Person-Centred Therapy

Carl Rogers created Person-Centered Therapy (PC) back in the 1940’s. The key features of the Person-Centered model are:


  • The organismic valuing system/ Self-actualisation

  • The self-concept.

  • Congruence/ Incongruence.

  • The locus of Evaluation.

  • Conditions of worth.

  • The core conditions.

  • Condition for growth.

Organismic Valuing System

The Organismic Valuing system was originally formulated by the German neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein, and is a term used to describe the restoration system for the overall wellbeing of the human/ Organism. It is believed to be an internal system of restoring equilibrium by working to get our needs met so that we can survive and eventually thrive. Similar to how homeostasis works to restore our physical wellbeing. Carl Rogers referred to the organismic valuing system as the ‘actualizing tendency’ and states that ‘ it is the actualizing tendency, which despite every kind of opposition, would ensure that an individual continues to strive to grow to the best possible fulfillment of their potential’ Dave and Means (2012)


The self-concept


Rogers believed that our self-concept has 3 different components:


Self-image: The view you have of yourself.

Self-esteem (or self-worth): How much value you place on yourself.

Ideal-self: What you wish you were really like.


(A positive self-concept leads to congruence, whilst a negative self-concept leads to incongruence; which i will explain below)


A positive self-concept is developed when our needs have been met in our childhood. Eg. If a child feels scared and anxious about starting school and on his first day feels overwhelmed by his feelings, his Organismic Valuing system will work to inform his behaviors to get his basic needs for security met. Therefore the child asks (behavior) if he can go home. If the mother listens to her son with empathy and responds with unconditional positive regard and trusts that his need for security will be met by respecting his request to go home, then the boy receives the message that his needs are valued and he is worthy of protection and security. If then when the boy gets home he does feels safe and his need for security has been met, then he also receives the message that he is capable of meeting his own needs through his behavior and then this also develops and strengthens his Internal Locus Of Evaluation.


Locus of Evaluation


Internal Locus of Evaluation– is at the core of our self-structure, it informs all of our structures components. With the above example the effects this experience has on the boys overall self-concept is balanced because his:


Self-esteem is strengthened as it receives assurance of its level of worth,

The Ideal- self can begin to strive for self-actualization because all of his basics needs for security were met.

Whilst the self-image is continually strengthened because he sees himself as adequate of meeting his needs in his world.


So in the above example, the child’s needs were met instantly and his self-concept was strengthened, therefore in this situation he experienced Congruence.


“Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?”

― Carl R. Rogers


Rogers stated that Congruence is experienced when how we feel on the inside is matched with how we live on the outside/behave. Therefore in the above example the boy felt scared and he knew he needed security, so he listened to his feelings, behaved in a way that got his needs met and more importantly his behavior was supported and acknowledged.

Unfortunately our Internal Locus of evaluation isn’t always supported and nurtured from our environments, which then leads to a poor Self-structure and Incongruence.


Eg. In the above situation the child’s mother demonstrated Unconditonal Positive Regard (UPR). However had this mother insisted the boy stay at school because he has to be a ‘good boy’ then this would have been setting in place a condition of worth; you’re a only worthy (good boy) to me if you can suppress your feelings and neglect your needs for mine.


Conditions of Worth


Conditions of worth are values and beliefs that others; like parents, family, friends and society place on us as a ‘condition’ for receiving their love and acceptance. In order to feel valued and accepted as children we tend to then turn our Locus of evaluation Externally; we stop listening to our internal voice and start listening to our carers. The longer we live with these conditions and the more we rely on them to survive the greater the chance of adopting these conditions as our own, which then become what are called Introjects; ‘i should stay at school, because this is what good boys do….’ thus creating a greater sense of Incongruence; this is not the child’s inner truth, he has adapted and taken on the introjects in order to be accepted(conditionally) which is a child’s basic need to ensure survival.


So going back to the above scenario, if the mother tells the boy that he must be a ‘good boy’ and stay at school, despite his inner turmoil of his needs and feelings telling him otherwise, then the child’s experience creates a negative self-concept because his:


Self-esteem is weakened as it receives the message that his need for security is unworthy of being met.

The Ideal- self begins to form itself based on his need for external positive regard and begins to create the ideal as being ‘a good boy’.

whilst the self-image begins to believe something is inherently wrong with himself and he is incapable of meeting his own needs; he is inadequate, thus his Locus of evaluation will now turn Externally for approval to balance out his self-disapproval.


With an internal crisis like this beginning to develop the boy’s Organismic Valuing System needs to try in the best way it can to restore equilibrium so it begins to work on meeting the basic needs for survival; which at such a young age is approval and acceptance from his carers. According to Means et al, Rogers believed that when our self-concept is negative ‘this creates an overbearing desire for positive regard’ to counteract the incongruence. And this need then develops an External Locus of Evaluation: ‘ I need to know from my mother that I am ok’.


Therefore a part of survival is adopting his mothers Conditions of worth (introject) which begin to reshape his self-structure ‘ I am only worthy when I don’t show emotion’, and he stops listening to his feelings and his truest needs become neglected and his needs for survival become met in other ways, ways that mean complying to the rules of life/ ‘conditions of worth’. He begins to seek safety and acceptance from others by never showing his emotions…


However living with such Incongruence; neglecting his needs, will never lead him to self-actualization, unless of course as he grows up and depends less on his family for security, and begins to challenge these introjects to find his own beliefs…only then can he begin to rebuild his self-structure.


And it is with this idea that Rogers formed the Core conditions of therapy. Roger’s believed that the ‘core-conditions’ are enough to counteract any damage done by ‘conditions of worth’/introjects. When the core-conditions are exercised they act as juxtaposition to the ‘conditions of worth’, so that the self-structure can rebuild and equilibrium/ congruence can be restored. According to Means et al (pg. 82) Lieter (1984) termed this ‘counterconditioning’.


Rogers believed all 6 conditions must be present in order for therapy to be effective; 3 of which being the main core-conditions that the therapist at all times must strive to sustain.


6 Core Conditions


  1. Therapist-Client Psychological Contact.

  2. Client Incongruence or Vulnerability.

  3. Therapist Congruence or Genuineness.

  4. Therapist Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR).

  5. Therapist Empathy.

  6. Client Perception.


The 3 core conditions that are used by the therapist to create conditions for growth are:


Unconditional positive regard




“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”― Carl R. Rogers


Condition for growth

A vital part of providing unconditional positive regard for a client is for the therapist to demonstrate Congruence; when counselors can be open and honest about what is alive within themselves to their clients (with appropriateness and intention for the client’s greater good, not a personal need for relief) then I believe this congruence not only demonstrates how to connect with and accept one’s Internal Locus of Evaluation, but also creates a foundation of trust and safety within the therapeutic relationship by also demonstrating that ‘truth’ is healthy and ok and very welcome in the relationship. Thus the client’s truth will be held in positive regard unconditionally..


Given that the client has probably lived under the restraints of ‘introjects and conditions of worth’ for quite some time, the counselor must not expect their client to be congruent, because this would ironically be placing yet another condition, therefore it is vital that congruence come first from the counselor.


Unconditional Positive regard and congruence can all only really be present within the therapeutic relationship and within the client if empathy is present.


Again all of these conditions must begin within the therapist and be expressed to the client.




‘We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.’ Carl Rogers.


Rogers believed that empathetic understanding from the therapist is alive when ‘the therapist senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the client’ (Colin Feltham, Ian Horton). 

'It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried. The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.'

Carl Rogers.

©2019 Melissa Moss Counselling and Psychotherapy. ABN: 52309848705