I believe that unconditional positive
regard is one of the most important aspects to what I do as a therapist. It is
difficult as a therapist. We see lots of clients, and we don’t know whether
they are telling the truth or not, or whether they do what they say they are
going to do. And this is more difficult when we see clients on a long term
basis. And what do we do when someone is going to act in a certain way and we
don’t approve of this. Obviously, if it is an ethical concern one has to deal
with this appropriately with regard to UKCP regulations. But what if it is
something that we just feel is over the top or not right. We should delve into
our own consciousness to see whether we are showing signs of prejudice. If we
challenge our client we might break rapport.
This sounds a bit abstract, so I am going to give some example. What would you
do if you found out that your client was intending writing a long e-mail to
everyone in a Scout Group—all the organizers, the treasurer, chairman, all the
parents, the cleaners, secretary and so forth. Your client is upset that no one
was there to help him when he arrived last Thursday. He reads out a three page
e-mail with a reply from an irate lady. He now says that he is going to write
to the local MP, the houses of commons, the pope, Tony Blair and so forth.
You mention to him that this might be over the top, but you can do little more
than this. You can’t him not to do this. It will be difficult o show
unconditional positive regard after this. And, even if, through the words you
say, you are keeping to this principle, your body language may not be.
However, as far as possible, and there are no absolutes, one should have an
unconditional positive regard for one’s clients, even if it is difficult.
Another example is this.
What might you do after your client has had a huge transference and has
directed all his or her aggression towards you. This involved swearing,
accusations that you are useless and threatening language. One has to
understand why this transference has taken place. Even so, it might be very
difficult to show UPR after this experience.
Some initial thoughts…
With many of my clients, I feel that they
are constantly being challenged and not believed. They are being told off or
put in a compromising position. However, when speaking to me, this is often the
first time that they are not challenged. This is often the first time that they
feel supported unconditionally. And, whatever they say—within reason—they know
that they will have my support.
This enables them to say whatever they need to get better, or to work things
through. Because of my non-judgemental approach (Rogers, 1968)—which is
inextricably linked with UPR—they might be able to tell me about things they
haven’t told anyone else about. They can go into free association without fear
that they might be judged. This enables my clients to be ‘authentic’ (Rogers,
1971). UPR builds trust.