In the mid-1900’s Carl Rogers proposed a revolutionary new approach to therapy. Up to that point, the clinician was typically seen as the expert and even authority in the therapy space. However, Rogers proposed it is the client themselves who are the true experts over their own lives and their own needs in therapy. In line with this, he taught counselors and therapists to practice client centered therapy.
In today’s mental health treatment, another revolution is occurring as many providers are now offering client sessions through telehealth (teletherapy) approaches over secure and HIPAA compliant video conferencing. Learn all about how you can adapt the classic principles of client centered therapy to the modality of teletherapy:
Rogers said that good client centered therapists need to demonstrate three key qualities. Chief among these is genuineness. This simply means that the therapist brings their true self to the therapy relationship. This does not mean that the therapist spends excessive amounts of time discussing themselves or their own problems. Rather, it just means that the counselor is open to sharing his or her genuine reactions. Offering this leads to more open communication in the therapy relationship.
This quality can absolutely be brought into the online therapy space. Clinicians can show their real selves by demonstrating open communication and their genuine reactions. Even through a video chat, clients will be able to perceive the clinician’s willingness to be themselves. It will add to their ability to be comfortable in the process of therapy, to communicate openly, and to be appropriately vulnerable.
Rogers also said that it is crucial for the clinician to convey empathy to the client. This helps to build the therapeutic relationship. It can help to validate and normalize the client’s experiences. It also helps to mirror the client’s thoughts and feelings back to them, which can allow them to reflect more deeply during the therapy process. Ultimately, this may help clients to make greater gains in therapy. It is quite easy to convey empathy to a client even over a teletherapy modality. Typically, conveying empathy can be done in many of the same ways as you would within traditional face-to-face therapy approaches.
Unconditional Positive Regard
A third major tenet of Rogers’ approach is unconditional positive regard. This is the practice of accepting the client for who they are. Along with this, the therapist gives the client support and care no matter what they are going through. Essentially, it makes therapy a place that is free from the fear of judgment. It can be very therapeutic for clients who perhaps do not receive that from other people in their life.
Just as with being genuine and conveying empathy, it is quite easy to adapt unconditional positive regard to the teletherapy approach. Simply make the therapy sessions a place where no topic is off limits and there is no judgment for any topic that is discussed. By combining this with empathy, the client will know they are accepted and cared about. Even when miles apart, these techniques will help the client to feel safe in therapy. It may even provide a beneficial corrective experience for them.
Aside from using client centered techniques to make a safe space for your client, be sure that you are also using a teletherapy platform that will keep their information safe. The best teletherapy platforms are designed to be confidential and HIPPA compliant. This security will serve both you and your clients.