Tag Archives: counseling theories

An Interview with Natalie Rogers (Daughter of Carl Rogers) about Person-Centered Therapy

Of all the counseling and psychotherapy approaches out there, person-centered therapy might be the most quickly dismissed of them all. I’ve had therapists watch or listen to a PCT demonstration and then make dismissive comments like: “Oh yeah. That was just basic listening skills. I know all about that.”

It’s usually hard for me to figure out how to best respond to that sort of statement. What makes it hard to take is that typically, when someone says something like, “I already know all that Rogerian stuff,” it’s a surefire sign that they really don’t get person-centered therapy.

Although this is mostly just my opinion, it’s also the opinion of Natalie Rogers (daughter of Carl Rogers, the person who originally developed person-centered therapy). The following is an edited excerpt of two telephone interviews I did with her way back in 2003. This excerpt is included in our theories textbook: http://www.amazon.com/Counseling-Psychotherapy-Theories-Context-Practice/dp/0470617934/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Additional interview material is in an article published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in 2007: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2007.tb00454.x/abstract

And even more interview material is resting on the hard-drive of my computer.

Other fun and interesting content about person-centered therapy is in our Student Guide: http://www.amazon.com/Counseling-Psychotherapy-Theories-Context-Practice/dp/0470904372/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438700878&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=sommers-flanagan+student+guide

Here’s what Natalie had to say about the status of Person-Centered Therapy in the U.S.

Why Is the Person-Centered Approach Undervalued in the United States?

In the following excerpt from two telephone interviews, Natalie Rogers discusses why person-centered approaches tend to be undervalued or overlooked in the United States.

John Sommers-Flanagan (JSF): Other than the managed-care focus and an emphasis on quick fixes, can you think of any reasons why more American therapists aren’t practicing PCT?

Natalie Rogers (NR): That’s a good question. Most psychology students I know only get a chapter or two in the academic world, and they don’t really understand in any depth what the person-centered approach is about. And, most importantly, I think they haven’t experienced it. They’ve read [about] it and they’ve talked about it and they’ve analyzed it, but my own belief is that it really takes in-depth experiencing of the client-centered approach to know the healing power of empathy and congruence and unconditional positive regard.

JSF: So it’s almost like students get more of an intellectual understanding, but you’re just not seeing them get the experiential part.

NR: Even the intellectual understanding is very superficial, because they read maybe a chapter and watch the old Gloria film (Rogers, 1965). The fact that there have been 16 books written on client-centered therapy and a lot of other books now that Carl’s passed away and the research that he did is so profound . . . the in-depth research on what actually helps clients go deeper into their feelings and thoughts.

JSF: Right.

NR: You know, [how therapists can help clients go deeper into their feelings and thoughts] is hardly ever mentioned in academia as far as I know.

JSF: And what I remember from our last conversation was that you said you thought it didn’t happen in the U.S. at all and maybe a little bit in Europe?

NR: I think it does happen a lot more in Europe, and most particularly in the United Kingdom, Scotland and England. They have really excellent training programs in the client-centered approach, and the books that are coming out are coming out from there. You know in Germany they have a several-year, very extensive training program that’s also linked in, I believe, to becoming accredited or licensed as a therapist. Things are going that particular route in Europe, but none of that is here in the States.

JSF: That seems to reflect our own emphasis on the surface or the quick fix as well in that people just really haven’t gone deeper and experienced the power of PCT.

NR: Right. And then again I think the other point is that the ego needs of the therapists [appear] to be strong here. Therapists in this country seem to need to have the attitude that “I have the answers” or at least that “I know more,” and it’s . . . the old medical model that we still hold onto in this country a lot. The doctor knows what he needs to diagnose and treat, knows what’s wrong and that there are ten steps to fix it.

JSF: Right, which seems to be the opposite of the person-centered therapy of “trust the individual, trust the person.”

NR: Not just seems to be, it is the opposite. So, to actually believe, to have faith in the individual, to have faith that each person has the answers within himself or herself if given the proper conditions, and that’s a big if. That philosophy takes a great deal of humility on the part of the therapist.

JSF: For us to realize that we don’t have all the answers for another person.

NR: Right. I kind of like the gardener metaphor. That I’m the gardener and I help till the soil and I help water the plants and fertilize the plants, and care for them. And I need to understand what the plant needs, what conditions that plant needs for it to actually grow and become its full potential. That’s very different. That’s what I see as one metaphor for being a therapist. I don’t know all the answers, but I’m a person who creates the conditions for the person to grow.

JSF: Kind of the fertile field metaphor. So . . . what would you tell beginning therapists that would help them see the tremendous value of following person-centered principles?

NR: Well, I always ask my students to examine their own beliefs about psychotherapy and about what it is that creates psychological feelings and growth. I think it’s a philosophical, spiritual belief system that we’re looking at. People are using the words “methods” and “techniques,” which always puts me off, because although there certainly are methods that we use, it’s much bigger than that. It’s a belief system about the connection between mind, body, and emotional spirit. And so I ask them what do they believe creates personal growth, and what have they experienced themselves that creates growth, and we get them to think and talk about their religious experiences, their psychotherapy experiences, their experiences in nature, and their experiences in relationships. I think they’re all profound. And then when we focus in on relationships, which is what psychotherapy is about, then I want them to experience . . . from me or my colleagues in hour-long demonstrations what it means to be client-centered. So then they experience it as witnesses and they can experience it as a client.

JSF: So more students need to directly experience, or at least witness, client-centered therapy.

NR: Let me give an example. I was talking to a colleague once who had some of my training and who said that he was now using brief therapy, brief psychotherapy, and I admitted I didn’t really know what that was. We decided that he’d have to give me some ideas on what that’s like. So I listened to him describe the theory and practice for quite a while and questioned him about it. And as he was describing it, I was wondering, how would I feel if I were in the client’s chair and this was what was being done to me. And so then I felt pretty uncomfortable, and thought, “I guess I wouldn’t like it.” So I asked him, “Have you ever been a client in this kind of brief therapy yourself?” And he said “No,” and I thought that was inexcusable. To practice something on somebody else that you haven’t experienced in-depth yourself. I think it is inexcusable. So that illustrates in a kind of negative way the point that I wanted to make. You really need to have in-depth experience of that which you are going to have other people do.

A Guest Essay on the Girl Code and Feminism

The past several years I’ve offered a few extra credit points for students in my theories class who write me a short essay on the Girl Code. The Girl Code is defined–using William Pollack’s Boy Code as a guide–as the unhealthy societal and media-based rules by which girls and women are supposed to live. These rules are typically limiting (e.g., women who get angry are considered bitches) and are often damaging to girls and women.

This year students had to watch three feminist-related video clips as a part of this extra credit assignments and then write a short essay. The clips are listed below so you can click on the links and watch them if you like:

Eve Ensler doing a TED talk: Embrace Your Inner Girl — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhG1Bgbsj2w

Emma Watson speaking to the U.N.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9SUAcNlVQ4

Cameron Russell’s TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model?language=en

The following essay was written by Tristen Valentino. He gave me permission to post it here.

I’m featuring Tristen’s essay not only because I found it to be well-written and insightful, but also because his ideas stretch my thinking. Frequently I find myself puzzled as to why so many people in our society have such negative reactions to the word “feminist.” Why would anyone be against equal rights and opportunities for males and females? What’s the problem with that? In fact, this past year Time Magazine went so far as to suggest it be eliminated from the dictionary (inserted stunned silence here). For me, Tristen’s essay is important because, although he strongly criticizes what he sees as the overly generalized messages within the assigned video clips (which I happen to like), he also explicitly condemns the mistreatment of women based on gender.

Here’s Tristen’s essay. I hope you enjoy it . . . or at least find it thought-provoking.

Extra Credit Commentary on Feminism Clips
Tristen Valentino
COUN 485
November 24, 2014

Advocating equal rights is a noble and admirable pursuit. The video clips featuring Eve Ensler, Emma Watson, and Cameron Russell each speak about sexual discrimination, and their own personal roles in feminism. While I fully support equality in opportunity, and applaud their intention, I believe their execution was flawed. The three of them generalized men across the globe, lumping all men from all cultures and nations together in the oppression of women. The three of them claimed that male chauvinism is not only prevalent but pervasive in all societies.

Eve Ensler speaks briefly of her violent and abusive father and alludes that her experiences at the hands of her father set her in motion to help end the victimization of women. In this case I feel that Eve Ensler is looking at everything through the same tinted lens. In her world, the lens with which she views the world is completely blue (victimization of women), so when she looks upon the world she sees everything as blue. While not incorrect, since there are many things blue in the world, this view is incomplete as there are many things not blue. So too with her view on victimization and the causes of it.

Emma Watson’s speech appealed to emotion, but wilted under even slight pressure from a factual basis. She claimed that in her country (United Kingdom) women were oppressed and drew comparisons between the UK and African nations. She failed to mention that in her country the longest serving Prime Minister was a female (Margaret Thatcher) and that the longest living monarch, and second longest reigning monarch, is a female (Queen Elizabeth II).

Cameron Russell speaks about how damaging the media can be to female self-esteem and the female identity. She attributes insecurity, eating disorders, and other self-image issues with fantastical, and often fictional, portrayals of the female form. I find this to be incredibly hypocritical and disingenuous coming from someone who is an active participant in the very mechanism that she claims is doing harm to the female psyche.

However, those issues aside, the issue of gender equality is a serious one, and one that deserves our attention. There is little doubt that acts of female oppression and victimization are completely evil. There is no arguing that in some areas, horrible atrocities happen to women simply because they are women. This culture of male predatory behavior resulting in the victimization of women needs to be addressed and halted immediately. The damage that is caused is not always as easily seen and overt as physical injury. The mental and psychological injuries inflicted by the gender expectations of such things as the “Girl Code” apply pressure to already stressed women to perform up to a standard, and in such a way, as to be unrealistic. Expectations—such as women must always look pretty, must always be as thin as they can be, or must be sexy, but not too sexy—place the value of women on their physical appearance. It prevents their self-expression and their validation of life by stripping away the value of all their other qualities. Women are not objects to be used or abused at the whims of men. Women are not toys to be played with and then discarded. They are equal partners in the venture of life. They are doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, and politicians. They are mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, confidants, and mentors. They are strong, intelligent, indomitable, competent, and capable. They are all that and more. They are women. They are human.

Reviews of our Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories and Clinical Interviewing DVDs

For those interested, I’ve put together some information on our Theories and Clinical Interviewing DVDs. Obviously these are positive reviews and I feel shy about posting them, but I also am very happy that these tools for helping people become better counselors and psychotherapists have been so well-received. Thanks to everyone who made these productions possible.

The Theories DVD

From Psychotherapy.net:

Finding a single video demonstrating psychotherapy’s major theoretical orientations has long been next to impossible. Now, Psychotherapy.net is thrilled to offer a masterful survey of the field’s most studied theories to students and instructors alike. You won’t want to miss this video, in which seasoned clinical educators John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan present a practical, in-depth guide through the origins, recent developments, and applications related to eleven major counseling theories, complete with valuable learning aids and extended case studies.

Over the course of eleven compelling segments, the Sommers-Flanagans outline a range of therapeutic orientations, from psychoanalysis to solution-focused therapy and more; each has its own strategies, interventions, and beliefs about the nature of change. Watch John Sommers-Flanagan help 10-year-old Clayton feel better about his “tattletale” brother using an Adlerian family constellation interview. Understand what’s preventing Brittany from attending college classes—and how she can correct this to avoid expulsion—during a behavioral therapy session with Selena Beaumont Hill. See how a feminist approach informs Rita Sommers-Flanagan’s moving work with Amanda, a young woman finding her identity amid a culturally complex web of relationships. And see how family systems therapist Kirsten Murray reengages a stressed family of four in a powerful family sculpt.

Designed for beginners and seasoned therapists alike, this video distills the essence of the major theories of psychotherapy, offering theoretically-grounded interventions and techniques that will be of use to any therapists looking to broaden their toolbox.

Whether you’re a student wanting to understand the basics of different theoretical orientations, a practitioner seeking review materials, or an instructor looking for a single video comparing and contrasting a range of approaches, you’ll find what you need in this comprehensive, one-of-a-kind video.

Theories covered in this video include:
• Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic
• Existential
• Rogerian/Person-Centered
• Gestalt
• Behavior
• Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT)
• Solution-Focused
• Feminist
• Adlerian
• Reality
• Family Systems

Reviews of the Theories DVD from Amazon

1. I just completed my Marriage and Family Psychotherapist graduate program. This book and the DVD helped me to study for my comps.

I recommend that you buy it. I love the way that it is written. Very easy to follow. I really like these two authors. I have other books written by them.

2. There are some horrible counseling instructional videos out there on the market from the 70’s and 80’s and it is hard to find such a rare gem here.

This video can be watched in full screen on a HD television with excellent audio and instructional effects (being able to see counselor’s drawings, written goals, highlights of therapy, etc.). The two authors/producers of this video are also in roughly half of the respective therapies that are gone over. As for behavioral therapy, solutions focused therapy, and family systems they use outside “expert” counselors that do a fantastic job.

I am almost exclusively a visual learner, and this video not only made it simple to understand and grasp all common therapies out there in the professional counseling realm, but also was instrumental in measuring and understanding the intangible traits all good counselors should have (using pause appropriately, asking questions, demeanor, body language, etc.).

3. For the aspiring counselor, this video is worth its weight in gold. Thank you! This DvD is excellent for the classes I teach. It reinforces the students learning. I highly recommend it. Buy it.

4. Thank you Sommers-Flanagans for this great additional resource! Insightful look into the work of masters of the art of therapy.

You can access these DVDs through Wiley: http://lp.wileypub.com/SommersFlanagan/

psychotherapy.net: http://www.psychotherapy.net/

and other online booksellers like Amazon.

The Clinical Interviewing DVD

Professional Reviews:

“Indispensable interviewing skills imparted by two master teachers in an engaging, multimedia presentation. Following the maxim of ‘show and tell,’ the Sommers-Flanagans provide evidence-based, culture-sensitive relational skills tailored to individual clients. An instructional gem!”
— John C. Norcross, PhD, ABPP, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Scranton; Editor, Psychotherapy Relationships That Work

“Before watching this video, I’d considered the text Clinical Interviewing a ‘must-read,’ and now after watching the accompanying video, I consider the book in combination with the video video to be a ‘must-have!’ This video clearly demonstrates essential skills for beginning therapists with a culturally diverse group of clients, and is a valuable resource for training programs and any beginning clinician who wants to be the best they can be!”
— Pamela A. Hays, PhD, Author of Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice; Supervisor for The Kenaitze Tribe’s Nakenu Family Center, Soldotna, Alaska

From Psychotherapy.net

Simply put, we believe this to be the best video on this topic ever produced, and in fact one of the top training videos in the entire field of psychotherapy and counseling! We’ve been in the business of producing and distributing videos in the field since 1995, so we don’t make this statement lightly. (And we aren’t patting ourselves on the back; we wish we could take credit for this one, but we didn’t actually produce it ourselves.)

Whether you’re just starting out with clients or looking to expand your intake and assessment skills, this comprehensive video with John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan will guide you through the full assortment of clinical interviewing techniques.

This video will help you gain confidence in both the science and the art of the clinical interview, and offer you the “foundation for intuition” that informs therapeutic assessment, intervention, and relationship-building skills.

Skills, steps, and protocols are all covered here, with discussions of multicultural counseling, mental status examinations, and collaborative processes. You’ll also see what not to do with a client, as part of a comical but cautionary demonstration on the pitfalls of directive interventions. For new and experienced clinicians alike, this comprehensive yet accessible video is a must-have in your toolkit.

By watching this video, you will:
• Identify interventions along a continuum of clinical listening responses, from basic to complex.
• Understand the goals and steps of different clinical assessments and examinations.
• Learn tools for establishing and deepening the therapeutic alliance during various types of clinical interventions.

Tips for Teaching Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

[These tips are adapted from the online instructor’s manual for

Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice by

John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan, John Wiley & Sons, 2012]

            At the University of Montana,  we teach theories in both large lecture sections and in smaller graduate seminars. Regardless of class size and venue, we find the following teaching strategies useful.

  1. Open the class with an engaging story about whichever theory, theorist, or approach you’ll be covering.
  2. Alternatively, open class with a quick reflection on what students recall from the previous class period.
  3. Then transition to a brief description or outline of what you intend to cover (generally we follow the outline of the chapter, but regularly make planned or spontaneous detours).
  4. Focus on historical context and biographical information linked to the theory/theorist. We use some of the powerful quotations available in the text and elsewhere for this and have the quotations on the powerpoint slides.
  5. Transition to theoretical principles.
  6. Approximately every 15-20 minutes we weave in one of the following teaching strategies
    1. A personal or professional anecdote about the theory or theorist (e.g., When I met William Glasser in the ACA Exhibition Hall)
    2. A short “turn to your table or neighbor” discussion question; we generally allow 3-5 minutes for these activities
    3. A short answer question posed to the entire class
    4. A video clip (this may include a youtube video or a more professional video clip demonstrating a therapy technique)
    5. A short interactive activity where students turn to each other and “try out” specific counseling or psychotherapy techniques (e.g., we have students do a 90 second “free association” with each other – see Section Two of the Instructor’s Manual for more interactive, in-class activities)
    6. A brief in-class demonstration of a technique with a class volunteer, followed by classroom debriefing and discussion
    7. A story about a specific therapy case that illustrates how the theoretical perspective is applied
    8. After reviewing the key theoretical principles, it’s time to focus on specific therapy process and specific therapy techniques associated with the theory. This is one place where we’re likely to do an in-class demonstration or a therapy video clip. However, our policy is to keep things moving by never going over 10 minutes of a demonstration or video without stopping the action and discussing student observations.
    9. After reviewing specific therapy process and techniques (including demonstrations), we move to briefly exploring the evidence-base or empirical support for the approach. We recognize that this is not a class that emphasizes research, but featuring a particular research study or reviewing meta-analytic data can help keep students oriented to the value and limits of research.
    10. Although we try to integrate ethics and diversity issues into as many parts of our lecture and class presentation as possible, at the very least we take time to focus on these issues toward the end of class. For example, we pose questions to the class like: (a) How do you think you could apply this approach with an Native American client, or (b) What are some of the common ethical issues that might arise when doing Gestalt therapy?
    11. At the end of each class we make a practice of asking students to do an informal homework assignment. For example, after the class on psychoanalytic theory and therapy we ask students to pay attention to the internal thoughts (or voice) in their head and think about whether this inner voice is speaking nicely to them (e.g., supportive ego type inner speech) or harshly (e.g., more like a negative internalized object or harsh superego/conscience). The purpose of these informal assignments is to help students not just gain intellectual knowledge, but to have them experience how the theoretical concepts might play out in their lives.

Perhaps the most important principle to teaching theories is to never let too much time pass without student-student or student-instructor interaction. The purpose of these interactions is to not simply keep the class moving and students engaged (although that’s important as well), but to consistently make counseling and psychotherapy theory and technique something that students are able to talk about and connect with their daily experiences.

 

John Dreams About Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories

One morning, long ago, John woke up in the midst of a dream about having written a theories book. Over breakfast, John shared his dream with Rita. Rita said, “John go sit down, relax, and I’ll sit behind you as you free associate to the dream” (see Chapter 2, Psychoanalytic Approaches).

As John was free-associating, Rita tried to gently share her perspective using a two-person, relational psychotherapy model. She noted it had been her lived experience that, in fact, they had already written a theories text together and that he must have been dreaming of a 2nd edition. John jumped out of his seat and shouted, “You’re right! I AM dreaming about a 2nd edition.”

This profound insight led to further therapeutic exploration. Rita had John look at the purpose of his dream (see Chapter 3, Individual Psychology); then he acted out the dream, playing the role of each object and character (see Chapter 6; Gestalt therapy). When he acted out the role of Rita, he became exceedingly enthusiastic about the 2nd edition. She, of course, accused him of projection while he suggested that perhaps he had absorbed her thoughts in a psychic process related to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious. Rita noted that was a possibility, but then suggested we leave Jung and the collective unconscious online where it belongs (see the Jungian chapter in the big contemporary collective unconscious of the internet online at ** ).

For the next week, Rita listened to and resonated with John as he talked about the 2nd edition. She provided an environment characterized by congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathic understanding (see Chapter 5, Person-Centered approaches). John flourished in that environment, but sneakily decided to play a little behavioral trick on Rita. Every time she mentioned the word theories he would say “Yesss!,” pat her affectionately on the shoulder and offer her a piece of dark chocolate (see Chapter 7, Behavior therapy). Later he took a big risk and allowed a little cognition into the scenario, asking her: “Hey, what are you thinking?” (see Chapter 8, Cognitive-behavioral therapy).

Rita WAS still thinking it was too much work and not enough play. John responded by offering to update his feminist views and involvement if she would only reconsider (see Chapter 10, Feminist therapy); he also emphasized to Rita that writing a second edition would help them discover more meaning in life and perhaps they would experience the splendor of awe (see Chapter 4, Existential therapy). Rita still seemed ambivalent and so John asked himself the four questions of choice theory (see Chapter 9, Choice theory and reality therapy):

  1. What do you want?
  2. What are you doing?
  3. Is it working?
  4. Should you make a new plan?

It was time for a new plan, which led John to develop a new narrative (see Chapter 11, Narrative therapy).  He had a sparkling moment where he brought in and articulated many different minority voices whose discourse had been neglected (see Chapter 13; Multicultural therapy). He also got his daughters to support him and conducted a short family intervention (see Chapter 12, Family systems therapy).

Something in the mix seemed to work: Rita came to him and said . . . “I’ve got the solution, we need to do something different while we’re doing something the same and approach this whole thing with a new attitude of mindful acceptance” (see Chapter 11, Solution-focused therapy and Chapter 14, Integrational approaches). To this John responded with his own version of radical acceptance saying: “That’s a perfect idea and you know, I think it will get even better over a nice dinner.” It was at that nice dinner that they began to articulate their main goals for the second edition of Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice.

Opening Thoughts on Feminism

This is the opening section from our feminist chapter in Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice — written with help from Maryl Baldridge, M.A.

For years, psychiatric journals have touted the salutary effects of antidepressants by printing “before” and “after” pictures showing a woman leaning on a mop looking despondently at her kitchen floor, and then happily mopping it after taking her medication.

—E. Kaschak, Engendered Lives (1992, p. 22)

At the American School Counselor Association National Conference in 2011, Georgie Bright Kunkel, a 90-year-old woman, delivered a keynote address. She bounded onto the stage—not looking a day over 80. She introduced herself as the oldest stand-up comic in Washington state (Was there an older stand-up comic somewhere else on the planet?). She proceeded to crack jokes about everything from sex to . . . well . . . sex, and then sex again. In the middle of her routine, she slipped in a serious story that went something like this:

I was working as a school counselor at an elementary school. To kick off our career day, I contacted a woman friend of mine who was an airplane pilot. She agreed to land her one-person plane in the middle of our schoolyard. We were all very excited. We gathered the students outside and watched as she guided the plane down and smoothly landed on the playground. The students crowded around as she emerged from the tiny plane, helmet in hand. When it became apparent she was a woman, one of our male students turned to me and asked, “Where’s the pilot?” It was clearly a one-person plane, but in this boy’s mind, men were pilots and women were stewardesses. This was a sad truth for many of our students. But what interested me more was the impact of this event on our students’ career ambitions. We had decided to take a student survey before and after career day. Before my friend landed on our playground, exactly 0% of our female students listed “airplane pilot” as one of their potential career choices. After career day, about 40% of the girls listed airline pilot as a career to consider in the future.

This is an example of a feminist working therapeutically to bring about development, change, options, and liberation. Feminist therapy can be transformative. It was designed, in part, to break down unhelpful stereotypes and free all humans to fulfill their potentials.