An Analysis of How Carl Rogers Enacted Client-Centered Conversation with Gloria. (Research)

By Wickman, Scott A.; Campbell, Cynthia | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

An Analysis of How Carl Rogers Enacted Client-Centered Conversation with Gloria. (Research)


Wickman, Scott A., Campbell, Cynthia, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


Carl Rogers's session with Gloria in the training film titled Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (Shostrom, 1965a) is among the most written about in the history of counseling and continues to be used as an instructional model for the helping professions (Glauser & Bozarth, 2001). In this session, Gloria, a 30-year-old recently divorced woman, presented an initial problem about "having men to the house," wondering "how it affects the children." Specifically, Gloria wanted to know if she should be truthful with her daughter about having sex since the divorce or if such honesty would cause her daughter emotional harm. Through the course of their 30-minute conversation, this issue evolved into Gloria accepting herself and feeling "whole."

There were several indicators that this session was meaningful and life changing for Gloria despite its short duration. She later wrote that

   Something happened in those few short minutes which has stayed
   with me ever since. He simply helped me to recognize my own
   potential--my value as a human being. All the words couldn't
   possibly express the importance of that for me. (Dolliver, Williams,
   & Gold, 1980, p. 141)

Moreover, Gloria attended a weekend conference in 1965 featuring the film's debut and maintained a written correspondence with Rogers and his wife Helen until Gloria's death in 1979 (Rogers, 1984; Weinrach; 1990). Rogers (1984) described himself as "awed" by the session's significance, writing "We truly met as persons. It is good to know that even one half hour can make a difference in a life" (p. 425).

In his theory of client-centered counseling, Rogers (1951, 1957) proposed three conditions as "necessary and sufficient" for therapeutic change: empathy, genuinenes and unconditional positive regard. This theoretical framework provides the instructional foundation for many counselor education programs. However, Rogers (1967) expressed considerable frustration at how his theory was taught, stating that "such training has very little to do with an effective therapeutic relationship" and that he had "become more and more allergic" to terms like "reflection of feeling" (p. 375). Moreover, Rogers and Wood (1974) criticized the way in which client-centered counseling was being taught through reductionist means such as microskills. When a student asked why Rogers did not always adhere to the rules of "Rogerian" counseling, he replied, "I'm in the fortunate position of not having to be a Rogerian" (Farber, Brink, & Raskin, 1996, p. 11). Clearly, there was a discrepancy between how Rogers conceptualized what he did and how his theory was being taught. For that reason, a greater understanding of Rogers's enacted therapeutic style is needed to increase counselor educators' teaching effectiveness in the classroom.

LITERATURE REVIEW

There have been numerous publications (Bohart, 1991; Dolliver et al., 1980; Ellis, 1986; Essig & Russell, 1990; Hill, Thames, & Rardin, 1979; Kiesler & Goldston, 1988; Meara, Shannon, & Pepinsky, 1979; Mercier & Johnson, 1984; Rogers & Wood, 1974; Rosenzweig, 1996; Shostrom & Riley, 1968; Stoten & Goos, 1974; Weinrach, 1986, 1990, 1991; Zimmer & Cowles, 1972) examining one or more of the counseling sessions depicted in Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (Shostrom, 1965a). These authors generally agree that Rogers practiced the theory of counseling for which he is famous (for a disagreement with that notion, see Weinrach, 1990, 1991) and most authors used transcripts provided by Shostrom (1965b) or Rogers and Wood (1974) as raw data. However, a casual reading of either transcript concurrent with a viewing of the film reveals that the actual dialogue spoken has been somewhat normalized when transcribed, putting the language more in line with written English and easing readability. Although it has been the most widely studied and scrutinized session in the history of counseling, all studies that have been done to date have been based on imperfect transcripts and most did not offer practical utility to the field of counseling (see Essig & Russell, 1990, and Rogers & Wood, 1974, for exceptions). …

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