Client Centered or Rogerian Counseling

The basic premise behind Client Centered (Rogerian) counseling (link to Skills in person-centred counselling & psychotherapy By Janet Tolan) is that the client is the best authority on her / his own experience, and it asserts that the client is fully capable of changing and growing into all that the client can and wants to be. However, the client – like all of us - needs favorable conditions in which to blossom and bloom.


“Founder”: Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987)

If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself [sic] the capacity to use that relationship for growth and change, and personal development will occur. – Carl Rogers


A good image of Rogerian counseling is of a plant – the counselor provides the growth-promoting climate and the client is then free and able to discover and grow as she / he wants and needs to. In a successful Client Centered session, the following characteristics will prevail:

• Empathy

• Acceptance or Unconditional Positive Regard

• Genuineness


The counselor accurately understands the client's thoughts and feelings from the client's own perspective. When the counselor is willing and able to experience the world from the client's point of view, it shows the client that her/his perspective has value and she/he is accepted.

Acceptance or Unconditional Positive Regard

The counselor accepts the client without conditions, without judgment. This frees the client to explore her/his thoughts and feelings, positive or negative, without danger of rejection or condemnation.


The counselor is authentic and does not put on a professional “I know best” façade. The counselor is “there” for the client and is “real”. In this way the client does not have to worry about what the counselor is really like or truly thinks.


Client Centered counselors would not say they use techniques – rather they have an approach of being empathetic, accepting and truly “there” for the client. Having said that the following skills are central:

• Active and empathic listening

• Reflection of content and feelings

• Genuineness which may include appropriate self-disclosure by counselor

Do the first two sound familiar? They should! We covered these when we learned basic counseling skills. If you have not already studied and practiced these or if you would like to review, click on these buttons on the LHS of your screen:

• Active Listening

• Encouraging Body Language

• Good Tone

• Open Ended and Closed Questions

• Paraphrasing

• Summarizing


Self-Disclosure falls under the notion of genuineness in Client Centered counseling, and can be a bit of a tricky area. Too much self-revelation and the client may lose respect for you; not enough and the client may think you are not a fellow human.

In our Sample Session One, we meet a counselor named Joan. In terms of her office environment, we might think it is a little too “genuine.” The client, Mary, could think Joan was loopy. And the “goodie bag”? That’s taking a risk. At the same time, Joan does not reveal anything about her personal life through her words. Precious talk time needs to be used by Mary and it is.

In Sample Session Four, Joan uses self-disclosure. When Mary expresses guilt about not talking to her mother enough, Joan assures her by saying, “Mary I want you to know that you aren’t alone in your struggles with your parents. I’m a daughter too and don’t call home as much as I think I should; and my daughter feels that way about me. OK, so this is a common challenge.”

This empathic, non-judgmental comment shows that Joan is very real – but in no way is Joan dominating the session or attempting to bend it to herself. She remains client centered.

Some good general guidelines about self disclosure: 1. First impressions are lasting impressions. What you wear and what your office looks like speak volumes about you. Try to find a balance. If you are eccentric, tone it down; if you are a minimalist, soften things with a plant and a picture.

2. Generally speaking, in the first session it is best not to reveal personal information about yourself. You don’t want the client to dislike you because of a non-essential disclosure.

3. Less is best. The session is about the client. She or he is not there to hear about you and your challenges, or to discuss the things you’d like to talk about.

4. If you do share an incident in your own life, make sure it’s one that had a positive resolution.

Further Reading and Video

Kitchen Table Wisdom


“On Becoming A Person” by Carl Rogers, Houghton Mifflin Books, 1995

"Kitchen Table Wisdom" by Rachel Naomi Remen, Rivertrade, 2006


Here is a sample of a Person Centered counseling session.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.

Just listen.

Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention...A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. - Rachel Naomi Remen

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