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CARL ROGERS SPEAKS on CHARACTERISTICS of EFFECTIVE COUNSELING 1985 This is a transcription of informal remarks made by Rogers to initiate discussion among a group of counselors and counselor trainees at a workshop directed by Natalie Rogers.(ed) I think that one of the things that really differentiates the Person-Centered or Client-Centered Approach from other kinds of therapy is that there’smuch more trust in the basic trustworthiness of the human organism. I’ve come to realize more and more that there’s a sharp difference. In orthodox psychoanalysis the core personality needs to be tamed -- it’s wild, destructive, needs to be socialized. In a lot of religions, persons are conceived in sin and they’re born evil. And only by the grace of God can they be saved and so forth. I understandthat many, many people believe that people are essentially evil. It’s just that in my experience that is not the case. I find continually in working with people, people who’ve done destructive things, who’ve hurt others, who’ve been hurtful people, but as you get to know them, as bit by bit you peel aside the layers of the onion you find that at the core the person is truly constructive, notnegative and evil in nature. That’s one characteristic that distinguishes the Client-Centered and Person-Centered Approach, the philosophy that underlies the whole thing. I should say, too, I don’t think that the philosophy that one adopts is something above the experiences. As you get to know people more and more deeply, if you should find the opposite of what I’m saying, then you would believe theopposite. And if you find that people inwardly are trustworthy then you might believe that human nature at its very most basic is positive or constructive. People say it’s [that people are] “Good.” I don’t know it’s good, that’s a kind of moral judgement. Just as you see a deer or bear or lion or whatever, they’re positive. They may kill animals for food and various things seeming harsh, but it’s notanything evil in their nature. It’s a constructive aspect of their survival. I don’t know what to call them; but the attitudes or mind-set or characteristics of the effective counselor are very important. I never know what order to present them in but perhaps the simplest to talk about, and the most difficult to achieve, is empathy. Empathy can be just a word, just mean listening, or it can be anexceedingly intense attempt to capture or understand the inner world of the person you’re dealing with – with all the nuances of feeling and meaning and so on which are real for him or her -- not for you but for him or her. That’s particularly evident when you’re dealing with someone of a different culture, where their attitudes toward the family for example, are different from your own, or theirattitudes towards the opposite sex are quite different from your own. Can you catch the attitude or feeling that person has and understand it as it is in him or her? It’s a very demanding task. And the notion of just listening is far from catching what it contains. And then in responding empathically…I don’t quite remember how the phrase, “reflection of feeling” got started but I don’t like it;it’s too shallow, much too shallow. When one is endeavoring to capture the whole inner world of this person, that takes all you have. It means laying aside something of yourself, of your own personal values and attitudes in order to

really catch the attitudes of the other person. And the only way to do that is if you have enough assurance that you can return to your own self and your own valuesif you wish to. You don’t get lost in the world of the other. That [getting lost] can happen, it’s most uncomfortable. It’s not helpful to the other person and it’s certainly not helpful to you. The best of all, is to really enter this other person’s world, knowing that you can return to your own world. And in responding to that [other person’s world], each response, in my estimation, is simply...
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