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Some Comments On Its Context And Content (Discussion paper)
in pdf format, and may be shared for the purposes of promoting discussion within the P-C community.
Can everyone keep Alberto informed of any feedback?
Email: "Alberto S. Segrera" firstname.lastname@example.org
It's also posted here below (although the pdf is easier to read!)
THE NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS FOR PERSONALITY CHANGE
SOME COMMENTS ON ITS CONTEXT AND CONTENT
23 March 2011
Alberto S. Segrera
For some time I have felt moved to reflect on my present understanding of Rogers’ The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change and to share with other members of the Person-Centered community comments on the context and content of this paper
This theme has been of interest to me since the beginning of my involvement with Client-Centered Therapy and, later, with the Person-Centered Approach.
It was the subject of my “memoire”: Les attitudes du thérapeute rogérien: Théorie et recherche (The attitudes of the Rogerian therapist: Theory and Research) to obtain my Licence en Psychologie at the Université Catholique de Louvain in September 1967. I beg you to be kind enough to humor my passion about it.
All opinions are welcome; they will certainly enrich a new paper I intend to write on the subject.
To understand the terminology used in Rogers publications during the second half of the 1950s it is worthwhile to take into consideration that:
- during that period, he was trying to make his ideas recognized by the psychological establishment of the time, that was very keen to classic experimental and operational ideas.
- Carl was a careful author and revised his writings before publishing them and also after.
A THEORY OF THERAPY, PERSONALITY, AND INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, AS DEVELOPED IN THE CLIENT-CENTERED FRAMEWORK
- Carl worked, probably since 1954, on a large scope presentation of his theories, in response to a “formal request from the American Psychological Association (…) to prepare a systematic statement of this developing theory” (Rogers, 1955/1959, p. 185). He also comments that “in the invitation to participate in the APS study, I have been asked to cast our theoretical thinking in terminology of the independent-intervening-dependent variable (…) [and says] I regret that I find this terminology somewhat uncongenial” (Rogers, 1955/1959, p. 189) and states his reasons for it.
- A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework was shared with colleagues and friends of the Chicago Counseling Center in 1955, one year before The necessary conditions.
Rogers, Carl R. (1955). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework. Counseling Center Discussion Papers, 1(5), 72 pp.
- The more publicly known version appeared in 1959:
Rogers, Carl R. (1955/1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships. as developed in the client-centered framework. In Koch, Sigmund (Ed.), Psychology: A study of a science: Formulations of the person and the social context (pp. 184-256). New York, New York, USA: McGraw-Hill.
- This last version has been reproduced several times, in full or abridged form:
Rogers, Carl R. (1959/1965). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework. In Lindzey, Gadner; & Hall, Calvin (Eds.), Theories of personality: Primary sources and research (pp. 469-477). New York, New York, USA: Wiley.
Rogers, Carl R. (1959/1989). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework: The general structure of our systematic thinking. Kirschenbaum, Howard; & Land Henderson, Valerie (Eds.), The Carl Rogers reader (pp. 236-257). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin.
- It has been brought to my attention that the unabridged version of Rogers' theoretical statement (in Koch, 1959), although otherwise out-of-print, now exists online and can be accessed in pdf format via: http://bit.ly/rogers-1959-upgrade (with thanks to Mark Harrison for the painstaking reformatting work).
- I personally consider this work as fundamental to the understanding of Carl’s theories and his implicit initial development towards what we know today as Person-Centered Approach as a larger framework that includes therapy and at the same time embraces many other realms of human existence.
THE NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT CONDITIONS OF THERAPEUTIC PERSONALITY CHANGE
- During the same period, probably starting in 1954, Carl worked on his statement specifically addressing, therapy, the necessary conditions of “constructive personality change” (Rogers, 1956, p. 4).
Carl comments: “One of the current products (…) is an attempt to state, in formal terms, a theory of psychotherapy, of personality and of interpersonal relationships which will encompass and contain the phenomena of my experiences. [and clarifies:] What I wish to do in this paper is to take one very small segment of that theory, spell it out more completely, and explore its meaning and usefulness” (Rogers, 1956, p. 1).
- In this paper, Carl centers on how the therapist is to conduct therapy to be helpful to the client.
- The necessary conditions was shared with colleagues and friends of the Chicago Counseling Center in 1956.
Rogers, Carl R. (1956). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Counseling Center Discussion Papers, 2(8), 28 pp. [April].
- The most publicly known version, in which Carl changes some of the terminology to take into consideration his audience, appeared in 1957:
Rogers, Carl R. (1956/1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21(2), 95-103.
- This last version has been reproduced several times, in full or abridged form:
Rogers, Carl R. (1956/1978). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Emlcrest Classic of the Month, 3(11), 1 + 16 pp. [November]
Rogers, Carl R. (1956/1978). Abstract and commentary (to The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change). Current Contents, 18(27), 14.
Rogers, Carl R. (1956/1989). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. In Kirschenbaum, Howard; & Land Henderson, Valerie (Eds.), The Carl Rogers reader (pp. 219-235). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin.
GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS
Necessity and sufficiency of the conditions
- Carl recognizes as possible the existence of other conditions in Rogers (1962). The interpersonal relationship: The core of guidance. Harvard Educational Review, 32(4), p. 422:
“I regard as entirely possible that there are other conditions which I have not described, which are also essential (…) perhaps there are still elements missing which I have not captured in my formulation”.
- He admits that it is probably impossible to establish the necessity and/or sufficiency of the conditions in Rogers, C.R. and Truax, C.B. (1967). The therapeutic conditions antecedent to change: A theoretical view, in Rogers, C. R.; Gendlin, E. T. ; Kiesler, D. J.; & Truax, C. B. (Eds.). (1967). The therapeutic relationship and its impact: A study of psychotherapy with schizophrenics. Madison, Wisconsin, USA: University of Wisconsin Press (pp. 98-99):
“Though it would be difficult if not impossible to establish the necessity and or sufficiency of these three therapist’s conditions, this theoretical statement has had considerable heuristic value. It has been the springboard for a number of significant studies. By setting forth a rigorous and reasonably well-defined set of hypotheses, it has made possible a testing of the effectiveness of these conditions.
Dichotomous or gradual character of human functioning
- Rogers has spoken about the process character of human functioning in several papers, among them:
Rogers, C. R. (1959b). A tentative scale for the measurement of process in psychotherapy. In Rubinstein & Parlof (Eds.), Research in psychotherapy, Vol. 1 (pp. 96-108). Washington, District of Columbia: American Psychological Association.
Walker, A. M., Rablen, R. A. & Rogers, C. R. (1960). Development of a scale to measure process changes in psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 16(1), 79-85.
- In my opinion, the process elements stated by Rogers are common to all persons (clients as well as therapists, teachers and students, bosses and subordinates, husband and wife, parents and children, etc). All the specific situations mentioned above may be considered as circumstantial; being a person in process is a continuous aspect of our human life. I addressed this issue in 1982, in a presentation to the First International Forum in the Person-Centered Approach. Oaxtepec, Mexico, 1982, published as
Segrera, Alberto S. (1982/1984). Becoming being: Reflections from the perspective of the therapeutic scales. En Segrera, Alberto S. (Ed.), Proceedings of the 1st International Forum on the Person-Centered Approach (pp. 779-804). México, Distrito Federal, Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana.
- From this point of view, the sixth conditions can be seen in all of us in terms of degrees of functioning in the process of becoming a person.
Influence of both persons involved on the character of the relationship
- The fact that Carl centers on how the therapist is to conduct therapy to be helpful to the client has led some to have the impression that the therapist is the one that influences and even determines the success of the process. This goes contrary to the actualizing therapy and the client being responsible for his own process.
- I believe that all persons involved in helping relationship (client as well as therapist) contribute to its climate, process and results, as in all human relationships.
COMMENTS ON SPECIFIC CONDITIONS (Rogers, 1956/1957, p. 96)
Condition 1. Two persons are in psychological contact.
In the 1956 version, Carl says (p. 4): That two persons are in relationship.
I personally regret that Rogers abandoned “relationship” in favor of “psychological contact” in the 1957 version. I consider “relationship” more congruent with the experiential/existential character of Carl’s theories of human relationships, even though probably less acceptable from an operational point of view.
Carl asks for a minimum degree of relationship, that only requires the “awareness of both client and therapist” (1957/1957, p. 96).
I agree with Prouty in not taking for granted that a comatose person does not at least subceive the other person’s presence.
Condition 2. The first [person], whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious.
This condition has been interpreted by many as if being congruent or incongruent is a dichotomous possibility, instead of recognizing that congruence-incongruence is a continuum where we all find our place. Considering the circumstances of present day life, I wonder if any of us (including therapists) does not experience some degree of vulnerability or anxiety.
Condition 3. The second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship
Based on similar reasons as the ones stated in Condition 2, I believe that to work as a therapist it is useful to be able to maintain a fairly high degree of congruence for others.
Carl specifies “in the relationship”. I believe that, with all due nuances, it also applies to our general way of functioning in our human relationships.
Condition 4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.
I believe that it is impossible to ask from any person (including therapists) to maintain continuous total unconditional positive regard in any relationship.
My reading of it is that to work as a therapist it is useful to be able to maintain a fairly high degree of unconditional positive regard for others.
Condition 5. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client.
I believe that it is impossible to reach total empathic understanding of any other person’s (internal) frame of reference.
I believe there is a difference between experiencing and communicating.
I think that Carl is mixing experiencing and communicating the experiencing in one condition and that it would be good to separate these two aspects.
Condition 6. The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved.
I agree with the perception by the client being essential, the endeavor of the therapist not being enough.
It is curious to note that in condition 5 Carl only refers to endeavoring to communicate empathic understanding and in Condition 6 he speaks of the need for empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard to reach the client, and that he doesn’t mention congruence at all.
I believe that perception of the therapist congruence is an important element.
PERSONAL RESTATEMENT OF THE CONDITIONS FOR PROMOTING CONSTRUCTIVE PERSONALITY CHANGE
Based on the preceding comments, I suggest the following restatement of the conditions for the promotion of constructive personality change:
- Conditions of Presence
Condition 1. The two persons involved in this specific relationship experience at least a minimum degree of being mutually present to the other.
Condition 2. The person involved as client experiences a low degree of congruence in his/her life process, being vulnerable or anxious.
Condition 3. The person involved as therapist experiences a fairly high degree of congruence or integration in the relationship.
Condition 4. The person involved as therapist experiences a fairly high degree of unconditional positive regard for the person involved as client.
Condition 5: The person involved as therapist experiences a fairly high degree of empathic understanding of the frame of reference of the person involved as client.
- Conditions of Communication
Condition 6. The person involved as therapist endeavors to communicate these experiences of congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding to the person involved as client.
Condition 7. The person involved as client perceives the congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding experienced by the person involved as therapist.
USEFUL ALTERNATIVE PAPERS
It may also be useful to consult two papers by Rogers on the helping/interpersonal relationship, addressed to audiences different from the traditional psychological establishment, which offer alternative, complementary perspectives to The necessary conditions.
The characteristics of a helping relationship
Rogers, Carl R. (1958). The characteristics of a helping relationship. Counseling Center Discussion Papers, 4(14), 23 pp.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958). The characteristics of a helping relationship. Presentation [closing session] at the Annual Convention of the American Personnel and Guidance Association. St. Louis (Sheraton-Jefferson Hotel), Missouri, USA: American Personnel and Guidance Association; April 3.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958). The characteristics of a helping relationship. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 37(1), 6-16.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958/1961). The characteristics of a helping relationship. In On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy (pp. 39-58). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958/1964). The characteristics of a helping relationship. In Bennis, Warren G.; Schein, Edgar H.; & Berlew), David E. (Eds.), Interpersonal dynamics: Essays and readings on human interaction (pp. 309-325). Homewood, Illinois, USA: Dorsey Press.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958/1968). The characteristics of a helping relationship [excerpts]. In Gordon, Thomas, Parent effectiveness training: An educational experience for those who take parenthood seriously: Parent notebook (pp.31-34). Pasadena, California, USA.
Rogers, Carl R. (1958/1989). The characteristics of a helping relationship. In Kirschenbaum, Howard; & Land Henderson, Valerie (Ed.), The Carl Rogers reader (pp. 108-126). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Houghton Mifflin.
The interpersonal relationship: The core of guidance
Rogers, Carl R. (1962). The interpersonal relationship: The core of guidance. Harvard Educational Review, 32(4), 416-429.
Rogers, Carl R. (1962/1967). The interpersonal relationship: The core of guidance. In Rogers, Carl R; & Stevens, Barry, Person to person: The problem of being human: A new trend in psychology (pp. 89-103). Moab, Utah, USA: Real People Press.
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