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  • Writer's pictureSakura

Theory Behind the Practice

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Carl Rodgers developed the person centred theory in the late 1940s, originally named as 'non directive therapy'. Rodgers believed every person has an innate ability to grow (self actualise) basically meaning, to reach our full potential. Below I have outlined a few Person centred concepts. These are very brief descriptions so if you are intrigued and would like more detail I will add some book recommendations at the end.


Organismic Self vs Self Concept


He believed that when a baby is born and provided with all the necessary requirements; physical contact, feeding, changing and being picked up when upset then the baby is reassured that when he cries out, his needs will be met - Rodgers named this 'The Organismic Self'. As babies develop into toddlers/children, they are then influenced by parents/caregivers and the outside environment.


This is where we begin to develop our 'self concept' - what we believe we should be like because of others around us. This can range from a parent becoming cross at their child for having a tantrum (child learns, anger is a bad feeling and we shouldn't feel it) to a parent disapproving of low GCSE results. Child receives the message that they are not good enough unless they do well in school. These are called our conditions of worth and they shape our behaviour right through to adulthood.


Conditions of worth


So as you can see, the messages that are given directly or indirectly stay with us and shape the way we think and feel about ourselves which can then lead to all kinds of mental health problems, self fulfilling prophecies and behaviour patterns that don't serve us well.


We begin to move so far away from our organismic self (authentic self) who we really are and what we really believe and we begin to live in our 'self concept' our self which is shaped by other peoples opinions of what we should look like because that will make others happy.


When our organismic self and our self concept become tangled and are in conflict with one another "I really don't want to go out tonight, but they will be so upset with me if I don't so I will." We begin to see things like anxiety, depression, OCD thoughts etc, anger and feelings of frustration/stress; because we are living our lives constantly trying to make others happy. We have grown up with the belief that we are better if we make others happy, we are not good enough if we don't do X,Y,Z. Im hoping this is making sense so far?


Everyone has conditions of worth, some maybe stronger than others, some maybe hard to find. See if you can figure some of yours out, figuring these out gives us an awareness which enables us (with the support) to choose to either keep them or leave them behind.


Locus of evaluation


Our locus of evaluation will depend greatly upon whether we have been surrounded by highly judgmental influencers in out lives. Our internal locus is how much we trust ourselves to make our own decisions and to stay true to our organismic self. Are you someone who has to seek advice and reassurance before making a decision? If you are then your Locus of evaluation is sat outside of yourself; you are unable to trust your own judgments. Maybe you are someone who puts your needs first and is confident and comfortable making decisions that are right for you, without feeling worried abut someone else's thoughts/opinions? This would suggest that your Locus would be internal.


Our Locus doesn't have to be set in one or the other either. Sometimes it may flit between external and internal. The aim of Person Centred is to offer a safe space for people to explore their 'stuff' and gain some trust and belief in ones thoughts and feelings. Trusting oneself is a truly liberating and empowering place to be.


Self Actualisation


Self Actualisation is the belief that if a person is given the correct conditions, they will naturally strive towards personal growth/ full potential.


For self actualisation to take place, we need the basic conditions; food, water, warmth, safety. This section was developed by Abraham Maslow which you can find out more by searching 'Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.' Carl Rodgers believed that self actualisation occurs when a persons 'ideal self' (who they would like to be), is congruent with their actual behaviour.'


It is good to be aware that each persons experience is different and personal growth/change is not linear. Obstacles may get in the way and cause set backs. However being aware of this supports our trust and belief in ourselves in order to manage and accept hurdles and life obstacles.




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