There are times in our lives when we do things, or have them happen to us that we find difficult to comprehend or reconcile with our way of being (or own moral standards). With these experiences, we can find ourselves confused or lost; not knowing if the path we were on is the right one or if a change of direction would make the way ahead any clearer either.
My own life bought me to such a place, a crossroads where I didn’t know which direction I was going, or even coming from! It also bought me into contact with the theory behind the phrase “unconditional positive regard”; an idea from person-centred counselling founded by Carl Rogers. Basically it’s a reference to the concept of acceptance of a client’s way of being in life, or as some therapists know it - a “positive affirmation”. Whatever the choice of words we use as therapists; it’s more than simply a counsellor taking a liking to something, or some part, of you, their client. It’s accepting the many facets that make up you the person: Your innate individuality and uncommonness.
A good counselling relationship, for both the client and therapist, is one in which the counsellor is genuinely accepting of all the feelings, emotions and life story that go to form you, the person. I guess in a, none too nice way of expressing it: It's warts and all – every complicated nuance (seen as positives or negatives) that are you as the whole person. By liking and respecting you and your uniqueness, genuinely, the counsellor’s view of you can help improve your acceptance of yourself. Rogers believed that in being able to accept yourself, enables you to accept others and affirm their position in life with unconditional positive regard.
As a counsellor, I personally know the first part of this journey – I accept myself; with all my blemishes and glowing bits – and that enables us (as counsellors) to help you move forward in your life too. It can be a strange thing to do, at first, to trust and believe that every aspect of you is acceptable but it is very empowering and liberating.
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About Ian Collings
BACP registered and accredited counsellor and psychotherapist with a BSc(Hons.) degree in counselling and psychotherapy working in Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Specialising in working with individuals and couples around addictions, sexual abuse, relationship issues, anxiety and depression amongst other matters.