(Further to yesterday’s post.) A few dear people occasionally turn to me for spiritual guidance. One wrote: “There is something about you that is healing. Thank you for that! It’s hard to articulate ….” So, what is this quality he’s talking about? What is that I do (or not do) that he experiences as “healing”?
I’m pretty sure it relates to ideas encountered during counselling training in the late 1970s. Carl Rogers (1882-1987), still teaching then in California, was our distant guru. We studied and adored his every word, practiced on each other in front of bulky video cameras, and later subjected student-clients to our imitations of Rogerian brilliance.
Rogers defined certain “skills” (in the language of the day) as essential to his “client-centered psychotherapy;” one of them being unconditional positive regard. Today he might not use the word skill — with its mechanical connotations of something that can be taught, learned, and measured — but describe it as a fundamental belief about human nature.
Two text books on psychology offer these definitions: Kalat sees unconditional positive regard as “the complete, unqualified acceptance of another person as he or she is.” Myers describes it as “an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted.”
There it is! Thirty years after learning the rudiments of counselling psychology and triggered by a friend’s feedback, I glimpse some of Carl Rogers’ meaning of the therapeutic relationship — not as something borrowed from books and professors but as “self-discovered, self-appropriated knowledge” (in his words). My hope is that my friend will gain self-discovered understanding from our conversations.
sources: Myers, D. G. (2004). Psychology (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 513; Kalat, J. W. (2007). Introduction to psychology (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, p. 542; Roger, C. (1961). On becoming a person: a therapist’s view of psychotherapy. New York: Houghton Mifflin, p. 276.
p.s. There’s a book by a UK psychotherapist and Zen Buddhist. See: Brazier, D. (2001). Beyond Carl Rogers: towards a psychotherapy for the 21st century. London: Constable & Robinson.