Reflecting on Rogers Person Centred Therapy and Clinebell’s Approach

Subjects: General Psychology View times: 228
Created by: E A Cocodia

By  E. A. Cocodia, University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney

I reflect on the Person Centred approach to helping when compared to the work of Clinebell.  In practice the focus is on the individual. This is paramount within Person Centred therapy. Clinebell's approach differs by recommending confrontation if change is to occur within the relationship. Hence the overarching theme outlined here is that the core of  humanistic psychology focus on providing the individual the opportunity for self-direction while maintaining emphatic understanding.


 Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers developed the Person-Centred approach to helping people. Rogers[1] proposed that all humans are inherently trustworthy, understand themselves, and can solve their own problems without direct interference from the therapist. Hence, Rogers viewed trust as the foundation of Person-Centred approach. The person-centred theory is entrenched in the notion of human beings’ actualising tendency towards reaching their full potential. Individuals are believed to be capable of self-directed growth. At the core of this approach is the trust that clients or patients are competent at self-direction and have confidence in the client’s/patient’s self-healing ability. The overarching point is that Rogers [2]belief in each person’s ability for self-development is environmentally related to “basic estrangements” primarily responsible for negative beliefs. The person-centred therapeutic process, therefore, uses non-directive techniques by developing the individual’s self-concept to bring about positive change. Thus, the therapist only acts as a channel for therapy.

     Clinebell’s take on person-centred approach to helping veers away from Rogers’ approach, which is confrontational in nature. Reflecting on the current author’s experiences as therapist and researcher,  a review of Snodgrass[3] shows that aspects of both approaches have been successfully embedded into pastoral psychology. Snodgrass provides the necessary literature to support the history of pastoral psychology. This is relevant to multiple disciplines including psychology and pastoral care for a number of reasons:

First, a comparison of employing non-directive approaches indicates that the individual rather than the helper remain the priority during the session and beyond. The helper’s role includes placing significant levels of accountability on the individual. Hence, this approach is based on the carer’s ability for awareness and a purposeful change in attitudes and behaviour.

 Second, Rogers emphasised that the thoughts and personal characteristics of the helper and the quality of the relationship shared are main determinants of the outcome of the therapeutic process. Therefore, it is expected that the helper is empathic and understanding of the views of the individual and are expected to be congruent or genuine. This means that there must be genuineness linking both the thoughts and behaviour of the helper towards the individual.

     Clinebell’s stance therefore remains shaky for me from a professional perspective. Being mindful of the individual client’s feelings will not place confrontation as a priority within the helping relationship or sessions. Rogers noted that congruence might occur on an on-going basis and at various levels. The person-centred approach must also include positive regard for the individual, whereby actions, whether negative or positive, will not determine or diminish the helper’s regard for the individual seeking help.

     Overall working reflectively  while seeking professional supervision as required by key professional bodies may provide opportunity to revisit  any blind spots or areas of improvement in our practice. 


  1. Rogers, C.. Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory; Constable: London, 1951; pp. 0.
  2. Rogers, C.R.. A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework.Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context.; Koch, S., Eds.; McGraw Hill: New York, 1959; pp. 184-256.
  3. Snodgrass, J.; From Rogers to Clinebell: Exploring the history of pastoral psychology. Pastoral Psychology 2007, 55(4), 513-525, 10.1007/s11089-007-0066-1.