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Counselling Psychology. Development of Person Centred Counselling. Existentialism, Humanism and Gestalt Psychology. Development of Person Centred Counselling. Carl Rogers. Jean-Paul Sartre. Fritz Perls. Humanism. Man seen as being-in-the-process-of-becoming.

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development of person centred counselling

Development of Person Centred Counselling

Existentialism, Humanism and Gestalt Psychology

development of person centred counselling1
Development of Person Centred Counselling

Carl Rogers

Jean-Paul Sartre

Fritz Perls

  • Man seen as being-in-the-process-of-becoming.
  • a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion.
  • any outlook or way of life centred on human need and interest.
  • Psychology with a place for human creativity, growth and choice.

Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy for those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives

and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead

of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, Humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a

quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails.


Philosophical movement emphasising individual existence, freedom, and choice

  • Capacity for self-awareness: we can reflect and make choices, the more aware, the greater the possibilities
  • Freedom and responsibility
  • Striving for identity AND relationships with others
  • We search for meaning in a meaningless world
  • Anxiety is a condition of living
  • Awareness of death and non-being

“The price of denying death is undefined anxiety, self-alienation”

Rollo May

existentialism and humanism
Existentialism and Humanism
  • Share a respect for client’s subjective experience
  • Both trust client to make positive conscious choices
  • Both emphasise the vocabulary of freedom: choice; values; personal responsibility; autonomy; purpose and meaning
  • Existentialists argue we are faced with the anxiety of choosing to create a never secure identity in a world that lacks intrinsic meaning
  • Humanists argue each of us has within us a nature and potential that we can actualise and through which we can find meaning
  • Humanistic, Existential, and linked to Psychoanalysis!
  • The importance of viewing humans as a whole rather than as a sum of discretely functioning parts is key.
  • ‘Gestalt’ is a German word and relates to organisation and patterns.
gestalt an alternative to person centredness
Gestalt (an alternative to person centredness?)
  • Applies ideas from drama, clients enact emotional issues.
  • Emphasis on internal conflict.
  • Hostile to over-intellectualism or what Perls called “Bullshit”.
  • Emphasis on here-and-now, removing blocks and unfinished business.
  • Lots of practical methods but limited theoretically (according to some critics.
person centred gestalt
Person Centred / Gestalt
  • Both focus on process, authenticity and fulfilment.
  • Both reject diagnosis and labelling.
  • Both value self-acceptance and gut feelings.
  • Gestalt experiments can seem directive to p-c counsellors.
  • The Gestalt focus on splits in the self differs from p-c counsellors focus on uniting self and organism.
development of gestalt
Development of Gestalt
  • Much less focus on group work and more on individual therapy.
  • Strong emphasis on uniting biological and social – holistic.
  • Recognising the Gestalts of life through a cycle of awarness.
  • Knowing what you feel in your bones, recognising your hearts desire.
therapeutic strategies
Therapeutic Strategies
  • Awareness training: like meditation, attending to the body, bio-feedback etc.
  • Polarities: exploring opposite extremes of our qualities…
  • Recognising interruptions and avoidance mechanisms (important things withheld, glossed over, not recognising own needs, habitual contact styles).
  • And…resistance (to desires), transference, experiements

It relies a lot on the therapist (power…?)


Is it ok for therapists to be confrontational?

  • Would you feel comfortable using these techniques?
  • How would the focus on techniques affect a client?
  • Is the focus on feelings healthy?
  • Dialogue exercise: often about the war between the ‘top dog’ and the ‘underdog’! Accept parts of your personality often ignored and explore..empty chair techniques
  • Making the rounds: speak to everyone in a group, confront, risk, disclose.. ‘I take responsibility for’ or reversals…
  • Rehearsal exercises…..
  • Exaggeration techniques…
  • Staying with unpleasant feelings
  • Dreams important but not interpreted or analysed
  • The dream must be brought back to life and relived
  • Listing details, , remembering the people, the events the moods
  • A dream is assumed to be a projection of the self, expressions of our contradictory and inconsistent sides
  • See the dream as a script and experiment with the roles and arguements
existential therapy
Existential Therapy
  • Daseinanalysis: drawing on Heidegger and psychoanalysis, Binswanger and Boss critique Freud, but retain dream analysis, free association, and even the couch! Help clients open themselves up to their world, dreams manifestations of world openness and world cosedness.
  • Logotherapy: Viktor Frankl wanted to help people discover purpose in their lives. Logos = meaning. We must overcome feelings of meaninglessness and despair. Can be directive – the appealing technique, Socratic dialogue, paradoxical intention and dereflection.
existential therapy1
Existential Therapy
  • Existential Humanistic Approach: Rollo May focused on helping clients achieve personal autonomy, independence and subjective self-awareness. Pragmatic, optimistic and eclectic, it aims to help people grow. We must meet the anxiety of existence with an attitude of decisiveness and resolve. We must not resist our in the moment feelings and be authentic, or ‘present’ to others. We must live with ‘givens’ such as death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness, finiteness, potential to act, choice, awareness, separateness and embodiedness.
existential therapy2
Existential Therapy
  • There is no escape from freedom; we are always responsible! (authenticity)
  • Freedom makes us anxious: we fear being responsible for ourselves
  • We must help clients face the anxiety of choosing for themselves and accepting they are not victims
  • Clients must engage in action based on ‘authentic’ purpose - to create a worthy existence
  • Clients must listen to what they already know about themselves: bringing out the latent ‘aliveness’ of the client
rollo may says
Rollo May says…..

People come to therapy with the self-serving illusion

that they are inwardly enslaved and that someone else

(the therapist) can free them:-

“The purpose of psychotherapy is not to ‘cure’ the

clients but to help them become aware of what they are

doing and to get them out of the ‘victim role’

experience of the client
Experience of the client
  • Trading the security of dependence for the anxiety of choosing for themselves
  • Cannot change events but can view them differently; can make new decisions
  • Cannot blame others; must not avoid freedom or evade choices
  • Must not become what others expect us to be; we are ultimately ‘alone’ and isolated
  • Life is meaningless and hollow; we must create our own meaning
  • Anxiety is a condition of living; we are accountable to ourselves; proportionate anxiety can lead to growth
the centrality of death
The Centrality of Death

Each man must die his own death

You cannot die for anyone will have to die your own, unique, death.

But probably we do not fully realise what it means to 'be' something that will one day cease to 'be'. To understand what it means to 'be', perhaps we have to fully understand what it means 'not to be'.

If we must die our own death, does it follow that we all 'live our own lives'?

To be authentic, to have an authentic existence, we must have an explicit awareness of what it means to 'be', a human being, in the world.... and also what it means not to be. But perhaps we cannot ever fully experience death - "If death is there, you aren't, if you are there, death isn't" - and therefore can never fully experience life.

From Galvin, Commentary on ‘Being and Time’