ADPCA Philosophy and Aims
by Bert Rice
The Association for the Development of the Person-Centered Approach (ADPCA) is an international organization whose members share a vital interest in the work and writings of Carl Rogers, the founder of the person-centered approach to helping relationships, and the practices and ideas stemming from those writings. The ADPCA includes therapists, educators, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, business managers, and other persons from a variety of walks of life. We have come together out of a common desire to cultivate and nurture the person-centered approach.
The person-centered approach applies the principles of Rogers’ client-centered therapy across the range of helping relationships, encompassing student-centered education, child-centered parenting, worker-centered management, and others, as well as client-centered therapy for adults, children, couples, families or groups. The unifying principle of the approach is that the person who is the center of the relationship (client, student, child, worker, etc.) be in control of its direction, and the “helper” (therapist, teacher, parent, manager, etc.) possess a non directive attitude toward the central person. Taking client-centered therapy as an example, this non directive attitude both underlies and flows out of the nature of the therapist’s work. The role of the therapist is to experience understanding of the expressions of the client from the client’s perspective (“empathic understanding”) and acceptance of the client without judgment, positive or negative, of any particular manifestation of the client (“unconditional positive regard.”) Rogers believed that to the extent that the therapist (or other helper) experiences empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard and the client (or other central person) has some level of awareness of that empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard, then positive change will result. One’s ability to experience empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is limited, according to Rogers, by the degree of one’s congruence in the relationship, where “congruence” is the helper’s genuineness and transparency, characterized by a lack of deception whether intentional or arising from a lack of self-awareness.
The ADPCA has an annual meeting, generally for five days in the summer, hosted by a committee of members at a location of their choice, and often with a co-sponsoring institution. Traditionally, these meetings include presentations and workshops, social events, small group meetings, and community meetings. All of these activities provide opportunities for persons attending to obtain a richer understanding of the person-centered approach by experiencing it. They also provide opportunities for initiating and maintaining projects that further the development of the person-centered approach. Community meetings are open to the entire community. They have no predetermined agenda, nor established facilitator(s). In both community meetings and small groups, participants, most of whom are familiar with the values of the person-centered approach, are free to express themselves and respond to others’ expressions in any way they choose. Building and maintaining community in the context of individual freedom is an important aspect of the social experiment that is the ADPCA.
The ADPCA business meetings, however, are an exception: they are community meetings that do have an agenda, and often a facilitator. We are a true democracy: our decisions are made by the unanimous consent of those present at the business meetings. Between annual meetings, the business of the ADPCA is carried out by volunteers who either serve as officers of the organization or implement ideas for developing the person-centered approach. Such volunteers who implement ideas include, but are not limited to, those who work on the Renaissance, the Association’s newsletter, the Person-Centered Journal, or the ADPCA website. The two principles that underlie the work of the organization, then, are consensus decision making about policy and a culture of volunteerism both to define what needs to be done and to act upon those needs. Therefore, while the aim of the ADPCA is the development of the person-centered approach, the content of that aim is ever changing as ideas about how to develop the approach arise and are pursued.