Phenomenology is a branch of western philosophy which, starting from E. Husserl‘s phenomenological method, takes as its motto the central idea that new discoveries can be made “if we return to the things themselves“. Those already-made principles and other prior understandings that we regularly use to understand things, experience or phenomena, are ‘put aside’ as much as possible to let the ‘new’ emerge. This is not an easy way of thinking as we are all ‘naturally’ immersed every day in the ‘taken-for-granted’, not least in the very language we have no choice but use to describe what we perceive.
The phenomenological implications in the domain of Psychotherapy & Counselling are for the most part illustrated by the American psychologist and founder of the humanistic approach to psychology Carl Rogers (1902-1987). In my view, it is doubtless the case that Rogers offers a reliable and crucial foundation for practitioners new in the field of psychotherapy and counselling. This book is a selection from Rogers’ published work and develops the ‘client-centred’ approach to therapy. Rogers’ concern is mainly based around three principal ideas which are ultimately meant to form such an integral part of the therapist practice as to become ‘a way of being’, as opposed to merely be used as a therapeutic technique.
C. Rogers reduced the phenomenological tradition to what he termed the ‘three core conditions’ which he understodd were essential for therapists to do their job: 1) Congruence: the therapist is meant to be ‘real’ in that he/she is directly and genuinely in touch with the various feelings which emerge in the session, and most importantly, act accordingly. 2) Unconditional positive regard: the client is accepted ‘unconditionally’ as a person without any judgement on the part of the therapist. 3) Empathy: the therapist ‘imagines’ how it is for the client in the situation he or she is presenting in order to apprehend better and consolidate the therapeutic alliance.
Whilst in my view the person-centred approach is arguably the most appropriate start in the domain of psychotherapy and counselling, it is also true that Carl Rogers was born and raised in the West American humanist tradition of the 60’s. In the light of other theories (psychoanalytical, existential and post-modern) the person-centred approach could appear somehow to be based on a positive ‘can-do attitude’ whereby the mind is in absolute control. How about the Others and the society at large? What influence does it have on us? How about those ulterior motives so deeply ingrained in us and which we don’t have immediate access to? Indeed there doesn’t seem to be any place in Rogers for what the Others think of us and how they influence our feelings. Perhaps those questions show the limits of the client-centred approach which remains nonetheless very insightful towards a general approach to psychotherapy and counselling.
- See Working at the Relational Depth
- Click here to watch some useful lectures online
- The Carl Rogers Reader has contributed to some understanding towards my qualitative research using a phenomenological research method, found here
- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Robinson; Reprint edition (23 April 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0094698406
- ISBN-13: 978-0094698406