What Does ‘Person Centred’ Mean?


A person-centred counsellor presents her / himself as someone who is on an equal level to the client and helps the client nurture their own sense of being.  The counsellor doesn’t use different techniques but works alongside the client, helping that individual to recognise him / herself and their own needs.

There are three core conditions which the person-centred counsellor works by.  These are:-

Empathy – You get to a point where you understand what it is like to be that person, so any response from you fits the client’s feelings and not your own.  Sharing these feelings with the client will help the client see that you really do know how they are feeling and they will continue to talk about their problem.  This ‘knowing how it feels to be the client’ is referred to as empathy, an important factor in a good counselling relationship. Empathy can be measured as listening from the heart and responding in an equal manner.  Someone once described empathy as ‘falling into someone else’s hole and being able to feel those feelings but then being able to climb out of that hole, later’.  It’s quite a good way of describing empathy.  You know when you watch a film and, when it gets to an emotional bit, you find yourself crying?  Well, that’s like empathy.  It’s not happening to you but you can feel the feelings.

Unconditional positive regard – You need to respect the client for who they are and that means respecting and accepting the person as they have presented themselves to you.  This quality is often referred to as unconditional positive regard and the counsellor is therefore able to work with the client’s feelings, whether they display depression, anger, or whatever emotion.  It can be likened to love, where you accept the person and can move in their world as it is for them.

Congruence – A counsellor will be absolutely honest with a client and will not allow points to be passed over if there is indeed something to be said.  While a friend may not tell another that they are boring them, a counsellor may indeed state “I’m feeling a little bored at the moment.  I wonder why that is?” Truth, or congruence, as it is referred to in counselling, allows a client to pick up on how they come across to others, so it’s a valuable tool for creating change.