Constructing the Rogerian safe environment

"It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried."

(Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person - 1961)

 

During counselling sessions, people discuss their most private experiences. Time and again I can see people searching my face with their eyes for some form of judgement. Am I judging their experiences, and almost wanting to ask me whether s/he is still acceptable as a person to me as the therapist? The therapeutic space is one of those special situations where the whole person is unconditionally accepted and respected. My psychological approach to therapy is deeply nested in the Person-Centred Approach of Carl Rogers. Rogerian therapy aims to empower persons to discover for themselves as they truly are. Further to facilitate the process where the persons finds their own unique ways of constructing meaning and purpose for themselves.

 

The therapeutic process is recognised by congruence, unconditional positive regard for the person, empathy and a psychologically safe atmosphere where people are free to flourish. According to Rogers the most important characteristic of the helping practice is that the therapist should be genuine, congruent and aware of his/her own feelings, perceptions and frames of reference.

 

The Rogerian person-centred process is a skilled and caring process when respectfully engaging in the progress of actively supporting a person to achieve a goal and by psychologically connecting in an interactive process. The person-centred process allows the person, in therapy, to process information, experiences and perceptions throughout a process of constructing change, self-growth, preservation and enhancement (development). All people are unique, and each person’s inner world would also be uniquely constructed.

 

Even in an organism as large as a community, everyone in a community would also construct different perceptions from experiences. Meaning attached to experiences would be unique as every individual’s experiential world is unique. These constructed frames of reference, perceptions and attached meanings would thus be personal and central to the individual and it could further be constantly changing. The individual is thus accepted as a unique person in a non-threatening and psychologically safe environment.

 

In a psychologically safe environment where the self does not experience any threat, the aim is to generate conditions for change and create an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance. The service user would be able to fully communicate the self while exploring his/her inner worlds. The implication is that we need to observe persons holistically in an effort to understand the frame of reference of the individual. The aim of Rogerian counselling is to construct a space where the person will be more accepting and understanding of the own self as well as others. Professional persons in the “helping profession” should develop the skill to listen to the client’s internal frame of reference and simultaneously co-construct a safe context of freedom for the person to be self-determined and explore the unconscious mind. An emotional safe environment is constructed by means of the professional values that endeavour to demonstrate respect, individualisation, self-determination and confidentiality.

 

From my understanding, Carl Rogers continuously attempted to furnish a climate and atmosphere that would be growth promoting as persons endeavoured to explore and connect with experiences, relate their own feelings connected to these experiences, discover the meanings they attach to the own self and their lives. Rogers elaborately reported on the processes of change and growth of individuals, groups and communities as they constructed new values, goals and directions. One should therefore be attending and be able to listen carefully to the other person’s uniquely owned experiences and the meanings constructed with regards to the self.

 

The construction and discovery of one’s own “Way of Being” towards the own self and others would be of utmost importance. Professional persons should act self-evaluative and reflexive in their own way of being towards those in need. Change and growth will contribute in this reconstruction towards awareness where the counselling process and the people involved could flourish according to their self-determination

 

“I am no longer talking simply about psychotherapy, but about a point of view, a philosophy, an approach to life, a way of being, which fits any situation in which growth – of a person, a group, or a community – is part of the goal”. Carl Rogers 

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