Psychotherapy, above all, gives me the privilege to accompany individuals through their most personal processes, when they try to grasp the cause of their feelings, problems and behavior patterns, in a safe, non-judgmental environment. During the process, many things are put into question, new things discovered and solutions found. That kind of deep, helping and holding relationship which enables that, is what I find enormously enriching.

This new encounter experience should encourage you to find a new access to yourself. With more self-esteem, responsibility and self-care, you will find yourself defining and creating your relationships under totally different circumstances.

As an individual, you carry many possibilities, skills and potentials within yourself. From the day you were born, you depend on mutual relationships with others. Personal and professional development only take place in an interaction with family, friends and colleagues. This development is only possible if there is an active counterpart. If, for some reason, you are not able to discover this kind of support in your social environment, psychotherapy can help you towards handling the urgent challenges.

Person-centered approach

(Also known as a non-directive approach, person-centered psychotherapy, client-centered psychotherapy)


As a person-centered psychotherapist, I believe in individual’s inherent necessity to grow and to develop his capabilities. In the person-centered approach, we call it a self-actualizing tendency.
If one is acting destructively, or is not able to develop his capabilities to his full capacity, the self-actualizing tendency is most probably blocked by environmental conditions.

While growing up, individual encounters numerous experiences. Every subjective experience, whether conscious or non-conscious, makes a contribution to the formation of the self-concept.
If the individual is aware of the experience, that is what we describe as symbolization. In this case, a symbol for the emotion has been established.

The self-concept is an image every person has of him/herself. It is formed by the experiences one makes, with himself and with the environment on a daily basis. The self is a process, it is nothing rigid or static. It constantly changes through the experiences one acquires. One’s personality therefore, never remains the same. In the course of time, one’s attitudes, needs, emotions and interests undergo a change. The self-actualizing tendency contributes to the development of the self as well. If the self of a person matches the experience, and for that reason the experience can be integrated in the self-concept, that is what we describe as a state of congruence. The individual is fully aware of his feelings and needs, and is living them out.

Incongruence in the person-centered approach, on the other hand, means that the self and the experience do not match, the feelings toward the acute experience are not accepted by awareness. Subjectively, this person feels as if something was wrong with him/her. The person wants to actualize the self that is not matching the experience, which is why the experience has to be declined.

Another aspect of the person-centered approach is the necessity of a counterpart. This means, that only in a relationship to others one can evolve in a positive way or correct an undesirable development. Carl Rogers calls this mutual acceptance of two individuals “personal encounter”, which is a very important variable of being a psychotherapist. Yet, not only in psychotherapy but in other aspects of life is this kind of relationship of an enormous relevance for human cohabitation.

In his book “On personal power” Rogers emphasizes, that the person-centered approach can also be applied for parent/child or teacher/student kind of relationship, in romantic relationships, as well as in politics.
Ever since the 70ies, Rogers used to run the so-called encounter-groups, in which individuals could practice their social interactions, based on basic principles of the person-centered approach. Here, he emphasizes that the core conditions of the person-centered approach (empathy, congruence and positive regard) can also be applied and be effective in all kinds of relationships.

The therapist/client relationship, as seen from the person-centered point of view, is, superficially, “to help one help himself”. The therapist believes in client’s inherent process of development. It is very important for the therapist to believe that the client is the only expert on his own life. While performing the process in that way, not the problem is being focused on, but the focus lies on the client as a person, with all his feelings and experience.

The core conditions of the person-centered approach are:

1. Congruence:

Reserch has prooved that, in therapeutic relationship, personal change is facilitated when the psychotherapist is what he is, when he is genuine and without front or facade. It means that the therapist is being his feelings, openly and congruent, he can be whatever he is experiencing in the moment, and is not afraid to be open, transparent about these emotions or to communicate them if necessary.

No one can ever fully achieve this condition, yet the more the therapist is able to listen to what is going on within himself, the more he is being seen as genuine and congruent and the more probability there is that change in clients personality will occur.

2. Positive regard:

Positive regard means that the therapist cares for the client in a non-possesive way, that he prizes the client in a non-conditional way. Ther therapist is not accepting the client when he is behaving in a certain way, nor does he disapprove him when he is behaving in other ways. It means having positive and acceptant attitude toward the client, kind of caring for the client, just the way he is.

Research studies show that the more this attitude is experienced by the therapist, the more likelihood there is that the therapy will be successful.

3. Empathy:

Empathy as a condition of person centered approach does not have anything to do with feeling sorry for the client, nor does it mean superficial understanding or interpretating clients feelings.
The therapist is being empathic when he is trying to see the world with clients eyes. It means sensing the feelings and personal meanings which the client ist experiencing. When the therapist can perceive thees from “inside”, as they seem to the client, and when he can successfully communicate some of that understanding to his client, than this third condition is fufilled.

The goal of the psychotherapy is to achieve changes in client’s behavior and experience jointly. At the very beginning it is important to make the client explore himself, which means the client has to get in touch with his/her emotions and attempt to verbalize them. Certainly, while carrying out this process, the presence, the here and now is much more relevant than the past.

The encounter and the dialogue should help the client to handle his situation better. It does not have to lead to a complete solution of the problem. Rogers describes the psychotherapy as a development process. As soon as the client recognizes his incongruence and learns how to live with it, the modifications in one’s behavior will start to emerge.

The respectful, trustful and equivalent kind of relationship between the client and the therapist has a leading part in that process. The therapist has to be eager to empathize with the client, to show genuine interest in client’s world. Not only does the therapist have to wish to help the client, he also has to feel an honest desire to get to know him. The therapist is not the expert who will offer solutions to the problem, he reveals himself as a person with feelings and weaknesses. The client learns to accept himself just the way he is, also the bad sides of himself and the weaknesses. Through the unconditional positive regard that the therapist shows towards him, the client learns to value himself.

At a first glance one could assume, that the person-centered approach would be quite simple to practice. Through the therapist’s approach, defined by the core conditions, optimal personal characteristics will unfold. But the consequent adherence of these conditions while discovering one’s personality is often quite challenging.

The fact that the person-centered approach does not involve any rigid technics enables the therapist to create his own personal style. Every client can be approached in a most personal, individual way that suites him, which definitely complies with the person-centered approach, as long as the three variables are kept.

It is my personal opinion in which the person-centered approach can and should serve as the basis for all other psychotherapy methods, since it cannot be expected, that without these conditions, a healing, personality developing process can arise. This kind of healing relationship makes it.

  • Rogers, Carl, Schmid, Peter F., Person-zentriert; Mainz, 1991
  • Rogers, Carl, On becoming a person, München, 1961
  • Kollbrunner, Jörg, Das Buch der humanistischen Psychologie, Eschborn,1987
  • Frenzel, Peter, Schmid, Peter F, Winkler, Marietta, Handbuch der Personenzentrierten Psychotherapie; Köln, 1992
  • Rogers, Carl, Eine Theorie der Psychotherapie, der Persönlichkeit und der zwischenmenschichen Beziehungen, Köln, 1987
  • Bommert, Hanko, Grundlagen der Gesprächspsychotherapie, Stuttgart, 1977
  • Rüdiger Minsel, Wolf, Praxis der Gesprächspsychotherapie, Reinheim, 1979
  • Rogers, Carl, Die Kraft des Guten, München, 1978
  • Rogers, Carl, Die nicht-direktive Beratung, München, 1972