• Susan Stubbings

Process of Change

Updated: Feb 9


Carl Rogers an American psychologist in the humanistic school of thought - believed for a person to grow they need an environment with the right conditions. For example as a plant needs sun, rain and food to blossom into all it can be. Humans need what he called his core conditions of "Congruence, Unconditional Positive Regard and Empathy.


Rogers believed we exist in a world of experiences; our self is motivated by our self-actualising tendency as part of this process we form a structure called our self-concept. Rogers believed the self is separated into two parts; Ideal Self (the self we would like to be) and the Real Self (what we are in our world). The tension between the two parts of self is called incongruence, that is, our ideal self is not in harmony with our real self. This tension between the two creates our distress and discords, when our ideal and real self are in greater congruence (harmony) our self-concept (the collection of beliefs we hold about ourselves) is more confident in our capabilities and self-worth.


Our self-assessment is important because what we think about ourselves drives our motivations, behaviours, attitudes, and our thoughts about the person we think we are.

Rogers divided the self-concept further into three parts:


Ideal self - is the idea of what we want to be, how we want to behave, the qualities and characteristics we want to own and be and seen to be like to others. An example might be I want to be more patient with others, when I reflect, I am anything but patient with others or myself. Once we become aware of our incongruence (in this example, patience), we can work towards having more patience overall.


Self-image - is related to our mirror image what we see when we look in the mirror, what we think about and what we feel about the image that is staring back at us, in short how we perceive ourselves, both physically and mentally. How we see ourselves affects how we relate to others, if we have a positive image, we may be assertive, have flexible boundaries or be able to trust in our decision making for example. If our self-image is negative then we may experience negative feelings towards ourselves, struggle with challenges or constantly compare ourselves to others and feel we never measure up.


Self-esteem – is based on how we see ourselves and it is influenced by our self-image but not all about our self-image. Self-esteem is how we regard ourselves, our abilities and our worth, how we see our personal qualities and characteristics. Self-esteem is an important part of our overall success and whether we make healthy or unhealthy choices for example, we often think in terms of high or low self-esteem. If we have a high self-esteem, we may enjoy more harmony in our mental health than if we consider we have a low level of self-regard.


Congruence – is the complementary experience and awareness between our ideal self and our real self, that is, our actual lived experiences and our perceived experiences. For example “I did something kind today and I feel good”, ideal self and real self are in harmony. When we are incongruent, we may distort our perception of our abilities and achievements, for example, “I was angry at my friend, but it was their fault because ……. “. In this example of incongruence the person was more than likely using defence mechanisms to help themselves feel better about being angry, e.g. avoiding. We protect our ideal self, by using a mask or a persona because I might not like myself for being angry at my friend. Thereby my self-esteem is not changed. It is more comfortable to blame the other for my anger, rather than be honest with myself, I justify my anger as the friends fault not mine.


Congruence in therapy - the counsellor will be ‘real’ with the client, meaning the counsellor will hold unconditional positive regard towards the client, this means accepting the client as they present in session without trying to change them. The therapist mirrors congruence, (acceptance & respect), unconditional positive regard (non-judgement & valuing) and empathy (perceiving from the clients lived experience & awareness); known as the core conditions. Creates the best environment for change, in Rogerian philosophy; supporting the client to reduce the gap between the ideal and real self. Facilitating growth, expansion, increasing self-esteem and reducing suffering, to reach this stage we will have worked through the process of six stages of change.

When this is achieved, we can tap into our fullest potential known as the actualising tendency, which motivates a person to reach for and achieve their fullest potential, be all that they can become. Although it is not to be thought of as a final destination, once one goal is achieved the congruent organism will create more goals and therefore self-actualisation can be thought of as an on-going process of change and fulfilment. Which leads to more contentment, joy and peace in our daily living.









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