The Person-Centered Approach (PCA)
by Tiane Corso Graziottin
The Person-Centered Approach (PCA) was initially developed by the groundbreaking North American psychologist Carl Ransom Rogers (1902-1987). From his early years as a psychologist in the decade of 30’s, Rogers started questioning the impact of directive, determinist and hierarchical approaches as therapeutic ways of help. Due to his inherent and unique openness to experience, he allowed himself to go beyond mainstream approaches of his epoch to learn from clients’ experiences. This learning along with ongoing empirical research gradually resulted in what Rogers defined as Client- Centered Therapy (CCT) and later the Person-Centered Approach. As one of the pioneers of the Humanistic Psychology movement in the USA, Rogers contributed to challenge the negative view of human nature within helping professions. He proved through research based evidence that trust and respect are powerful attitudes in human relationships and that once one person experiences from another congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding, psychological growth tends to occur.
In the first ADPCA Conference in 1986, in Chicago, USA, Barbara Brodley and Jerold Bozarth presented the values of the PCA as follows (this paper was later published in French in the Journal du PCAI.I. [1993, pp. 2-24]):
- Human Nature is basically constructive. It is not destructive.
- Human nature is basically social.
- Self-regard is a basic human need and self-regard, autonomy and individual sensitivity are to be protected in helping relationships.
- Persons are basically motivated to perceive realistically and to pursue the truth of situations.
- Perceptions are a major determinant of personal experience and behaviour, and, thus, to understand a person one must attempt to understand them empathically.
- Individuals, not groups, are participants in relationship.
- Belief in the concept of the whole person.
- Persons are realizing their potentialities and protecting themselves as best they can at any given time and under the internal and external circumstances that exist at the time.
- Belief in abdication of the pursuit of control or authority over the persons and, instead, a commitment to share power and control."
In an attempt to communicate the central belief of “sharing power” present in the person-centered approach, Rogers paraphrases Gertrude Stein and states in the introduction of his book Carl Rogers on Personal Power (1978, p.xii): “It is not that this approach gives power to the person; it never takes it away”. This is a challenging and powerful commitment that is misunderstood and underestimated by many. And, at the same time, reaches thousand of people around the world who share a similar value or benefit from this unique helping relationship.
The PCA is currently practiced in all continents in the world by thousands of individuals who experience it as a way of facilitating others and, beyond and above all, as a way of being in life. When properly understood, the PCA is clearly not an easy way of being. It is challenging and requires a high level of self-commitment yet it is also immensely rewarding.
Bozarth, J. & Brodley, B. (1993, September). The core values of the person-centred approach. Journal du PCAI.I., [n.k.], 2-24.
Rogers, C. R. (1978). Carl Rogers on Personal Power: Inner strength and its revolutionary impact. London: Constable.