Person-Centered Therapy: Goals & Techniques

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  • 0:02 The Acorn Metaphor
  • 1:03 Therapeutic Relationship
  • 2:04 Goals & Techniques
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

What are the goals and techniques used in person-centered therapy? Why is the client/counselor relationship important? Answer these questions and learn more in this lesson.

The Acorn Metaphor

Let's imagine an acorn that has fallen from an oak tree. This acorn has the potential within it to become a mighty oak tree itself. Given the appropriate conditions, it will automatically grow and accomplish this outcome. People, like the acorn, also seek to continually grow in positive ways.

This idea of striving towards realization, fulfillment, autonomy, self-determination and perfection is referred to as actualizing tendency. This idea is essential to the process of person-centered therapy. Person-centered therapy is a non-directive form of talk therapy with a positive view of human nature. This is also sometimes referred to as 'client-centered therapy.'

Person-centered therapy is based on the positive belief that the individual has the inherent capacity to move towards a state of positive mental health, much like the acorn has the inherent capacity to become an oak tree.

Therapeutic Relationship

What is the role of the counselor in person-centered therapy, and what does their relationship with the client look like?

Before we discuss this further, let's remember that person-centered therapy is based on the idea that a person will create their own self-growth given the appropriate circumstances.

Think back to the acorn metaphor. Imagine a squirrel comes along and buries an acorn. The acorn is now buried in the nutrient-giving soil that it needs to grow into an oak tree. The counselor in person-centered therapy is much like this squirrel, providing a nurturing environment in which a person can reach their inherent potential.

This means that the counselor does not control the therapeutic environment, interpret the client's behavior or evaluate their decisions. Instead, they are there to provide a positive environment for their clients to experience the growth that they are capable of.

Goals and Techniques

In person-centered therapy, the focus is on the person, not the problem. The goal is for the client to achieve greater independence. This will allow the client to better cope with any current and future problems they may face.

There are four basic goals a person will achieve in successful person-centered therapy. They will become open to experience, learn to trust themselves, develop an internal evaluation of themselves and have a willingness to continue growing.

The primary technique involved in person-centered therapy is reflection. Put simply, this is a restatement of what the client says. Reflection, when practiced properly, will show an understanding of the client's situation and display empathy.

However, person-centered therapy does not rely on techniques or formal assessments. Instead, the quality of the therapeutic relationship is considered the most important factor. A counselor's ability to establish a strong connection with their client is the critical factor in the success of person-centered therapy.

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