as condições acima são dadas, e o cliente consegue fazer o esforço ou “exercício” necessário para se conhecer verdadeiramente. Assim, um resultado bem-sucedido na psicoterapia PCA, saúde psicológica, é semelhante a um resultado bem-sucedido de ingressar em uma academia, saúde física. Assim como um corpo fortalecido, por meio da ginástica, tem a vantagem de melhorar a saúde e a mobilidade, a mente fortalecida também pode oferecer coisas significativas: mais resiliência, menos ansiedade ou depressão e mais conexão e interações frutíferas com outras pessoas, pessoal e profissionalmente.

7 respostas

  1. It is informative, it could be used as an advertisement for PCA therapy
    I like the comparison with exercising and how you emphasize the active role of the client. Way too often, on both sides: the client’s and the therapist’s one it is believed that the therapist has the magic solution that will fix the client’s problems.
    Thank you!

  2. Good evening Rodrigo…It has been a long time since I have heard from you or seen you in person….the last time was in Vienna maybe -2018 or at Santiego…..I have read your paper. Congratulations for this article, named, ”The client in the Person-Centered Approach”. You have very well underlined the basis assumptions for a therapeutic session. We all know that in the therapeutic encounter, that the client is the expert. One observation with the analogy using the term gym. It may be that the client has not even the strength, to engage in any effort or engagement….he needs to be listened in his chaos, being, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, existential. The first minutes of the session, or the first session will allow him to experiment that he is accepted, listened to with no judgement, and more with empathy and unconditional acceptance. Then, only, when he feels that he is a person, with values and with an inner capacity to go forward inside himself, will he move in a kind of effort, and possibly engagement. I have experimented with my clients for the past 17 years, and the client do not look or search for a specific engagement or action to improve, but in the freedom and in the loving acceptance of the therapist, he dares want to move and gain a certain power of his whole life. The client has all his inner ressources, possibly not yet emerged or brought to his consciouness…..(conscience)…..yes, I believe that when the mental or psychic world is atune, the client will move into a healthier way of living……it may be something with nothing to do with gymnasium…you follow me…..a walk in nature, art, swimming, etc. Finally, the ressources are not on the side of the therapist, but are within the client…..and gradually those ressources will emerge in time….as a process of becoming the subject the ”I” being eventually the Person, who stands up within himself. Sorry, Rodrigo for my long reflexion. bravo…go forward with your excellent work. Valois

  3. Bonjour Rodrigo
    J’aime beaucoup cette comparaison qui souligne de toute évidence l’importance de l’engagement du client envers lui même pour allez mieux.
    Dans la salle de sport il s’engage à faire des exercices pour transformer son corps, il est dans le faire.(l’action physique) Dans la psychothérapie il s’engage dans la relation pour transformer son monde intérieur, il est dans l’Être.( L’action émotionnelle).
    L’une est pragmatique et visible. l’autre est subtile et invisible.
    Voilà ce que m’évoque ton article
    Je te remercie beaucoup

  4. Dear Rodrigo,
    what an interesting analogy with the gym, thank you to you and Marcel Gerrits Jans for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the driving force is the client.
    Though in my experience of 25+ years of working with clients, and over 20,000 sessions, I find that very anxious or very depressed clients may struggle to be that “driving force”. Maybe akin to someone going the first time to a gym, feeling intimidated by those machines and the fit bodies around.
    Rogers’ remarks after the Gloria session are poignant for me in this with the importance of: prizing the client. As such I find that the therapist is much more than a gym-owner who provides the equipment. The therapist might at times show – like a good trainer – how some equipment can be used. In my experience that aligns with authenticity.
    My understanding of Professor Reinhard Tausch sharing e.g. in his 1996 book on “Hilfen bei Stress und Belastung” (Help for Stress and Burden) the usefulness of exercising is, this is based on scientific research, and being authentic in sharing knowledge instead of what otherwise could be regarded as ‘withholding’ help.
    To stay with your analogy this could be akin to a trainer in basketball showing the player a technique how to throw the ball further – its then up to the player/client to use it or not use it. I think there is often a misunderstanding, that this would mean telling the client what to do. If a therapist would say to a client that they should divorce this would be wrong. But to ask a client who e.g. is depressed about their job, that seeing their suffering, if they have considered if there might other jobs they feel they could do, could open things up.
    I see the therapist, the person they are, to be a resource and an active element of the therapeutic environment they provide for the clients: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realm.

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