"The Selfness of the Person-Centered Approach Non-Directivity, an Essential Concept"

“In human life, there’s no set place which I would either praise or blame; no, it is not possible, because chance sets upright, and chance dashes down the lucky and the unlucky, day after day. How things are fixed for men, no one can prophesy.”

                                      Words of the Messenger in “Antigone”, Sophocles

REASONS OF THE SUBJECT

Facing the presentation of writing a paper for the journal in virtual mode, I wondered what the appropriate topic would be and I decided on the present one as I think it is appropriate to bring my thinking on which the key feature of the PCT/PCA is, with the idea that it can be useful for those who are not internalized in this model and for those who do have already addressed it.

That is why I decided to summarize the chapter on the matter of my book "Person-centered Holistic Approach" (see bibliography), and those who want to deepen in it can read the chapter in such book or ask the editor of the journal to send it to you by email.

I always thought that Sigmund Freud built his whole theoretical-practical “building” around the initial concept of Unconscious, and John B. Watson did it from the idea of Behavior, and I’m convinced that Carl Rogers structured his theory upon "Non-Directivity", and it is evident in its practice that even after multiple readings, it is inescapably present.

INTRODUCTION

We are in front of an article which tries to support why “non-directivity” is the essence of the PCA by giving its founding spirit and energy as well as provides explanatory criteria, comparisons and deductions which allow such conclusion.

The statement quoted at the beginning of this article that Sophocles puts in the mouth of the messenger in his “Antigone” in the 5th century BC, shows the idea of helping from a place where accompanying another’s process is performed in the way the other decides to do it; hence, the non-directivity notion is the base of ECP’s proposal.

Initially, we begin knowing that there is something immutable in every thing, in every being, in every position or theory, there is something that is essence in what that something is, and that makes us say that such something has a name, a designation that identifies, that gives identity.

Every identity is proof of structure.

We also know that there is something that is mutable in every thing, in every being, in every position or theory, there is something that is existence, extending outwards, that exchanges and transformed itself.

In short, there is something that preserves itself, and there is something that is change.

If it weren’t for the conservation, there wouldn’t be the stability to facilitate the change.

If it weren’t for the change, there wouldn’t be the flexibility to facilitate development.

Every identity accepts the change while it does not disrupt or subvert its structural ordering.

I call this invariance the ME (selfness) of what we are.

Regarding psychological theories:

It is unimaginable that:

-         A Psychoanalyst does not believe in the concept of the Unconscious or doubts the existence of the Oedipal triangle, transference, infantile sexuality, Eros or Thanatos.

-         A Behavioral / Behaviorist mistrusts the concept of reinforcement, or scotoma in learning.

-         A Gestaltic Therapist does not give importance to the Here and Now, or the Awareness.

-          A Psychodramatist disregards the concept of social atom, group matrix, tele.

-          A Systemic does not believe in the concept of System.

And of course, nobody belonging to the PCA may question the concept of Growth/Formative Trend, or the notions of unconditionality, empathy, congruence (genuineness) and non-directivity.

With these initial propositions, which should be useful to contextualize this proposal to access the selfness, the me of which we consider our Approach, I considered granting admission from a phenomenological perspective from which, by a reduction or epogé, common variables to other models can be dismissed, which by their design are not essential or are framed in other concepts that fall within that range.

I intend to achieve the concept or idea that if it is not reached, the Approach would not be what it is.

At this moment, it is worth to reinforce the idea that an identity defines its selfness without denying belonging to a broader genre, which of course is also part of his nature and, in this case, the identity of a model is a cut over other cuts, What I intend to do here is to achieve the possible maximum cut, as a dissection, until reaching the primary cell of an organ; therefore, I call this process deconstruction.

DECONSTRUCTION

Of the construction of the theory and practice of C. Rogers, we could say that it is unique and unrepeatable as such; however, there are inevitable aspects of overlaping with other theories that I want to elucidate in this reduction to the essentials. This is obvious because no one thinks, develops and writes from the void and in these common areas, the incidence of the creator’s of our approach  previous education can be observed. In our case and as far as many revelations built by the author start up from previous observations upon which either he was based on or he agreed with while being there in line with an age and, at the same time, several of his  hypotheses are taken as valid by many subsequent schools and it is difficult to make a delineation except for the ones we're taking into account, his philosophy of what it is human and his concrete practice that does brand "in the selvage" its own presence, let’s see: A first look leads us to dismiss as essentially own of the approach, the belonging to Existential Philosophy, Humanism, and even Phenomenology as a method, considering that although it is undeniable they define its basic ideology and cosmovision, other theoretical lines also adhere to them and are part of the same movement, the "third force", as it was called.

Therefore, although its construction is of his own and exclusive in his holistic context, we could say, for example, that:

-         Speaking of defenses as he does brings him closer to Freud.

-         Mentioning the experiencing, freedom of experience, here and now, is common to Gestalt and several humanistic psychologies.

-         Referring to different levels of consciousness is common to existentialists.

-         Defining the idea of self, as a concept, is comparable to several theories of Self and Sense of Self.

-         Giving relevance to criteria persons’ acceptance in an appropriate atmosphere of a warm and loving relationship would be close to some Winnicott’s concepts.

-         Explaining the importance of perceptual constructs is common to new behaviorism and cognitivism.

-         The actualizing tendency meets the idea of formative tendency and it is assimilated to K. Goldstein’s self-actualization and A. Maslow’s self-realization. Even to H. Maturana’s idea of self-poiesis, although subsequent.

-         Several authors of Humanism and Eastern thinkers agree with these hypotheses about the motivating "energy" towards growth. Moreover, although in a different order, the Freudian conception of Life Drive could be treated as a precedent.

-         The importance of climate and atmosphere in a helping relationship is common to many concepts that speak of warmth and positive attitude.

-         The value he explicits about comprehension is previously observed in Dilthey’s Comprehensive Psychology.

-         The idea of not possessing the power of healing was also raised by Jacques Lacan.

-         The positive and liberal conception of man is common to all Humanism.

-         Internal agreement-disagreement, congruence-incongruence, authenticity-inauthenticity, reactions to threat-no threat are polarities that several theories have, especially the humanistic-existential ones.

-          Confidence in the person, notion of totality, of not being divided in parts, the importance of the encounter, the theological view about intentionality or sense orientation, the concept of consciousness, autonomy and others related are also common to Humanism, the general movement of belonging.

-         Congruence or authenticity as attitude and the phenomenological method in therapy are also considered by Gestalt and existential phenomenologists.

-         The issue of the experiential learning, which some authors consider as belonging to the PCA, is shared by various forms of humanism and the transpersonal, perhaps even by Freudians when talking about insight.

-         The sense of encounter, so dear to the approach, could be shared by J. Moreno, as his proposal of tele is closer to our binding empathy.

CONSTRUCTION

After the brief deconstructive comparison, let’s see the concepts which are nodal in the PCA and, given the way they are theoretically and practically taken, build this model:

- Non-directivity, not no-direction.

- Unconditionality or unconditional positive regard.

- Empathy as an attitude of other-centered presence.

- Empathic response, reflection or checking of perceptions, as a result of all the above, in a specific therapeutic action, not as one more technique.

So far, the mentioned notions of non-directivity, unconditional regard, empathic comprehension and empathic response as action or instrument as we understand them, define and are present in the Approach and not in another line of the so-called humanistic theories.

Strangely though obvious and as such quickly dismissed by many, was the initial concept and the name Carl Rogers proposed to his system of thought and action, "Non-directive Psychotherapy”.

Making brief history, we can say that Rogers did it to differentiate himself from others and as he found insufficient to call it for what it wasn’t later on, he sought other forms of self-naming his theory; although today it is named "Person Centered Approach" (ECP / ACP in Spanish) its spine is still the concept of non-directivity not as a denial but as an affirmation of what it is.

It is interesting to observe how Mariano Yela, who in 1967 wrote the prologue to the Spanish edition of “Psychotherapy and Human Relations ¨ by C. Rogers and M. Kinget, edited by Alfaguara and titled ¨A Psychotherapy of Freedom”, on page eleven, tells us:

¨Rogers’ psychotherapy not only is psychotherapy of freedom, but it is only psychotherapy of freedom. Hence, the negative terminology with which Rogers abundantly describes his theory and method:

Non-directive, non-technical, non-interpretative, non-diagnostic. No one may be free for another. Nobody can free anybody else from the outside. Each one has to free by oneself. One cannot be who one is but being so, seeking into oneself.

The psychotherapist does not direct, it means, he/she does not apply any procedure to the patient to get this or that result from him/her. To do so would be to manipulate the other, to decide for him/her, to treat him/her -in short- as a thing, to alienate him/her.

The concept of non-directivity, although arises from the profession of psychotherapist and counselor C. Rogers practiced by the time, later called Client-Centered Therapy, was transferred as basis into the educational, pastoral, labor and social fields, where PCA has already made great developments.

This concept hides the seed of the philosophical, sociological and political view and position that finishes as attempting exposure in the fourth and fifth parts of his book “On personal power”, entitled “A New Political Figure” and “In a Nutshell”, respectively.

Therefore, being non-directive is an existential position, a deep conviction that the power of the person is within himself, only conditions for its appearance must be created.  Those conditions are later methodologically developed by Rogers and several of his disciples and followers have continued reformulating them without neglecting the axis that directs his approach.

Being non-directive is a decision that someone who is assigned a directive direction  due to his role takes and he changes it to promote the relationship non-directively.

The decision to be non-directive, in a role that is expected otherwise, transforms the person who decides in a subversive, a generator of another model and in this lays C. Rogers’ great value proposition.

His great and initial discovery was to exit the previously established models, which still remain in force, those which attribute the power of healing and treatment direction to the professional.

Being non-directive allocates a number of very specific conditions to the person who decides to behave in such role, all of them lead to the handover of power which was initially supposed to be within the one who makes such decision, and who may practice it if he/she wants to.

Being non- directive leads to the transfer of desire by sharing it, by transferring it to the relationship, by showing to the other person that he/she is able to take his/her own; a linking field is generated where the initial perception of each one becomes the established joint.

Being non-directive in a helping relationship, as started by C. Rogers, was the beginning of a proposal, each one of us has in oneself the possibility of being the desire of becoming a Person by oneself.

A posteriori, all his work was about this great discovery: to support the possible ways for such non-directivity to canalize in a relationship, being such a helping relationship (Counseling and Psychotherapy), or between parents and children, in a couple, in groups, in societies and/or in any interpersonal relationship that seeks growth of the parties involved.

Being non-directive points to the shared direction, so each one finds his own way from there, it is the transfer of power to be possessed together or to be possessed (if it corresponds) by the other.

It is by definition an act of loving respect for the other which implies in its relational expression an intention of detachment by the party that practices it.

His theory of the Personality shines due to its coherence when illuminated under the light of the relationships with varying degrees –major or minor- of respect for the other's experience, being the first one the source of optimal performance and the second, of obstacles and disturbances in it.

From a non-directive stance, as atom of our being present accompanying the other (as a consultant, a student, a peer, or our own child) the rest of the characteristics attributed to that Role appears. Among them, the model in its specific therapeutic scope shows the attitudinal instruments and the ways in which relationships are established and even more, in its amplification to human interactions in general. Therefore it stands as an ideology of life, a way of being.

The positive result of many processes faced with the non-directive disposition and the "attitudinal instruments" led to the discovery, with the help of colleagues and students that such thing that he “technically” did, should be named and investigated. The notion of Reflection came from this.

The concept of Actualizing Tendency also appears here as the basis of clinical observations and concrete results, which made him thought about the quality of the human, in particular and of the living, in general.

This conceptualization, born from experience and clinical observation, was then intertwined with Physics position regarding the notions of entropy and negentropy, linked with the theory about the Formative Tendency of the Universe, making it co-participant of the new paradigms of the “hard” sciences.

Through having been one of the initiators of the culture of group meetings, and having placed the stamp of non-directivity, he generated a huge work on that experiential field.

As we know, same thing was manifested in his Educational work, from which we have the identity of Student-Centered Education, which basis remained being non-directivity in teaching as the heart of meaningful learning.

Those of us who have studied the evolution of this thought and who have been practicing it in any of its fields know of the difficulty of acceptance that these concept and position of non-directivity possess.

People have been socialized into a world of competition where the values ​​of power over the other are foundational, not only in the economy but also in the interpersonal relationships, even the most intimate ones.

Most people believe almost impossible to relate from non-directivity, due to the glass they have been put on; although when they listen to our explanations they are fascinated and desiring that such is possible, even though they consider us naive or, in the best scenario, utopian.

On the other hand I can say that in affective relationships with friends, with a couple, as a child or as a parent, when we do not intend to direct the other is when we are better, and another paradox exists when we are non-directive with other’s directivity to us.

Clearly, while the teacher was unraveling his thought according to the different areas of addressed expertise; he needed to assign different contexts and nominations:

From non-directivity to orientation by experience, going through the Person to Person and our Person Centered Approach. Transiting phases of strict non directivity (early forties), verbalization of feelings (1950 to mid-1960), centering on the experience (mid 1960-1970), and finally its integration (from 1970 until his death).

At all times of the development of his system, the perceptual axis was non-directivity which facilitates that the desire of the consultant can be freely expressed, and enables another’s desire in any human relationship, it is essential to be convinced of a non-directive stance including, of course, relational instruments that allow its realization; hence, the whole theory and practice deployed by Rogers, after elevating to essential condition his nodal concept.

The concept of non-directivity is the spirit (in a Hegelian sense of the term) of the Approach, and the other concepts are part of the organization of the theoretical system that supports it and allows a set of ideas and practices which we call PCA.

It would be impossible to formulate the position of being centered on the experience of people who make the consultation without the prior position of wanting not to direct them.

The unconditionality, empathy and congruence are attitudinal instruments of behavior and action. These ones and centering on people emerge as a necessity, in front of the desire of not leading the other’s way.

The non-directivity is, as we said, a concept that defines an existential stance to the bonds we have with our peers, with close nature, and the cosmos that includes us and we include as a whole, and as such it is the intention of not influence on another about the vital direction to take by him/her. As such it reveals an active passivity or a passive activity, in accompanying any relationship where a party requests the other to be helped or accompanied in a search.

This is the embracing proposal of this approach, this side and beyond the “Psi” field, and this is possible because dealing with the psychic functioning involves walking through intermediate spaces, borders, between Philosophy and other sciences or disciplines.

This idea stems from the belief that the whole to where we belong has in its multiple expressions a generative sense, negentropic, which has its scientific basis in the perception of Formative Tendency.

This concept is supported, in turn, by a clinical practice that reveals positive results from its own empirically testable epistemology.

Non directivity, formative tendency, unconditionality, congruence or genuineness, empathy and check of shared perceptions are the basal framework, being the first concept the backbone from which further hypotheses are built, both theoretical and professional actions, and it is essential to take it into account as it reveals everything the author later built.

The PCA, as we already know, has been the subject of many investigations which have established that when emerging conditions of the non-directive position, not always necessary but always sufficient, are present, consultants reach their growth, development and personal deployment.

The strange paradox of the non-directiveness is that it has a tremendous power of healing through its apparent non-intention of directing the action towards it.

For us, as soon as the instruments that validate our approach are deployed, the expected result given in most cases is that consultants find the solution to their problems by themselves, while developing as persons.

The curious thing is that this is a paradoxically deterministic model because it considers the transit of the helping processes quite accurately, and even when it takes each individual as unique and respects any way that he takes into finding himself, the model is bearer of a basic idea that has been proven, the one of the development and personal deployment when the conditions I postulate, enable them.

The non-directivity is an idea of ​​extreme conceptual rigidity, the one that has the knowledge that PCA facilitating conditions promote a verifiable direction in the overall experience of persons, and this happens when its essence is supported and mediators or practical instruments are given, which enable the concrete fact being this a therapeutic process, or a teaching one.

The mediators term becomes in the Sartrean sense, the one which refers that there is always a material, tangible fact that intercedes and enables any relationship, and in the case of the therapeutical one, the "material" would be:

-  the present listening.

-  the “PCAist” attitudinal framework.

-  the personalizing conversation.

-  the methodological resources (verbal, imaginary, corporal, artistic, etc.) that show the model that I call Person-Centered Holistic Approach.

Standing in front of this, we find another question that points to another conceptual phenomenological reduction: which of the attitudes is the fundamental and typical one, in the way of thinking the PCA, for the non-directivity to be possible?

We saw that empathy is common to several lines of approach; essential in our approach, but common to many others.

With the unconditionality and the authenticity or congruence we could say the same.

However, and I think this is the key part, the attitudinal frame stained with a previous non-directive stance reaches another dimension, while:

-         Empathy is not a technique for creating atmosphere, as it is for others, but a way of comprehension of the other's experience.

-         The unconditionality is not just accepting the other as he is but be willing to get rid of our own evaluative outline (leaving one self’s ego) and to focus on the consultants’.

-         Authenticity and/or congruence is not only to be integrated or to possess an integrated state among what it is felt, thought and done, as held by multiple lines (mainly the Gestalt), or to confuse it with coherence among the feeling, the thinking and the doing, but a much more deep action; to be connected with self-experience or felt-sense and from there, to reaching confluence and approach from selfhood to selfness (between ego and selfness).

These clarifications are worthy while they are again sustaining a very important position: the one of not directing other’s process but professionally accompanying him.

It is from this point that attitudes acquire a profile of its own to PCA as well as the checking of perceptions or any other professional intervention.

From this perspective, congruence is the hub of the entire framework of the three attitudes, because if it is connected with our own experiential selfness in the intention of not channeling the other from one's position, to be empathic and unconditional with the other’s internal frame connects with the relationship without difficulty.

When the creator of this model realized that when he less intended to impact, influence, determine, canalize, direct his consultants’ therapeutic processes and when he most trusted them, being present with his total person, the possibility of self-directing their own way appeared to them, and the results were more favorable for those asking for help; when he later bet on the same position in education, meaningful aspired learning was achieved.

This is all I can present in this synthesis and as closing, I remember this sentence that I coined and which shows my position:

"Non-directivity is as bamboo; it can bend but never break."

 

Lic. Andrés Sánchez Bodas