Accepting others for who they are is the basis of therapeutic communication and the foundation on which humanistic psychology lies. Psychotherapist pioneer Carl Roger initiated the shift from the archetype of therapist-led psychotherapy towards the practice of client-centered healing. Roger’s theory and practice supported the patient’s ability to foster self-knowledge and control his impulses by empowering him to actively contribute to his own healing.
Sensing a client's emotions and reacting to them as if they were your own describes empathy within therapy. This concept of compassion reflects your profound understanding of the client’s emotions and circumstances that exceeds any calculated analysis of the client by the therapist. In his article on client-centered therapy, Rogers emphasizes the characteristics of successful therapeutic communication by saying: “If the counselor can create a relationship permeated by warmth, understanding, safety from any type of attack, no matter how trivial, and basic acceptance of the person as he is, then the client will drop his natural defensiveness and use the situation. 12”
Feeling emotion with a patient can generate a compassionate and therapeutic environment in which the patient can feel secure and recognize that you're listening to him rather than evaluating him. When the client lowers his defenses and feels like he’s actually relating his current disposition, he’s more inclined to expose a profound level of emotion in communication with you.
Exhibiting genuine thoughts and emotions in the therapeutic approach and gaining insight into your patient requires you to also be in touch with your own feelings. Rogers called for the clinician to be “a real human being with real thoughts, real feelings, and real problems.” In order for an effective therapeutic client-centered relationship to form, you must be sensitive and honest in your communication.
Psychotherapist Richard A. Singer Jr., expounds upon the necessity for authenticity in an article at Self Growth. He says that any pretense within the therapeutic setting hinders communication. Therapists must also posses an intuitive sense of self because it cultivates trust and confirms that you aren’t projecting yourself as a superior force over your patient.
Unconditional Positive Regard
Displaying unconditional positive regard means that you show your patient that no matter what he does, your respect for him remains the same. Yet, you continue to reveal the desire for him to move towards healing. Rogers emphasized the importance for the therapist to remove any concern for diagnostic tendencies and be available to provide the patient with acceptance and consideration of the emotions he’s exploring in the present.
English psychotherapist Greg Mulhauser of Mulhauser Consulting, Ltd., explains that unconditional positive regard implies that you accept your client categorically and without prejudice. This notion of therapy assures the client that he may examine and express any of his thoughts or feelings without the threat of being criticized or disregarded.
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