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Uncommon Ideas for Therapists

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Psychotherapy - Part 1

Development - Part 2

Sigmund Freud - Part 3

Client Centred - Part 4

Insight Therapy - Part 5

Solution Focused - Part 6

Psychological Problems - Part 7

Research - Part 8

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Client Centred Therapy


By the late 1950's Carl Rogers had developed the so-called client centred non-directive approach. This is sometimes called 'humanistic psychotherapy.' As with many schools of therapy, it was again based on a useful insight: If you listen to someone, give your client a 'safe environment' and let him or her know you are listening you'll build rapport. This was a useful idea.

This 'client centred' approach came from the work of 19th century German and Swiss theorists such as Fredrick Froebel who applied these ideas to education. Their idea was that children are like plants and that if left to grow in a 'nurturing environment' without too much input or outside influence they will 'flower' naturally. This idea gained great popularity in the USA where nursery schools began to be called 'Kindergartens' (a garden whose plants are children).

However perhaps if we ourselves extend this metaphor we can see that a garden if just left to grow will grow wild and a child 'left to grow' will do the same (this will mean more to those of you who have children!).

Rogers applied these ideas to adults in the psychotherapeutic setting, devised the abstract idea of 'actualisation', (a semi-mystical and vague term for the 'flowering' of a person) and turned it into a therapeutic ideology.Much counselling is based along these lines. This is sometimes called a 'psycho dynamic' approach.

Client centred therapy can certainly make people feel better by meeting their need for attention from a well-meaning outsider. However there has never been any evidence that client centred approaches are effective.

Depressed people for example need to learn skills and approaches to life and there is a high percentage of client dissatisfaction and frustration with the therapists' passive stance and refusal to give opinions or make suggestions.

Impossible to be Non Influential Towards the end of his life Carl Rogers expressed regret at promoting the idea that it was possible to avoid influencing a client. His students sat him down and showed him video of him working with a client, pointing out how he would lean forward and appear interested when the client talked of something that got his attention, obviously influencing the client. Recent research by Howard Friedman of Stanford University indicates that it is impossible not to influence another person if you are in the same room as them.

Again client centred therapy or counselling does poorly as far as efficacy research is concerned and is also contra-indicated for the treatment of depression. Of course it is essential to feel safe in a non-judgemental setting but there has to be more offered than just this for most people in urgent need of help. Going over what hurts can make it worse. 'Psychological archaeology' - ruminating over past hurts - is what depressives do already, so encouraging more of the same as a therapy model is dubious to say the least.

Next, Insight Therapy

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