Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) explained

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Person-Centered Therapy: this article explains the Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), developed by Carl Rogers in a practical way. Next to what it is, this artcile also highlights the reasons and effectiveness of this therapy, the conditions and tips. Enjoy reading!

What is Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)? The theory and basics explained

Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), also referred to as Rogerian therapy, person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling and client-centered therapy, is a humanist approach to therapy in which the clients themselves consciously take the lead, rather than the therapist interpreting and reflecting their unconscious thoughts and ideas based on a pre-established, standard treatment plan.

This type of therapy is centred around the client and focusses on personal growth of the client, whereas the therapist actively listens. The core of person-centred therapy is that it facilitates the client’s inbuilt proclivity toward growth and fulfilment.

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This non-directive, active form of counselling was developed by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers during the 1940s and 1950s. Carl Rogers is generally considered to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential psychologists. The humanist thinker believed that all people innately have a good nature and want to grow into the best possible version of themselves.

Initially, Carl Rogers referred to his technique as non-directive counselling. It is also about building an empathetic understanding of the person. Although his goal during a session with a patient was to give as little direction as possible, he realised that all therapists direct their clients in unconscious and subtle ways.

This occurs because clients look at the therapist and form an idea of what the therapists wants to hear. Carl Rogers never referred to people receiving therapy as patients. According to him, the word patient implied an illness or something wrong in a person who had come to a therapist to be healed.

Instead he used the word client, emphasising the importance of the individual in overcoming their difficulties.

Reasons and effectiveness of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)

In most psychotherapy treatments, the therapist and his observations are classified as expert. In client-centred therapy this is different. It assumes that people have an innate tendency to find the fulfilment of their own personal potential.

Speaking to close family, friends, or clergy is often difficult and won’t work because the person in question isn’t willing to be completely open to people he knows. This is also true for person-centred therapy. The focus is on what the client needs, as well as on whether they are willing to talk about it.

If a client wants to talk about the past, the therapist will listen and respond with empathy without pushing to express more feelings. The idea is that the client feels as comfortable as possible to speak more from the heart.

Unlike the therapist’s cliché of blaming the parents, person-centred therapists acknowledge that pain or issues from the past can play an important role in the client’s ability to solve current problems. In order to help a person deal effectively with obstacles, they first have to be given the opportunity to express past hurts.

In Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), clients who have undergone therapy before are often surprised or even put off by the fact that the therapist asks very few if any questions. The therapist is only supposed to ask questions when something requires clarification or if a situation needs to be reflected.

Instead of subjecting the client to a barrage of questions and building complex therapeutic processes and therapteutic relationships, client-centred therapists want their therapy to get its strength from the fact that the client forms their own insights and makes their own decisions by sharing their thoughts and feelings. The core of person-centred therapy can be compared to the adage that a man should be taught to fish rather than given a single fish.

Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) works because the client indicates what works and doesn’t work for their problems, rather than that the therapist taking them to a pre-determined plan. A person-centred therapist doesn’t assume a position that demands change, but one that encourages acceptance.

If acceptance helps a person realise that change is necessary, it will be their choice. This is more valuable and healthier than when a client feels they’re not being accepted, appreciated, and respected.

Conditions and tips for Person-Centered Therapy (PCT)

There are three important components to ensure valuable person-centred therapy:

  • Unconditional, positive regard
  • Genuineness
  • Emphatic understanding

Another important trait of a good client centred therapist, unlike traditional therapists, is that they replace the word patient with client. By using the word client, the client as well as the therapists will see themselves as a team of equal partners instead of an expert and patient. This is essential to strengthening trust and encouraging openness.

Person-Centered Therapy (PCT) isn’t just applied formally in therapeutic contests. It can be used by anyone faced with occasional difficult talks or who has to deal with other people’s psychological problems. A correct approach in such situations is very important, since just a few words can cause more damage than several professional sessions can repair. Some tips for conducting mental health conversations:

  • Continue for as long as both people are comfortable
  • Don’t ask the client what their problem is directly; let them take the initiative. The client is the expert when it comes to their personal problems
  • Listen carefully to what’s being said and repeat it in your own words. This way, you can help the person to understand their own feelings better and think about a constructive solution
  • Don’t judge
  • Don’t make decisions for them
  • Accept negative emotions
  • Make sure you use the right intonations and work with short breaks if it’s preferable
  • Acknowledge if you’re not the right person to offer help. The last thing someone dealing with mental health issues needs is bad advice

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Now it is your turn

What do you think? What do you think about the person centered approach in psychotherapy? Have you ever visited a person centered therapist? Do you recognise the explanation of Person-Centred Therapy, or do you have something to add? Do you have any tips for dealing with psychological problems in a prudent way?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Rogers, C. R. (1966). Client-centered therapy (p. xi). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  2. Rogers, C. R., & Carmichael, L. (1951). Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory, with Chapters Contributed by Elaine Dorfman, Thomas Gordon, and Nicholas Hobbs. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. Rogers, C. R. (2013). A Theory of Therapy and Personality Change: As Developed in the Client-Centered Framework”. Perspectives in Abnormal Behavior: Pergamon General Psychology Series, 341.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2018). Person-Centered Therapy (PCT). Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 03/14/2018 | Last update: 04/21/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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