The first necessary and sufficient condition for therapeutic change is a congruent therapist. Congruence exists when a person's organismic experiences are matched by an awareness of them and by an ability and willingness to openly express these feelings (Rogers, 1980). To be congruent means to be real or genuine, to be whole or integrated to be what one truly is. Rogers (1995) spoke about congruence hi these words:
In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not ... It does not help to act calm and pleasant when actually I am angry and critical. It does not help to act as though I were permissive when I am really feeling that I would like to set limits. ... It does not help to act as though I were acceptant of another person when underneath that exterior I feel rejection, (p. 9)
A congruent counselor, then, is not simply a kind and friendly person but rather a complete human being with feelings of joy, anger, frustration, confusion, and so on. When these feelings are experienced they are neither denied nor distorted but flow easily mto awareness and are freely expressed. A congruent therapist, therefore, is not passive, not aloof, and definitely not "nondirective."
Congruent therapists are not static. Like most other people, they are constantly exposed to new organismic experiences, but unlike most people, they accept these experiences into awareness, which contributes to then psychological growth. They wear no mask, do not attempt to fake a pleasant facade, and avoid any pretense of friendliness and affection when these emotions are not truly felt. Also, they do not fake anger, toughness, or ignorance, nor do they cover up feelings of joy, elation, or happiness. In addition, they are able to match feelings with awareness and both with honest expression.
Because congruence involves (1) feelings, (2) awareness, and (3) expression, incongruence can arise from either of the two points dividing these tlnee experiences. First, there can be a breakdown between feelings and awareness. A person may be feeling angry, and the anger may be obvious to others; but the angry person is unaware of the feeling. "I'm not angry. How dare you say I'm angry!" The second source of incongruence is a discrepancy between awareness of an experience and the ability or willingness to express it to another. "I know I'm feeling bored by what is bemg said but I don't dare verbalize my disinterest because my client will think that I am not a good therapist." Rogers (1961) stated that therapists will be more effective if they communicate genuine feelings, even when those feelings are
- negative or threatening.
Effective client-centered therapy requires a congruent counseler who To do Otherwise WOuld feels empathy and unconditional positive regard for the client. be dishonest, and clients will detect—though not necessarily consciously—any significant indicators of incongruence.
Although congruence is a necessary ingredient in successful therapy, Rogers (1980) did not believe that it is necessary for a therapist to be congruent in all relationships outside the therapeutic process. One can be less than perfect and yet become an effective psychotherapist. Also, a therapist need not be absolutely congruent hi order to facilitate some growth within a client. As with unconditional positive regard and empathie listening, different degrees of congruence exist. The more the client perceives each of these qualities as characterizing the therapist, the more successful will be the therapeutic process.
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