You always want a therapist who’s more interested in what you have to say than in what drugs you take

By Saybrook University

Carl Rogers When it was published nearly 50 years ago, Carl Rogers’ work Client-Centered Therapy inspired a generation of therapists and transformed psychology. 

It has remained relevant all this time, but over the years some – especially those who advocate replacing therapists with anti-depressants – have suggested that Rogers was too idealistic. Putting the patients humanity at the heart of therapy might sound nice, but it isn’t as effective as pharmacology or neurology at the hard headed business of getting clients in, out, and on with their lives.

Well, today new research is proving that Rogers was right.  A client-centered, humanistic, approach to psychology is effective, affirming … and has no side-effects

If you’re looking at the therapist, it’s not just common sense to find one who puts you at the center of your therapy – it’s established best practice.

The newest research comes from Barry Farber and Erin Doolin of Columbia University, who meta-analyzed positive regard and affirmation in the context of Carl Roger’s Client Centered Therapy.

Utilizing Roger’s definition of positive regard – “Real spontaneous praising; you can call that quality acceptance, you can call it caring, you can call it a non-possessive love. Any of those terms tend to describe it” – Doolin and Farber set out to understand its therapeutic effectiveness. They discovered that positive regard had a statistically significant positive impact on patient outcomes.

Positive regard was found to be especially important in multicultural context, and in counseling clients who have experienced trauma, anxiety, and high levels of stress;  but in all cases, effectively used positive regard deeply improved the “therapeutic alliance” between the therapist and patient, and the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions.

Farber and Doolin are not the first researchers to confirm the importance of Carl Rogers’ work.  In his pioneering book, How Clients Make Therapy Work, Saybrook faculty member Art Bohart systhesized considerable research showing that the human connection established between therapist and client is the most important factor in lasting therapeutic success.   He writes:

“For us, therapy is the process of trying to create a better problem-solving climate rather than one of trying to fix the person…Client involvement in the therapy process is the single most powerful force in investing life in therapy. The most important thing therapists can do to be helpful is to find ways of supporting, stimulating, and energizing client investment and involvement.”

This takes Rogers’ work to an expansively new level, through rigorous empirical research, succeeding where pills for every problem increasingly fail.  

— Liz Schreiber