Empathy on the Counselling Process

Categories: Empathy

The essay will evaluate the necessity and importance of the development of the core conditions in the counselling process and critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the person-centred approach on the counselling process.

The Person-Centred Approach focuses on the clients own best authority as it is based on the client’s personal experience in his or her own life here and now. It shows the client as someone who has the ability of fulfilling his or her own potential for changes (Mearns & Thorne, 2007)

I believe that Carl Rogers Person-Centred counselling is reliable.

It developed the method of enhancing the relationship formed between a counsellor or therapist and client. Rogers proposes that the development of trust and understanding within this relationship encourages self-realization, and enables the client to acknowledge the problems and issues they are facing. This approach of encouragement and guidance, helps the client to feel comfortable about disclosing personal and private information to the counsellor, which in turn helps the client on their journey for there solutions (Mearns & Thorne 2007).

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Rogers identified certain core conditions which he believed to be necessary if clients are to make progress in counselling (Rogers, 1951). It defines the counsellor qualities and attitudes which if present, will easily change the growth within the client. The most important of these attitudes is the counsellor’s ability to understand the client’s feelings and showing respect for the client and being congruent or genuine.

The Rogerian main core conditions are Empathy, Unconditional Positive Regard and Congruence or genuineness, but he also listed six conditions in additions to these three.

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  1. Two persons are in Psychological contact.
  2. The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.
  3. The second person, whom we shall term the therapist is congruence or integrated in the relationship.
  4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.
  5. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client.
  6. The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved (The Carl Rogers Reader, 1990).

“No other conditions are necessary. If the six conditions exist and continue over a period of time, this is sufficient. The process of constructive personality change will follow”. (The Carl Rogers Reader 1990 page 221) Unconditional positive regard: According to the fourth condition, the client feels that the counsellor values him consistently throughout their relationship, despite the fact that he may not value himself and even if the counsellor does not like or approve of all the client's behavior. (An example may be! A client tells the counsellor that he is thinking of leaving his wife and kids because he has just discovered he is gay). The counsellor may not like or agree with the client’s decision morally because of his/her own beliefs, whether religious or traditional. In such cases the counsellor has to show empathy, respect the client for who they are at that moment. It is in their power to take the matter to supervision later if they wish.

Carl Rogers believed that unconditional positive regard is essential for a healthy relationship to develop between a client and the counselor (The Carl Rogers Reader, 1990). Therefore it is conclusive that people need love, acceptance, respect and warmth from others, but unfortunately these attitudes and feelings are often only given conditionally. As a person develops he/she needs love and acceptance from important people in their environment such as parents and peers.

The individuals often deals with the condition accepting by others gradually to incorporate their conditions into their own views about themselves like the “I am”. Example like I am the sort of person who must never be late", or "I am the sort of person who always respects others", or "I am the sort of person who always keeps the house clean". Due to a fundamental need for positive regard from others, it is easier to 'be' this sort of person so as to receive such positive feedback. Over time, the individual looses the sense of their own identity and their own evaluations of experience, and the individual may partly or even entirely change due to the pressures felt from other people or the environment around them.

At the same time, we have a need for positive self-regard - to develop a sense of trust in the accuracy and reliability of our own inner experienced, it is on this we must depend if we are to become independent from and able to make good decisions about life and how we are to be in it.

We learn to view ourselves as others view us, ignoring our inner experience whatever we feel it is in conflict with the values of those significant others on whom we depend. Roger’s term for this was locus of evaluation. By this, he meant the tendency of some people to rely on the evaluations of others for their feelings of acceptance and self esteem (Mearns & Thorne, 2007). Unconditional positive regard defined as being non-judgmental, accepting, and respectful toward the client (Mearns & Thorne, 2007).

The background and moral differences of a client should not prevent the counsellor attaining the Rogerian conditions. The counsellor has to accept the positive and negativity of ones clients no matter their sexuality, culture or traditions and religious beliefs. The counsellor also has to show warmth towards his client. According to the fourth condition therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client.

The warmth comes from the counsellor toward the client, helps to develops the trust between the counsellor and client relationship, but the counsellor has professional in showing warmth, because too little or too much will slow the development of trust in the process of the counselling sessions for some particular clients. The fifth condition can also be a part of empathy.

“Empathy is a continuing process whereby the counsellor lays aside her own way of experiencing and perceiving reality, preferring to sense and respond to the experiencing and perceptions of her client. This sensing may be intense and enduring with the counsellor actually experiencing her client’s thoughts and feelings as powerfully as if they had originated in herself” (Mearns & Thorne 2007 p.67).

Although there is only one physical world each individual experiences it differently. This is because we all have our own opinion and differences, and applying empathy will allow the counsellor to adapt to the client’s frame of mind. To illustrate, the counsellor should sense the client’s anger, fear, confusion or private world, as if these very things were the counsellor’s own feelings, It is of high importance that the client’s feelings or experiences do not emotionally distract the counsellor because it could pose a threat to the relationship between the counsellor and her client.

Although the client may be desperate and lost in his/her world, the counsellor must remain as someone who is coherent and reliable, as well as sensitive. During the counsel sessions the therapist has to understand the feeling of the patient’s not doubt what the client means. The remarks must fit in with the therapist’s tone of voice which conveys with the client mood and content. Unless some communication of these empathic conditions has been achieved, then such attitudes do not exist in the relationship as far as the client is concerned. Therefore empathy is not just a technique of responding to the client, but it is a way of being in relation to one’s client. Empathy always makes the counsellor feels like being on the same train or bus as the client! It is the client journey (not the counsellor) which the counsellor is joining and staying with no matter how mountainous the journey is, without been carried away but still maintain the core conditions throughout the counselling process.

According to the third condition the therapist should be within the confines of this relationship, a genuine, real, or congruence person, unlike the psychodynamic therapist who generally maintains a 'blank screen' and reveals little of their own personality in therapy (Angles on Applied Psychology, 2003 page 47). Carl Rogers believes that it is the realness of the therapist in the relationship which is the most important element. It is when the therapist is natural and spontaneous that he seems to be most effective. (Rogers, 1973: 186).

Congruence is the most important attribute in counselling, according to Rogers (Mearns & Thorne 2007). It means that within the relationship the counsellor is freely and deeply himself, with his own experiences representing his awareness of himself. The therapist has to support the client to encourage change and be positive. The therapist has to be open and professional during the counselling process.

The aim is not for the therapist to express or talk out his own feelings but to be aware of his or her own boundaries so that he might not be bias to the client. It is important to be honest and at times may need to reflect on his/her feelings to the client, colleague or in supervision if it is standing in the way of the following conditions. Counsellors are sometimes faced with an exciting but frightening challenges, for some counsellor it is not difficult to be congruent whiles for others.

They might find it very difficult or frightening but it could also confront us with the frightening possibility that we may not have the courage to meet that challenge, as Rogers wrote: different therapist achieve good results in quite different way ( Rogers, 1973) (example: the man who told the counsellor that he is thinking of leaving his wife because he is gay), it could be a frightening experience for the counsellor because of the counsellor’s background, but at the same time the counsellor have to be congruence and let the client know how they are feeling at the moment but the counsellor have to show the client unconditional positive regard and accept the client for who they really are. The therapist has to be transparent, by making himself or herself transparent to the client, the client can see right through what the therapist is in the relationship and that is how the client can develop trust for the counsellor.

The famous Johari Window teaches us about the known to others but not to me and knows to me but not to others. There are aspects of our personality that we’re open about, and other elements that we keep to ourselves. There are things that others see in us that we’re not aware of, like the hidden area. This contains things others observe about us that we don’t know about ourselves. Again, they could be positive or negative behaviors that will affect the way others act towards us like our client. Congruence is about not having secrets, it’s about being true to oneself, and it’s also about establishing equal rights for all relationships so that the counsellor and the client can have an open but honest relationship throughout the process.

Rogers’ most individual theoretical concept is that of actualization in which he is optimistic about Human Nature. Drawn from other theorists of his time, including Maslow (1962,1970), Rogers identifies that human motivation functions to assist us to reach our individual potential (Rogers 1977). In so doing we strive to achieve internal harmony between what we feel and what we experiences. By a process of our own internal experience we as individual develop by changes and adapting through the means of self regulation. This includes congruent awareness and expression of feelings evoked by experiences: we recognize, then express, what we feel about an experience. The actualization process is a motivational system from which our individual evolution and development occurs. Competing against this, however, is the conscious self. (Rogers 1959; Maslow 1962).

It might help to understand Rogers better if we contrast his theories with those of freud because the two are so different. This contrast will show how Rogers can be thought of as optimistic about human nature, while freud took a far more pessimistic view. Freud thought that people were born with both life instincts and death instinct. In Freud’s system, two basic drives are associated with, or are part of the life and death instincts, the sexual drive and the aggressive drive. Freud thought that the aggressive drive was not usually directed towards the person himself or herself, but as it has energy and cannot be suppressed entirely, it is normally displaced onto objects or people in the environment.

Freud was quite clear that, in his view, a tendency towards aggressive or destructive behavior is a natural condition of humankind. To Rogers, there is only one motivational force behind human behavior actualizing tendency. In contrast to Freud, Rogers thought that this basic motivation is constructive, creative and positive (Tonny Merry, 2003 p 17). But Both Freud and Rogers thought that childhood events are significant in shaping our adult personalities, but whereas Freud was not optimistic about the possibilities for change and development later on in life, Rogers certainly was. For example early childhood experiences are considered very important. The single most important factor is the degree to which we experienced love and acceptance from significant others, usually our parents.

Rogers thought that children need to feel unconditionally loved and valued by people who are significant and important to them. The trouble is that love can be either conditional or unconditional. If love is offered unconditionally with no strings attached, then children are able to be naturally expressive and accepting of all their feelings. Conditional love refers to love that is given only if the child behaves in approved ways, and if the child behaves in the ways that are unacceptable, then he or she risks love being withdrawn. The result is that the child begins to think of himself or herself in terms of the evaluations of others, Rogers’ phrase for this was conditions of worth, and it refers to the ways in which our self concepts are fashioned by the judgments of those around us (Tony Merry, 2003 p 23).

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Empathy on the Counselling Process. (2017, Mar 05). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/empathy-on-the-counselling-process-essay

Empathy on the Counselling Process essay
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