What is person-centred counselling?

As you have probably noticed from searching on the Counselling Directory, counsellors and psychotherapists can be trained in many different types of therapy. In this article, I will offer a brief explanation of ‘person-centred therapy’ the theory, and the core conditions that the counsellor provides their clients throughout the process of therapy. This is all in the hope that you can have more of an understanding of the type of therapy that your counsellor is trained in and it could also make the process of searching for a counsellor feel less intimidating. 



The person-centred approach was founded by Carl Rogers in the 1940s. Person-centred therapy is underpinned by the theory of humanism which is the belief that each person has the potential for growth and change. Inside each person is the ability to strive towards self-actualisation which means reaching your full potential.  

Importantly, person-centred theory challenged the idea at the time that the therapist should be the ‘expert.’ Person-centred counsellors believe that you know your experience best. The counsellor should be non-directive and the session should be led by you as the client. Also, another idea that underpins person-centred therapy is that all people are inherently worthy and should be treated as such. One aim of person-centred counselling is to help you to feel empowered, valued, worthy and able to make the changes that you wish to.  


To feel valued, we may take on a view of the world that is in line with those around us. If we are not aware of how we feel inside, we can start to judge ourselves based on whether the people around us find us acceptable or unacceptable. Through the process of engaging in person-centred therapy, the hope is that you move toward a more internal locus of evaluation. Meaning that our values and beliefs are our own and are not introjected from those around us. The aim is to become more congruent and truer to ourselves.  

Through the process of person-centred counselling, with the support of your counsellor, you can start to become more accepting of yourself as you are in the here and now. Rogers said ‘When I accept myself as I am, then I can change’ which means that through counselling sessions you learn how to accept yourself as you are, rather than evaluating yourself using judgements from the people around you, or expectations placed on you by society. This process can help you to feel empowered, and increase feelings of self-worth which then helps you have the confidence to make the changes that you wish to. 

Core conditions

As previously mentioned, person-centred therapy is underpinned by the idea that all people have the capacity for change when the right conditions are present. Throughout therapy sessions, the counsellor will provide core conditions which will help you to feel safe and share how you feel. They are:

1. The therapist is congruent with the client. Meaning the therapist is open and honest with you, as well as being open and honest within themselves. The counsellor is genuine and authentic and shows up as themselves, who the therapist is on the inside and how the therapist presents themselves to the world match up. They are genuine.

2. The therapist shows the client unconditional positive regard. This means that the therapist values you as a person and accepts you for who you are. The therapist may not approve of all the client’s actions but the therapist approves of their client as a person, they hold the belief that everyone should be valued and respected. 

3. The therapist feels and shows empathy towards the client. This means that the therapist can understand your feelings and your perspective of the world. The therapist communicates their empathy and as the client, you feel understood.  

To tie all of this together: 

  • Person-centred therapy is underpinned by the belief that when offered the right conditions, people have the capacity to change and the belief that we are all inherently worthy. 
  • Through the process of counselling, an aim is to develop a more internal locus of evaluation, which creates meaningful change for clients and you can move closer towards self-actualisation.  
  • This is achieved through the therapist creating a safe space and showing the client, unconditional positive regard, congruence, and empathy. 

I hope that this brief overview helps you as a potential client to understand a little bit about person-centred counselling and the theory behind it. One of the main aims of person-centred counselling is to create a safe space for you to explore how you think and feel and for you to feel valued, empowered and to move in the direction of your true potential.

Now I hope that you can use this information to make an informed decision when choosing a counsellor and you can understand a little bit about the approach to counselling that you are engaging in. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Durham DH1 & Newton Aycliffe DL5
Written by Megan Riley, MBACP (reg.), MSc CounsPsych
Durham DH1 & Newton Aycliffe DL5

Megan is a person-centred counsellor from County Durham who works with adults online.

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