What is Person-centred Therapy?

Authentic, compassionate, and empathetic.

Person-centred therapy (also referred to as person-centred counselling) is an approach to therapy that is based on the observation that human beings are inherently (psychologically and biologically) social beings, and so we are often more able to be and know ourselves within a supportive relationship. The person-centred therapist’s primary role is therefore to offer a safe, genuine and caring relationship in which a person can relax, be themselves – even when that means being in pain or distress – and start to examine their own internal and external world.

What should I expect from James as a person-centred therapist?

As a person-centred therapist I will aim to be fully present with you in each moment, working to understand your experience as deeply as possible. I will aim to be genuine, warm and empathetic in my acceptance of you and your experiences. I will not push you into talking about painful feelings or experiences if you do not feel ready to do so, and nor will I hold you back from doing so when you want or need to.

Whilst I have received significant training in, and demonstrated competent understanding of, psychological theory, I will not be attempting to analyse, diagnose, or fix you based on a specific model or conception of mental health. This is because such an approach is reductive – psychological models are always simplifications and so can only ever capture part of what is happening within a human experience. As such, their application can be counter-productive as often as it is helpful. Most people don’t need to be told what they are experiencing as they already know, better than anyone else, what is happening for them. They are thus best placed to explore their experience and choose their own ways of moving forward.

If you would like to explore a certain psychological theory or concept that feels particularly relevant to you, bringing this to your sessions is fully welcome and fruitful. (I will just be guided by you in initiating such a discussion, if you want to).

Some people, understandably, begin therapy hoping for their therapist to provide answers to their problems. I do not offer this and am sceptical of those who suggest they can. If you do want me to give you an opinion on something specific that you are experiencing you are completely welcome to ask, and I might tentatively give you an opinion, if I can.

How does it help?

Every person and every therapeutic relationship is unique, so it is not possible to say exactly how therapy will help every person.

However, typically, the relationship is one in which a person feels they can be as honest as possible about their thoughts, feelings and experiences, both with me and themselves. My unconditional presence can also support people to go deeper into difficult aspects of their experience than they could on their own, or within other relationships. Under such conditions people often identify thoughts or beliefs that they did not realise were holding them back, and grow to accept and appreciate themselves as they already are. It is also not uncommon for people to reassess their life situation and to make significant changes that they had not previously imagined making, but which reduce stress and bring joy.

In all, it is typical for pain, distress, anxiety and depression to, over time, reduce, and for feelings of empowerment and joy to become more prevalent, as a result of the high quality person-centred therapy I offer.

How many sessions do I need?

This is totally down to you. Some people start therapy and find it so helpful they continue for many months or years. Others just want help getting through a particularly stressful, worrying, sad or challenging period and may only have a few sessions. Whilst the longer a person stays in therapy the more change they are likely to experience, it is possible for people to find relief from acute distress within a short course of therapy of between one and six sessions. Some people have a therapist who they will return to from time to time over a number of years, rather than having continual therapy.

Of course time and money are also important factors in how many sessions people choose to have. I do offer a small number of reduced rate sessions under certain circumstances so do ask if money feels like a barrier to accessing therapy.

How does person-centred therapy compare to other approaches to therapy?

Most other approaches to therapy work, to a greater or lesser extent, on the assumption that the therapist will use their knowledge and technical expertise to guide a person to what the therapist conceives to be the solution to their problems. At some level there is usually a sense that the client ought to be, in some way, different from how they are, and the therapist will help them to get there. In contrast, person-centred therapists aspire to accept each person exactly as they are from the outset, which most people tend to find supports them to venture into their own process and resolve what they need to for themselves, in their own way.

Whilst some commentators question the value of an approach that divests the therapist of their expert position, our experience tells us that this is usually the most helpful thing we can offer our clients. (It is actually very challenging to do this deeply and consistently – hence the need for significant training).

This is not to say that other approaches to therapy cannot be helpful, but perhaps rather to say that person-centred therapy runs a little deeper than most other approaches.

Ethical and anti-discriminatory practice

I am committed to ethical and anti-discriminatory practice.

I am a member of BACP and committed to working within their ethical framework. Whilst I really do hope this never happens, my clients should make complaints to the BACP if they are treated unethically by me as a therapist.

An important part of a therapist working ethically is to treat everyone equitably and with respect and to commit to being actively anti-discriminatory in their work. Especially given my identity as a cis-gendered, white man, I am committed to continual education about groups and individuals with different experiences to my own (whilst at the same time holding in mind that each person is also an individual and their experience cannot be reduced to an average of that of the groups with which they may be identified). I work to understand and come to terms with my own privileges and oppressions in an effort to cultivate the ability to work in a more informed and sensitive way with all clients.

If you do experience any treatment from me that you feel is discriminatory, please feel you can challenge me on this, and if you are not satisfied by my response (which I really hope does not happen) you are entitled to make a formal complaint about me to the BACP.

Where can I find out more about person-centred therapy?

The following links might useful if you are hoping to find out more about person-centred therapy: