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By Danny Pettry II,  M ED., M S., LPC, NCC, CTRS-BHS

Carl Rogers, born in 1902, was an influential American psychologist and one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He is best known for his development of Person-Centered Therapy (PCT), also known as client-centered therapy.

The humanistic approach, also known as the person-centered approach, is a psychological perspective that emphasizes an individual’s inherent worth and capacity for self-determination. It focuses on the positive aspects of human nature and emphasizes personal growth and self-actualization.

This approach is considered helpful because it promotes a strong therapeutic alliance between the therapist and the client, which can lead to increased trust, self-awareness, and personal growth. It allows individuals to explore their feelings, thoughts, and experiences in a nonjudgmental and accepting environment, enabling them to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their needs.

The three core principles of Person-Centered Therapy are:

1. Unconditional Positive Regard: The therapist provides a nonjudgmental, accepting, and empathetic environment where the client feels valued and understood. This allows the client to explore their thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism or rejection.

2. Empathy: The therapist demonstrates understanding and compassion towards the client’s experiences and emotions. Through active listening and reflection, they seek to understand the client’s perspective fully.

3. Congruence: The therapist strives to be genuine and authentic in their interactions with the client. They aim to align their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a way that promotes honesty and transparency, creating a safe space for the client.

Tips for recreational therapists using a person-centered approach:

1. Build a strong rapport: Take the time to establish a trusting relationship with your clients. Showing genuine interest, respect, and empathy can help create a safe environment for them to express themselves.

2. Encourage self-expression through various activities: Provide recreational activities that allow your clients to explore their emotions and experiences, such as art therapy, music therapy, or journaling. These activities can help them gain insight and understanding of themselves.

3. Be an active listener: Practice active listening techniques, including paraphrasing and reflecting, to show your clients that you are fully engaged and interested in understanding their perspectives.

4. Practice empathy: Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and try to understand their feelings and experiences. Validate their emotions and provide support when needed.

5. Promote self-reflection: Encourage your clients to reflect on their experiences and think about their personal goals and values. Help them identify their strengths and areas for growth.

Discussion questions for recreational therapists:

1. How can a person-centered approach enhance the therapeutic relationship with your clients?

2. How can recreational activities facilitate self-expression and personal growth?

3. How can you cultivate an environment of nonjudgmental acceptance when working with clients?

4. How can you demonstrate empathy and understanding during recreational therapy sessions?

5. How can you encourage self-reflection and personal insight during recreational activities?