Person-Centred Therapy (PCT) is one of the humanistic models of therapeutic practice that emerged from the 1940’s to the 1960’s, developed as a ‘third force’: an alternative to the prevailing models of psychoanalysis (Freud, Jung, Eriksson and Adler) on the one hand, and behaviourism (Watson, Pavlov and Skinner) on the other. Behaviourism and Psychoanalysis are almost polar opposites in theory. Psychoanalysis is based on the theory that everything humans do is completely controlled by the unconscious mind at some level, whereas behaviourism is based on the theory that almost every human emotion is conditioned by habit and can be learned or unlearned. However both are deterministic in their approaches, both in effect reduce the client to an aspect of their life or personality (behaviourism focused on reinforcement of stimulus-response behaviour; psychoanalysis on unconscious irrational and instinctive forces determining human thought and behaviour) and both tended to use directive approaches by the therapist to resolving the problem issues.
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his paper A Theory of Human Motivation which posited that people have a hierarchy of needs, from the most basic, physiological needs, through ‘safety’ needs; love and social needs and ‘esteem’ needs, ending with the need for self-actualisation. This hierarchy is often depicted as a triangle, with ‘physiological needs’ at the bottom, and ‘self-actualisation’ at the summit. The theory is that the ‘lower’ or more basic needs must be met before a person can consider focussing on the higher ones. In practice, the average human would fluctuate between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ order needs as his circumstances dictated. Maslow’s theory was expressed fully in Motivation and Personality (1954). Carl R. Rogers took Maslow’s theories further to develop his non-directive therapy, or Client-Centred Therapy, became known. Rogers changed the normally used ‘patient’ which indicated medical sickness, and used the word ‘client’ which indicates more a person involved in their own recovery. He also moved away from a stance of analysing the client’s defence systems to one of focusing on the client. Rogers, like Maslow, believed that people were basically good and mentally healthy – there were psychological anomalies, but the natural tendency is towards growth and normalcy. Humans have one basic motive: the tendency to self-actualize. Growth is not automatic or effortless, but it is the norm and all humans strive towards this, and it is the most likely outcome. Rogers’ approach includes the organismic self and the self-concept. The organismic self – one could term this the ‘true self’ – of a person is present from birth, and aims to mature and achieve self-actualisation. The organismic self encompasses all of our instinctive, honest emotional reactions, and evaluations of our experiences from the moment we are born, in what is called the organismic valuing process. Where allowed, a child can grow in ways that fulfil his true potential.
The self-concept includes three components:
Self-worth – what we think about ourselves. Rogers believed feelings of self-worth developed in early childhood and were formed from the interaction of the child with the mother and father.
Self-image – How we see ourselves. Self-image includes the influence of our body image on inner personality. At a simple level, we might perceive ourselves as a good or bad person, beautiful or ugly. Self-image has an effect on how a person thinks feels and behaves in the world.
Ideal self – This is the person we would like to be. It consists of our goals and ambitions