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: Person-Centered Theory

Richard J. Hazier

The person-centered theory of Carl R. Rogers is one of the most popular in the fields of psychology, counseling, and education. Rogers's perceptions of people and of how a supportive environment can assist in their development have had an immense impact on a wide variety of professions and on parenting. This approach was a major deviation from the psychoanalytic and behavioral models for working with people that were predominant in the early part of the 20th century.

In contrast to psychoanalytic and behavioral models, person-centered theory offered a new way to look at people and their development, as well as how people can be helped to change. From this frame of reference, people were viewed as fully in charge of their lives and inherently motivated to improve themselves. The responsibility for personal behaviors and the choice to change them were seen as belonging fully to the individual. Here was a way to view and deal with human beings that did not rely on other people (counselors, psychologists, parents, teachers, etc.) as the primary directors of change. People could now control their own change if the right conditions were offered.

Rogers saw all individuals as having inherent qualities that made growth possible; attempting to change basic personality characteristics or behaviors was not necessary. He believed people saw the world from their own unique perspective, which is referred to as a phenomenological perspective. No matter what that phenomenological view of the world was, it was further assumed that all people are continually attempting to actualize their best and most productive selves. This positive and optimistic view is often challenged by those who call attention to the unlimited opportunities for observing people as they think and act in ways that are harmful to themselves and others. But Rogers believed these thoughts and actions were primarily reflections of a distorted view of oneself and the world, distortions caused by trying to meet the expectations of others rather than trying to actualize one's own self.

The origins of Rogers's beliefs, their development into a major helping process, and an examination of the essential ingredients of that process serve as a foundation for this chapter. Information on the counselor's role in providing interventions and the methods used to carry out that role will then provide the practical base for beginning to implement the process.

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