by Jerry Zondervan and Gordana Stankovic
Person-centred counselling is one of several types of humanistic psychology. It was pioneered by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, who rejected traditional psychoanalytical approaches, which simplified humans into types of behaviour. Instead Rogers and Maslow saw humans as complete beings in a constant process of change, striving to fulfil their potential.
Rogers considered that if the individual looking for support and guidance, is offered the right conditions for growth by the counsellor, she will be capable of finding the answers she seeks within herself. The role of the counsellor is therefore that of a growth-facilitator.
To create these conditions of growth, the counsellor needs to provide an emotionally secure environment, where the individual is received with empathy (full understanding, regardless of what she shares with the counsellor) and acceptance (no judgement or criticism), and where the counsellor is genuine and sincere (saying what they feel).
Today many of the principles established by Rogers have permeated other areas of life, such as childcare, education, management, customer service.
This type of counselling is the most challenging form for the therapist, as it is built on the relationship between the counsellor and person seeking counsel. The counsellor must provide an atmosphere of trust, acceptance, empathy and warmth – based on equality between the two parties.
Many scholars have integrated the work of Rogers into different aspects of everyday life. Dr Marshall Rosenberg, who was a student of Rogers, founded a method of communicating called Nonviolent – or sometimes Compassionate - Communication (NVC), based on spiritual principles of human interconnectedness and humanistic psychology.
NVC offers us a powerful means to relate to ourselves and others, using a simple yet highly effective model for personal growth and inter-personal healing. The process has four steps: observations, feelings, needs and requests, expressed through three modes: empathetic connection with oneself; honestly expressing (what is alive in) oneself to others; and emphatically receiving from others (all that is alive in them).
NVC is based on a fundamental principle that all humans have the same basic needs – food, shelter, security, freedom, respect, connection, meaning – and that everything we do is designed to meet these needs. Since all of us can identify with these basic needs, recognising, understanding and acknowledging our own, as well as others’, can create a space for connection.
NVC has been effectively applied at all levels of communications and in many diverse situations – disputes and conflicts (individuals, groups, and opposing sides in war zones), in therapy and counselling, schools, organisations and institutions, diplomatic and business negotiations.