A guide to person-centred counselling

Developed in the 1950s from the work of American psychologist Carl Rogers, person-centred counselling helps people by creating an open, safe space to talk.

The person-centred approach involves therapists responding in a specific way to their clients. Most other forms of psychotherapy also adopt these basic principles, but proponents of the person-centred approach believe they are sufficient on their own for therapy to be effective.

What is person-centred counselling?

The person-centred approach is based on a belief in each person’s capacity to find their own answers to life’s problems and their own ways to cope with life experiences. A key idea is that this natural human potential can be facilitated and encouraged by the unique, trusting relationship between a client and a therapist.

A person-centred therapist offers support, guidance and structure so that the client can discover within themselves their own solutions to any personal issues. In person-centred therapy, the focus is on the person, not the problem. Most person-centred therapists will not challenge or direct a client. Instead, clients are allowed to express themselves in any way they choose. Person-centred therapy believes answers to the clients’ questions lie within the client, not the therapist.

Person-centred therapists are non-judgmental and believe that life experiences and personal life choices result from a complex set of psychological forces. Therefore, person-centred therapists do not judge a client’s behaviour or personal choices. The person-centred therapist does not see one type of lifestyle as being better than another. The person-centred approach allows the client and therapist freedom to talk openly about anything in a private and non-judgmental environment.

What are the essential components of the person-centred approach?

The person-centred approach to counselling includes a set of basic principles or conditions that therapists closely follow. These principles help therapists understand the client’s life experiences from the client’s point of view. A key component of the person-centred approach is that the therapist does not act as an expert on the client’s life, but instead supports and motivates each client towards their own potential for personal development and change. The person-centred approach is based on the concept that the client is the only expert on themself.

At the heart of the person-centred approach are three ways of being that therapists adopt. These are known as the core conditions. They are:

  • Empathy. This is the ability to understand and respect the life experiences, feelings and choices of the client. 
  • Unconditional positive regard. This means accepting the client with warmth and without judgement.
  • Congruence. This involves the therapist being genuine and authentic with the client and with themselves. It doesn’t mean that the therapist tells the client everything that’s on their mind, but that they are paying attention to what they feel with the client and are willing to bring it into the work with honesty if they think it would be helpful.

It is no surprise that person-centred counselling appeals to many people. It is a client-led, non-judgmental approach that gives the client control over what is discussed in therapy. Many people are attracted to the informal, compassionate nature of this warm and relational counselling approach. 

Unlike cognitive behavioural therapy, person-centred counselling does not usually involve techniques or homework between sessions, and compared to psychodynamic psychotherapy, the person-centred approach tends to focus less on past events. Person-centred counselling is often about what’s going on in a person’s life now.

Some advantages of the person-centred approach include:

  • Person-centred therapy focuses on the here and now, rather than the past, and encourages the client to think about what’s currently going on emotionally and psychologically.
  • The person-centred approach trusts in the client’s personal capacity for self-development and self-fulfilment.
  • The person-centred approach encourages self-awareness, authenticity, honesty, self-acceptance and self-trust.
  • The person-centred approach is usually seen as less formal and less structured than some other types of therapy.
  • The person-centred approach allows the client to set their own goals and move at their own pace.

What types of issues can be addressed with person-centred counselling?

Though most life issues can be helped using person-centred counselling, these issues, especially, may benefit from this relational approach to therapy:

Is the person-centred approach effective?

For most people, yes. The core conditions of the person-centred approach make it one of the most popular forms of therapy. It is often seen as a gentler approach to therapy and less formal than some other types. 

Progress in person-centred counselling results from the unique, trusting relationship that develops, over time, between the client and the therapist. Through being non-judgmental, open and approachable, person-centred therapists are able to form warm and supportive relationships with clients in a private and confidential setting. It is this unique, private therapeutic relationship that enables personal development and change.

With the person-centred approach, the client leads the way. Discussions in therapy are initiated and led by the client, who can speak about anything on their mind. The therapist is trained to encourage these discussions and to draw useful insights and clarity about the client’s perspectives on life.

In short, person-centred counsellors provide favourable conditions and a unique environment in which clients may come to terms with negative events, difficult emotions and other personal issues. All of our counsellors and psychotherapists have some training and experience in the person-centred approach. If you would like more information about person-centred counselling, please get in touch.

Person-centred counselling is just one type of therapy we provide in London

While person-centred counselling is a popular and effective type of therapy, we also offer other kinds of therapy in central London. Our therapists are trained and experienced in several different types of counselling, including:

Getting started with person-centred counselling

Your first appointment will be an opportunity to discuss your hopes in therapy and we can advise you on whether person-centred counselling would suit your specific needs. As well as counselling in person at our London centres, we also offer online counselling. To book your first meeting with one of our therapists, please telephone us on 0333 207 9330 or you may book your first appointment online.

If this is your first experience of therapy, you may find that starting therapy can feel dauting. We have put together a list of frequently-asked questions about therapy together with our answers that may be helpful.

If you would prefer a therapist who is trained in person-centred counselling, please tell us your preferences at the time of booking your appointment.

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Appointments available

Mondays to Fridays
7.30 am until 8.30 pm
Saturdays and Sundays
8.00 am until 6.00 pm

Call to book a first appointment
0333 207 9330

Connect with Us

Client Reviews

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Some answers to questions that may help

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Our guide to couples counselling

Our guide to couples therapy may be helpful to anyone thinking of starting therapy with their partner.

What our clients think about us

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One Therapy London

Counselling, psychotherapy, couples counselling in London since 2006

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