In Client-Centered Therapy, Dr. Nathaniel J. Raskin demonstrates this Rogerian style of therapy. This empathic approach is based on the empirically proven fact that a safe, accepting relationship between the therapist and client is key to the process of client self-discovery and actualization. In this video, Dr. Raskin works with a 30-year-old woman, named Cynthia, who is trying to understand why she seems to be drawn into relationships with violent men.
As a client-centered therapist, Dr. Raskin tries to convey to his client implicitly, and occasionally explicitly, this cluster of attitudes: "I believe I can be of most help to you by offering you a relationship in which I try to understand, in your own terms, your problems, your feelings, your hopes and fears, the way you see yourself and others. As we go along, you will be able to correct me when I am off the mark. Working with you in this way, I hope to help you clarify the problems that brought you here and how you might resolve them, to come to know yourself more fully, and to become more of the person you want to be. I see myself more as a companion in this search than the traditional expert who figures out what is wrong with you. I won't try to change you to fit my model of what you should be but will respect your values. I'll look to you to bring up whatever you choose in each session, to decide how often you would like to meet, and when you would like to stop coming."
Client-centered therapy was put forward by Carl Rogers in 1940 as an alternative to the existing orientations that relied on guidance or interpretation. Using electronically recorded cases, citing a growing body of research, and eschewing diagnosis, Rogers provided evidence that an orderly process of client self-discovery and actualization occurred in response to the provision by the therapist of a consistent empathic understanding of the client's frame of reference, based on an attitude of acceptance and respect. This was later refined into Rogers' triad of the "necessary and sufficient conditions" of empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard, which were investigated in hundreds of research projects. Many of these research projects reported a correlation between these therapist-offered conditions and such client outcomes as the expansion of self-awareness; the enhancement of self-esteem; a greater reliance on self for one's values and standards; and a more free, spontaneous, and open mode of experiencing one's self and the world.
This videotaped example illustrates the consistent provision of client-centered empathy that makes this approach distinctive. This consistency is maintained when the client pleads for guidance; the therapist conveys his appreciation of the intensity of her wish and also makes explicit his conviction that there is no expert solution to her dilemma, and his willingness to stay with her in the difficult struggle of obtaining answers that are right for her. In this interview, "Cynthia" seems to respond positively to this approach in several ways. She takes the initiative generally in the exploration of her problems. She sees possible relationships between different areas of her life, such as her friendships with men and the way she grew up. She explores her relationships with her parents, sees a possible similarity between her own childhood and her father's, and wonders about the quality of the relationship that exists between her parents. She also arrives at the conclusion that she may be able to arrive at her own answers. The fact that "Cynthia" is an actress who has been provided with specific background information and the basis for a script may contribute to the fact that her exploration of issues during the interview is largely lateral; there is more "side-to-side" movement than forward progress. Although interviews with real clients using this approach, including demonstration interviews, may exhibit some of this "I suddenly remember this..." or "I wonder if this could be connected with that" behavior, they usually include a more consistent pursuit of unresolved issues, such as the reason for Cynthia's sudden outburst of anger.
Nathaniel J. Raskin, PhD, received an MA from Ohio State University in 1941 and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1949. He studied with Carl Rogers at both universities.
Currently, Dr. Raskin is professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Medical School, where he taught and did research in a clinical psychology program for 34 years. Since 1980, he has taught in person-centered learning programs in Italy, France, Switzerland, England, Slovakia, and Hungary and has spoken by invitation in Rome, Amsterdam, Cork, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. He continues a part-time private psychotherapy practice that began in 1950.
Dr. Raskin is a diplomate in clinical psychology, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, a Distinguished Alumnus in Psychology at the City College of the City University of New York, and was president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists from 1978–80.
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- Zimring, F. M., & Raskin, N. J. (1992). Carl Rogers and client/person-centered therapy. In D. K. Freedheim (Ed.), History of psychotherapy: A century of change (pp. 629–656). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
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