The metaphor of a mirror is a useful one that can help us appreciate how the client-centered techniques work. Imagine that you want to adjust your outward appearance, so you look in a mirror to examine your appearance and see how the adjustment looks. Similarly, if you want to change your inner self, you can use the positive atmosphere and empathic understanding of a client-centered therapist to examine yourself and to contemplate changes. The following example demonstrates the technique of reflecting back:
Client: I just don't know which classes to take next year. I wish someone could make those decisions for me.
Therapist: You are looking for someone to tell you what to do.
Client: Yes, but I know that's impossible [sigh]. Nobody can decide what's right for me if even I don't have a clue.
Therapist: You find it exasperating that you are having so much trouble deciding on a class schedule.
Client: Well, none of my friends have this much trouble making decisions. Therapist: You feel that your situation is not normal; it's not like the experience of your friends.
Client: Yeah, and it makes me mad. I should just be able to pick four or five courses and stick with my decision, but I can't seem to. I know it's silly. Therapist: You think it is a trivial thing, yet it makes you angry that you cannot seem to make the decision.
Client: Well, you know, it really is trivial, isn't it? I know I can always change classes if they don't work out. I guess I just need to try them out. Therapist: You see some options, that you can get out of a class if it isn't right for you.
The therapist never directs the client or offers an interpretation of the problem. This is why Rogerian therapy is sometimes called nondirective therapy—the focus is on the client's understanding of the situation, not the therapist's interpretation. The client works to clarify the therapist's understanding and, in so doing, increases his or her self-understanding. The client may come to accept that he or she has been denying or distorting experiences, such as taking classes for grades rather than for their own intrinsic interest. In helping the therapist understand why she is having so much trouble deciding on a class schedule, the person in the example may come to the realization that she has been taking classes primarily to make her parents happy. In an accepting atmosphere, she may come to this unflattering realization, and she might go on to explore how she can change her self-concept to accept this new understanding.
were consistently better than others. Trying to understand the characteristics that make someone particularly adept at empathic understanding is an important topic for future research.
Rogers's theory is important to personality psychology for a number of reasons. His theory concerns the development of the self over the life span and includes specific processes that can interrupt or facilitate that development. He o fers a new perspective on the importance of early experiences, similar to secure attachment, but which he calls unconditional positive regard. As in psychoanalysis, he assigns an important role to anxiety as a signal that things are not going well with the psychological system. Also as in classical psychoanalysis, he of fers a system of psychotherapy for helping persons overcome personal setbacks on the road toward actualizing their full potential. His work has had a lar ge impact on the practice of psychotherapy over the last half century (see Patterson, 2000).
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