The person-centered approach: toward an understanding of its implications


John Keith Wood


The person-centered approach is not a psychology, a psychotherapy, a philosophy, a school, a movement nor many other things frequently imagined. It is merely what its name suggests, an approach. It is a psychological posture, a way of being, from which one may confront various aspects of human behavior. The best known activity it has been applied to is client-centered therapy, which is a psychotherapy, has a theory, a method and has accumulated a substantial body of research generally supporting its theoretical assertions. This article considers the same sixty years of applications of the person-centered approach to phenomena which include – as well as psychotherapy – education, encounter groups, and large groups intended to improve transnational understanding, to explore intergroup conflicts, to learn the nature of culture and its process of formation.

Observations over the last thirty years have revealed shortcomings in the psychology of client-centered therapy, as a suitable theory for applications of the person-centered approach. A direction is indicated for the formulation of an appropriate psychology for all of the application – including client-centered therapy itself. Reflection on this discussion might also inform the practice of psychotherapy as well as suggesting “interdisciplinary” projects that would be naturally unified by the paradigm proposed.