The theoretical foundations of the person-centred approach (PCA) were laid by Carl Rogers more than 60 years ago. Neuroscientific research findings support his theories to a remarkably high degree.
Person-centred therapy is based on an organismic psychology which describes the innate and unforced tendency of human beings, given a conducive environment, to actualise their potential. Person-centred therapist works simply to support this tendency by co-creating as conducive environment as possible. Person-centred practice is, in its nature, organic rather than mechanical, seminal rather than technical (Tudor K & Worrall M, 2006).
I am a seasoned therapeutic counsellor practicing in the effectiveness of the PCA to therapy. It is my preferred modality because its organismic and relational aspects resonate deeply with me.
The development of a person-centred practitioner is about cultivating an empathic way of being with others. Be assured, the alignment of my natural and professional qualities via reflective practice has spawned my depth of empathic confidence. Reflective practice continues to inform, critically examine and enhance my competence in practising person-centred style. Moreover, reflective practice deepens intuitive intelligence drawn from the core of my organism while working within an ethical framework of accountability.
An empathic way of being is both, intuitive scout and intelligence officer, allowing me to roam widely and map the confused terrain, while remaining emotionally present to the sphere of immediacy. I believe that this differentiates me from some practitioners who distance themselves, perhaps unconsciously, from vulnerable clients, when intense emotions and feelings emerge. Highly charged emotional communication has an uncanny ability to unnerve, disturb and expose the limits of therapeutic involvement. However, emotionally sourced empathy can often lead clients, especially those fear-fuelled, to therapeutic awakening.
Empathy is a non-invasive mode of engaging, which is highly respectful to clients and the darker dynamics underpinning denial processes. Establishing greater trust in my organismic wisdom is central to cultivating an empathic way of being, which translates into a highly inclusive form of intimate relating that evolves by honouring and maintaining differences.
I find rooting my professional focus within the natural organism refreshingly freeing. Trust in my visceral promptings supports movement towards a deeper attentive listening experience. It has taken years of exposure to various clients' expressions, reflective practice and deep domain-specific knowledge, to calibrate my practice in such a sensitive fashion.
This is only a snapshot of my enormous efforts in gaining access, promoting and utilising my organismic valuing process. I believe that my MBACP (Accred) status reflects this endeavour more justly.
I bring a unique and much needed resource to the world of trauma – non-judgemental empathy. Like any learning journey, it takes time and sustained discipline, with many semblances of progress and retrogress along the way to develop (Varela F, 1999). And so, it was in March 2019 that, based on the work I did exclusively with Empathy Zone clients, I applied and received my accreditation from the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. During the accreditation process, the level of my reflective practice as well as my therapeutic and ethical credentials were scrutinised, tested and validated. For certain, my accreditation award gives enormous credibility to the therapeutic value of non-judgemental empathic communication and supports the positioning of these inter-personal relationship qualities at client’s sphere of immediacy (Goldstein K, 1995).
Learning to be a really good therapist is hard. That is why it is relatively rare. Twenty percent of therapists get eighty percent of the good results. And that is true within each model of therapy. It is really hard to become a highly effective therapist in any model of therapy (Jon Frederickson, 2020).
Therapeutic movement occurs within the client because of a change in the process of evaluating experience (Biermann-Ratien). Enabling clients to evaluate immediate experience without judgement is key to supporting intra-personal relationship development. Therapeutic progress follows from the client experiencing being empathically understood without judgement (Feltham C & Horton I, 2006). Having become aware of how a lot of mental health practice rests on unexamined, taken for granted ‘knowledge’ (Rachel Freeth, 2020) empowerment through non-judgemental empathic communication is wisdom realised. The client and the counsellor tap into their wisdom by connecting and staying present with the immediate visceral and emotional realms. Person-centred psychotherapy has always championed the empathic exploration of emerging feelings arguing the ideal therapist is first of all empathic and that the emotional flow in the present relationship constitutes a far superior consideration than any formulised mode of relating (Rogers, CR 1980). Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the therapeutic relationship. Nearly everyone acknowledges its importance, though few, I think, sufficiently acknowledge Rogers’ as identifying precisely the factors which make it so important (Keys, S 2003). For me, empathy is one word which encapsulates the wide raging explorational possibilities, therapeutic depth, respect and ideas underpinning person-centred therapy and beyond. Rogers’ work was not, and still is not, accorded the respect it deserves. Many of his ideas, of course, have been accommodated within the boundaries of a common psychotherapeutic culture (Faber B, Brink D & Raskin P, 1996).
I would say, in most cases, Rogers’ ideas have been accommodated at a reduced cost, such as, empathy. For example, when empathy is oversubscribed on an intellectualised basis, intimacy is compromised and clients (understandably) mask their vulnerability. In my practice, I never deplete the therapeutic value of empathy by shying away from intense feelings and emotions. I believe this uncompromising stance was born during my counselling training, evolved in early years of practice and has professionally matured. In a nutshell, I practice within the discipline of person-centred approach because its empathic demands resonate with me and my clients. Empathy, in all senses of the word, involves an ongoing, ever-changing process of self-transformation (Cinramicol A & Ketcham K, 2000).
The versatility of empathy is depended on honouring two vital tenets of person-centred therapy – the actualizing tendency and the organism. Construct of the actualizing tendency is an organismic theory wherein the fundamental qualities in human nature are viewed as those of growth, process and change (Bozarth J, 1998). Furthermore, as I learnt to trust these principles, my creative-intuition, authenticity and non-judgemental empathy, crystallised into a courageously sensitive presence. This is me today, in practice with clients, offering an open, courageously sensitive presence which I define as being present in the moment, in touch with the sensory, instinctive, intuitive, visceral, emotional, physical, thinking and creative aspects of my experiencing nature. In other words, my courageously sensitive presence is a highly resourceful, holistic portal to connect safely with vulnerability.
Utilising an organism’s full expression, offers refreshing opportunities to new discoveries and is vital to avoiding an external locus of evaluation bias. Empathy, sourced from a finely-tuned, courageously sensitive presence, ensures a judgement free counselling experience. When experience flows from trust, integrity and autonomy, not only is empathic communication enriched, but client’s perception also increases and their actualising process (Mearns D & Thorne B, 2008) is better promoted.
The certainties of societies that were structured around religion and tradition have been swept away over the past 100 years. As individuals, we have to fashion our own lives now, and find our own meaning in the world (Moncrieff J, 2020). I believe, empathic individuals are at the cutting-edge of this endeavour and have the advantage in taking us past the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason and into the Age of Empathy (Rifkin J, 2009). Empathic communication is the ultimate non-invasive mode of engaging with vulnerability. Empathy disempowers the darker dynamics underpinning denial processes. Will you invite me to accompany you on your empathic development journey?