Person-centered theory places the client as the expert rather than the counselor. Hazler (2011) noted, “The person-centered approach implies great confidence in each client.” (p. 146.). Carl Rogers, the founder, taught that the counselor must adhere to genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathy in order to be effective. Person-centered theory does not pathologize clients. Hazler (2011) explained in terms of assessments used in counseling, “The person-centered approach, in contrast places therapeutic attention on the client’s perception of difficulties, goals, and treatment directions.” (p. 158.). Person-centered theory also takes a non-judgmental approach.
Although person-centered theory does not employ strategies or techniques per se, Hazler (2011) pointed out, “suggestions on how to be genuine and some specific behaviors that have consistently been identified with communication of core conditions.” (p. 153.) Two interventions I would use with Deirdre are active listening and reflection of content and feelings. These are interventions drawn from traditional intervention strategies that work to demonstrate empathy and unconditional positive regard. Active listening while expressing unconditional positive regard with Deirdre may prove to be healing as she has a critical internal voice, suffers from low self-esteem, and fears others are judging her. While demonstrating active listening and unconditional positive regard in the counseling session with Deirdre, at the same time, the counselor would be modeling a non-judgmental approach, and also expressing his or her acceptance of all the facets of Deirdre’s personality (and behavior). Hence, Deirdre may eventually internalize the unconditional positive regard expressed to her, and begin herself to grow in self-acceptance. As she learns to accept, rather than be critical of herself, her anxiety may lessen, as she would possibly no longer be concerned with public opinion, or feel she does not fit in with others. Along with active listening used as a tool to express empathy, reflection of content and feelings would also be an intervention that would play an important role. Both active listening and reflection of content and feelings would allow Deirdre to gain a better understanding of her drive to be perfect, or her fear that Tom will one day abandon her primarily because she has not fully expressed this drive or fear, and tends to repress her feelings. Both of these perceptions appear to be distortions created by Deirdre’s insecurities. Employing reflection of content and feelings would help Deirdre modify these perceptions, and take a look at her experiences in more productive way, and perhaps through a more positive, realistic lens. Hazler (2011) noted, “counselors who accurately reflect content and feelings act a mirror by helping clients see what they are expressing so that clients can revise and expand perceptions of themselves based on counselor’s perceptions.” (p. 155.). Deirdre also needs to access her inner strength in order to recognize her worth, in terms of her relationship with Tom, and this may dispel her fear of abandonment. Reflection of content and feelings is a powerful tool to help her get there. As mentioned earlier, her fear of abandonment has not been fully expressed. Through active listening on the part of the counselor, and the expression of empathy, Deirdre will begin to feel heard and understood. This experience may be redolent of an experience she had with an empathetic teacher who helped her deal with judgmental students and her situation at home with her mother. The teacher became Deirdre’s confidant, and she began opening up. In like manner, using active listening and empathy may allow Deirdre to address her unresolved grief over the death of her father, and the conflicted emotions she feels about leaving home and breaking off contact with her mother. She may also begin to feel more comfortable discussing the underlying anger she feels about judgmental students in her class at college. As active listening and empathy help to create a non-threatening environment, Deirdre may now be able to experience the freedom and emotional safety to discuss many unacknowledged feelings she has ignored. In being able to discuss her feelings and anxieties in a non-judgmental arena, she may be able to gain insights toward greater self-realization.
Interventions and Goals
In her present emotional state, Deirdre is hampered toward developing goals or moving towards them. By the counselor employing active listening, empathy, reflection of content of feelings, and unconditional positive regard, there is a good likelihood Deirdre may respond well, as both interventions will work to satisfy her most basic needs: to be perceived in a non-judgmental way by a caring counselor, as well as to be understood, and have another individual walk in her shoes, as well as acknowledge her concerns. As Deirdre gains greater self-understanding, many of her fears, and anxieties will start to fade away. Deirdre struggles as Hazler (2011) observed about clients. “to perceive more accurately their own positive nature and then to use it more effectively in their everyday lives.” (p. 151.). She may eventually while working within the person-centered approach become less rigid in her thinking, and begin to feel a stronger sense of self- worth. Hazler (2011) noted, “Successful clients generally become more flexible and creative in their thoughts and actions as they free themselves from stereotypes and inappropriately imposed conditions of worth.” (p. 152.). Deirdre’s mother made her feel inadequate when she blamed her for the family’s poor financial shape. Deirdre will need to address this problem in therapy as it is a key area that has interfered with her functioning.
Hazler, R. (2011). Person Centered Theory. In D. Capuzzi & D.R. Gross (Eds.), Counseling and
psychotherapy: Theories and interventions (5th ed.). (pp. 143-191). Alexandria,
VA: American Counseling Association.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). Deidre [Interactive media].Retrieved from:http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/COUN/6722/CH/mm/case_study/week2.html