Friday, January 09, 2015

Carl R. Rogers: Part Three (Person-Centered Building Blocks)

Carl R. Rogers in his book A Way Of Being gives a very simple and clear explanation of what he means when he uses the term person-centered approach.  This is the last in a three part blog series trying to cover the three main conditions that Carl Rogers says must be present to create a “climate to be growth promoting.” (CR)  I highly recommend reading this book.  It was copyrighted in 1980 seven years before his death in 1987.  It shows his development of thought and his call for a more person-centered and humane future.

The first condition is “genuineness, realness, or congruence.”  He says a person wishing to help another must not put up any “professional front or personal facade.”

The second condition is what he called “unconditional positive regard.”  He first says if you want to help facilitate growth, healing and recovery you have to be real and then he adds you have to accept and prize the person you are walking beside just as they are.  

The third facilitative condition is “empathic understanding.”

The question becomes how does one acquire an empathic understanding of another person?  It does not occur from matching observed or reported symptoms to a list in DSM-5 and arriving at a diagnosis and then saying I know this person.  He is Ed, Bipolar I.  You also cannot use any profiling techniques to arrive at an empathic understanding of a person.  In fact, the truth be known, you may not even have an empathic understanding of yourself.

To acquire an empathic understanding of a person you must be one of those rare individuals who can listen to another person.  Really listen.  Sometimes it is called active or deep listening.  It cannot be done with your mouth open or your mind elsewhere.  It cannot be done if you are already planning on how to fix the person you are listening to.  That is why the second condition is so important.  To truly listen you must accept and prize the person.

The pieces fit together like this.  If I can see you are being real and that you see me as a person and value me enough to truly listen to me, then I will start to see some value in myself and begin a journey I might never have started if no one had ever convinced me I was worth truly listening to.  

Person-centered approaches only work if the person comes to believe they are thought of and seen and heard as a person.  Rogers boils down the steps to helping another human see they are truly a person with a self worthy of being.  These three conditions are the basic building blocks of any person-centered approach.

© Ed Cooper, January 10, 2015, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
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