School of Education

Person-Centered Experiential Counselling

What is person-centred experiential psychotherapy and counselling?

Person-centred experiential psychotherapy and counselling is part of the group of therapies that are based on humanistic-existential psychology. The approach is grounded in the idea that people are motivated within themselves towards achieving an optimal level of positive psychological functioning if the conditions in their life are supportive. It is an approach to helping that was originally developed by the psychologist Carl Rogers and has been informed by more recent and contemporary theoretical developments.

Who was Carl Rogers?

Carl Rogers is best remembered for his books Client-Centred Therapy: Its current practice, implications and theory, published in 1951, and On becoming a Person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy, published in 1961. Both have been reprinted numerous times and remain in print and widely read.

Rogers died in 1987. During his lifetime he served as the President of the American Psychological Association, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to conflict reduction. Today his work continues to influence psychological theory and practice and in polls since his death Rogers has consistently been rated as one of the most influential psychologists of all time.

What are the main ideas?

The basis of the person-centred experiential approach is the theory of the actualising tendency. Imagine how an acorn has the potential to develop into an oak tree. Given the right nutrients from the soil, the right balance of sunlight and shade, it will grow to be its fullest potential as an oak tree. But, given a lack of nutrients from the soil, the wrong balance of sunlight and shade, its full potential as an oak tree will be not be fulfilled.

In the same way, people are motivated within themselves to want to achieve their full potential and to flourish as a human being. Such a person would be authentic, always open to learning about themselves, responsible for themselves and their actions, and able to have close and intimate relationships.

However, it is unusual for people to experience such well-balanced social environments that they achieve such optimal flourishing. Most people experience to a greater or lesser degree social environments that, like the poor soil and lack of sunshine for the oak tree, thwart their development. For example, abusive, controlling, and manipulative relationships can have this effect.

Counselling and psychotherapy offers an opportunity to counteract the damaging effects of past relationships and facilitate new personal growth and development.

Our experiential approach

When relationships are characterised by empathic understanding, genuine and authentic communication, and acceptance of the other person, people feel more inclined to be honest to themselves about themselves and to seek new and more constructive ways of living. Person-centred experiential therapy aims to create such a relationship between client and therapist. The focus is always on the client’s immediate experiencing as the therapist helps them find ways of moving forward towards their desired goals for living.

Our course is based on person-centred psychology and offers an experiential form of psychotherapy and counselling that emphasises personal responsibility, focused on the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, and the environmental and social contexts of a person's life. Such an approach helps people flourish.

The following are from Carl Rogers himself, including his two most famous books and his two most important articles:

  • Rogers, C.R. (1951). Client-Centred Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Rogers, C.R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21, 95-103.
  • Rogers, C.R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework in S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology: A Study of a Science, Vol.3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context (pp.184-256). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Rogers, C.R. (1961). On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Are there any books you recommend?
  • Cooper, M, O'Hara, M, Schmid, PF, and Bohart, A (2013). The Handbook of Person-Centred and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counselling. Palgrave: Houndmills – an up to date reference to many of the key authors and ideas in the field of person-centred experiential psychotherapy and counselling
  • Worsley, R, & Joseph, S (2007). (Eds.) Person-Centred Practice: Case Studies in Positive Psychology. PCCS Books: Ross-on-Wye – this book contains a series of engaging case examples which shows you what person-centred practice looks like with a range of different clients
  • Levitt, BE (2008). (Ed.) Reflections on Human Potential: Bridging the Person-Centred Approach and Positive Psychology. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books – an innovative book which shows how the person-centred approach takes a positive psychology look at human flourishing
  • Proctor, G, Cooper, M, Sanders, P, & Malcolm, B (2006). Politicising the Person-Centred Approach: An Agenda for Social Change. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books – this radical book puts the person-centred approach in the context of social and political factors
  • Kirschenbaum, H. ( 2007). The life and work of Carl Rogers. PCCS Books: Ross-on-Wye
  • Joseph, S. (2010). Therapeutic Approaches in Counselling and Psychotherapy: An introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave – a general introduction to the field of counselling and psychotherapy for those new to the field and who wish to find out about the different types of therapy
  • Murphy, D. (2017) (Ed.). Counselling Psychology: A textbook for study and practice




School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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