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Person-centred Therapy

A process that aims to increase a person’s self-esteem and encourages self-reliance

Person-centred therapy is based on the concept that an individual’s behaviour arises from their inner feelings and self-image rather than from their responses to people or past experiences. Person-centred therapists avoid interpreting or explaining the information a person gives them, in contrast to therapists in psychoanalytic-based therapies. Instead, the therapist gives a person support as he or she develops greater self-esteem and self-reliance.

The person-centred therapist is non-directive and helps to clarify a person’s feelings and thoughts rather than telling him or her what to do or think.

When is it used?

Person-centred therapy may be used to treat long-term depression and low self-esteem. This therapy is also used in crisis intervention to help people who are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by multiple stressful events. These events may be a combination of stresses such as problems at work, the failure of a marriage, or a physical or sexual assault. Person-centred therapy can be helpful in providing support, especially to individuals who need to work through their difficulties in an environment that feels safe.

Person-centred therapy is not often recommended for people with severe disorders, such as schizophrenia, in which the individual has no insight into his or her behaviour. Nor is this therapy considered appropriate for a person with severe mood swings (see Bipolar affective disorder) or obsessive–compulsive disorder.

What does it involve?

You and your therapist sit face to face while you speak about yourself, your relationships, and your environment. From time to time, your therapist summarizes what you have said but does not judge or interpret it.

You will probably see your therapist for a weekly session of about 1 hour. The duration of the treatment depends on the time it takes you to feel more confident and in control of your life. It may take months if you are trying to overcome a specific crisis, such as the loss of a loved one. However, if you have a less specific problem, such as long-term depression, it may take more than a year.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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