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Addiction and Person-Centered Therapy

Have you ever had the experience of feeling demeaned and diminished … as though you weren’t worth very much?

Have you ever had your thoughts, feelings, and ideas dismissed by another person? Ever had your concerns negated with narrowing of the eyes or a wave of the hand?

If so, then you can appreciate the importance of Person-Centered Therapy. At its core, this approach is about honoring the dignity and worth of every single human being.

Even though every person is unique and one of a kind, almost all of us have had experiences of shame. Most of us have wondered, “What’s wrong with me?”

Person-Centered Therapy can be a powerful corrective for those shaming experiences. It can help to heal your heart and empower you to lead your own life.

What is Person-Centered Therapy?

Person-Centered Therapy is a therapeutic framework grounded in respect. It’s about treating the person rather than the mental health issue. It’s about honoring each individual person and acting in ways that support their growth.

And most of all, it involves something called “unconditional positive regard” … which is exactly as good as it sounds. (More on that in the sections below.)

Person-Centered Therapy was developed by Dr. Carl Rogers, a giant in the world of psychotherapy. He introduced it in the 1940s, and it’s been an important part of therapeutic counseling ever since then.

Carl Rogers hit on a powerful truth when he wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

This is the core of the Person-Centered therapeutic approach: we change when we accept all of ourselves. Rejecting and shaming ourselves only holds us back from healing.

Person-Centered Therapy also goes by other names, including:

  • Rogerian psychotherapy
  • Person-centered psychotherapy
  • Person-centered counseling

The Principles of Person-Centered Therapy

According to Carl Rogers’ paper, The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change, Person-Centered Therapy is founded on the following principles.

To paraphrase Rogers’ words, positive psychological change happens under these conditions:

  1. A therapist and client have a relationship and meet on a regular basis.
  2. The client is struggling with anxiety or other mental and emotional health issues.
  3. The therapist is centered and grounded, and brings that groundedness to the dynamic.
  4. The therapist provides “unconditional positive regard” to the client. This is key, and fundamental to the person-centered approach.
  5. The therapist empathizes with the client’s inner experience and shares this.
  6. The client feels and experiences the unconditional positive regard and the empathy.

When all of these steps combine, they can transform a client’s inner experience.

Why Use Person-Centered Therapy For Addiction Treatment?

Person-Centered Therapy is an incredibly effective approach for addiction treatment. These are just a few of the reasons why:

  • It gives the client an opportunity to see themselves through a new set of eyes, with greater acceptance and generosity. This is perhaps the greatest benefit Person-Centered Therapy offers, because often people who struggle with addiction also have underlying core issues with low self-esteem and worthiness. They may be self-harming or suicidal. Learning to see themselves through a healthier lens can literally save their lives.
  • It provides a feeling of emotional safety and stability in what may be an otherwise chaotic life experience.
  • The application of “unconditional positive regard” is especially important. Many addicts have not had love, let alone unconditional love, in a long time. Their self esteem is often very low; shame and addiction go hand in hand.
  • It offers a time for reflection, allowing the client to take pause and truly reflect on what’s going on in their lives. It helps break through the fog of denial and recognize the underlying core issues that lead to addiction.
  • When done right, the Person-Centered approach can empower the client to learn self-counseling, eventually teaching them to be their own therapist.

Person-Centered Therapy In Action

In our non 12 step rehab, we employ techniques from Person-Centered Therapy to help our Participants recover from substance abuse and addiction.

We take the principles that Carl Rogers championed and integrate them into treatment. Why? Because we recognize that there is no place for guilt and shame in recovery and that to be completely heard and understood is healing.

The Heart of Person-Centered Therapy

Perhaps the best way to sum up the power of the Person-Centered approach is this: it frees you to see and trust your own worth, and the beauty of your own unfolding.

As Dr. Carl Rogers wrote:

“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.”

Addiction and Person-Centered Therapy

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Addiction and Person-Centered Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 May 2018
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