Meeting as Equals: The Value of Person-Centered Therapy

In an earlier post, I discussed the counseling style I adhere to: person-centered therapy. Today, I’d like to share a short video clip from an interview with the founder of person-centered therapy, the late Carl Rogers.  To me, his thoughts at minute 1:20 & 3:00 highlight the essence of this particular psychotherapy style.

“I think that some of what I have done professionally in my work has been a reaction to my early upbringing. Where I was not heard, I really wanted to hear people. Where I didn’t dare to expose what was going on in my own world, I would really like to hear from other people – I would like to make it safe for them to reveal their own inner worlds.” ~Carl Rogers (at 1:30 of interview).

“What I learned was – if I want to seem very smart and very expert, then I will continue to diagnose and tell you what’s wrong with you and tell you what should be done. But If I really want to be of help, perhaps the thing I should do is to listen to where the pain or the problem or the issue is within you. And that had a profound effect on my later experience.” ~ Carl Rogers (at 3:00 of same interview).

“Perhaps the thing I should is to listen…”  My own personal experience sitting in the client seat along with professional experience working with individuals as a therapist has highlighted this truth: “meeting as equals” is invaluable towards the process of true self-awareness, understanding, and healthy emotional healing.  Like Rogers explains, we all have an inner world. Perhaps your inner world is composed of guilt, fear, worry, or pain. Perhaps it is filled with regrets – choices you wish you could undo, experiences you wish you could erase, and questions you long to ask . To sit with another human being who travels to that inner world with you – not in a prideful, demanding, or pressured way but rather in a humble, empathetic way – is a powerful and potentially transforming experience.

And why is it so impactful?

…likely because being completely alone in one’s inner world – in the hidden and dark places is scary.  Similar to being trapped in a deep, dark pit, being alone in this way can result in feeling emotionally “stuck.”  Fearful of being “found out” and nervous that we will be misunderstood or punished by those around us, we may be left with the feeling that there is no way out. Yet, seeing that another person can sit with you in that world and in your distress provides incredible relief. When we allow a safe person into that place, we begin to see ourselves and our circumstances differently. No longer am I so different, so weird, or so horrible when I feel the comfort of someone else’s presence there with me in the reality of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Knowing that I am not hated, pushed away, or rejected for these things provides a way for me to begin the crucial acts of self-compassion, self-forgiveness, understanding, and growth towards perhaps new choices and greater self-acceptance.

As a counselor, this is my heartbeat – my highest hope for the people I sit with: that they would know they are not alone. That they would feel the comfort and strength that is offered from sitting with another equal – a human being who is able to travel to those dark places with them in a safe and kind way.

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Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.

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