The humanistic person-centered approach has strengths and limitations specific to the needs of the client. This approach sees people as fundamentally good with the ability to develop self-awareness, self-trust, and forward evolution. and clients are encouraged to resolve their own problems through self awareness (Corey, 2009). Additionally, developing self-awareness helps the client to rediscover meaning in life. Some clients will, however, need a more structured therapy than is typical in a humanistic person-centered approach.
One strength of using a humanistic/person-centered approach when working with Patrick is the warmth and caring relationship that will develop between him and his therapist (Corey, 2009). The therapist's active listening and full emotional availability will provide him with a healing environment within which he can explore his emotional experiences safely and without judgment. Central to the therapist's role in client-centered therapy is respecting Patrick and his values as well as maintaining a therapeutic nonjudgmental attitude. This relationship is especially important in Patrick's therapy because he has few close relationships. Because Patrick seems to have lost a sense of value within himself, having someone perceive him as a valuable person, capable of personal growth, should have an encouraging affect on him. The therapist will perceive Patrick in this way (Corey, 2009).
The goals of the client-centered therapist are congruence, unconditional positive regard and acceptance, and empathetic understanding (Corey, 2009). Congruence will generate trust between Patrick and his therapist which will enable him to regain a sense of intimacy with people. The therapist's unconditional positive regard will allow him to express his fears and emotions without fear of being judged. Accurate empathetic understanding will enable the therapist to understand the depth and gravity of the Patrick's emotional experiences, even those he may infer subtly without fully understanding them. Through the relationship, the therapist will help him address his anxiety, stress, and feelings of guilt, begin to integrate and process his experiences, and come to terms with the person he has become because of these experiences (Corey, 2009). Carl Rogers believed the three therapist attributes create a growth-promoting climate in which individuals can move forward and become what they are capable of becoming" (Corey, 2009, p. 169).
The caring environment of this approach will be conducive for Patrick's openness and sharing experiences and emotions. Patrick has isolated himself from his colleagues and his friends, which may exacerbate his inability to progress through his challenges. He seems to have lost his self-determination and his ability to self-heal which may be because he has lost a sense of meaning and purpose in his life. In this approach, the therapist will perceive Patrick holistically as someone who can regain his ability to move forward and thrive rather than to separate and deal with each issue separately. Patrick will likely benefit from a holistic approach that helps him integrate his intensely emotional experiences as a part of his potential.
Regarding Patrick's cultural context, his affiliation to the group of firemen is likely male-dominated and not an environment in which the men openly discuss emotions. He may ostracize himself because he believes his emotional experiences are inappropriate or unlike those of the other men. Having a place where he can be open and honest about his fears and sadness may help him to regain his ability to move beyond these challenges.
From a limitations standpoint, because this approach does not readily address symptoms of acute distress, Patrick may benefit from additional therapy more related to ameliorating his critical symptoms related to his ongoing experience of crisis. This is one limitation of this approach because it does not provide tools by which the client can use and begin to relieve these symptoms (Laureate Education, Inc., 2006). Patrick seems to need some immediate relief and this approach may not be effective as a single agent.
Because of his acute symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Patrick may benefit, at least initially, from a more structured therapeutic process (Laureate Education, Inc., 2006). I would be inclined to recommend cognitive-processing therapy that was designed to treat PTSD in sexual assault victims (Resick, Nishith, Weaver, Astin, & Feuer, 2002). Patrick may have some survivor's guilt and feel as if he did not do enough during the crisis on September 11. This type of therapy is short-term and might ameliorate his anxiety and flashbacks of the crisis. I would maintain contact with Patrick through this therapy and after its completion, continue to meet with Patrick with a humanistic/person-centered approach.
Other issues that need to be addressed are Patrick's use of alcohol and his deficient social skills (Laureate Education, Inc., 2006). In a client-centered approach, these might not be addressed directly, but if the therapy is successful at helping Patrick retrieve meaning and purpose in his life, his alcohol use may decrease. As he gains self-understanding and appreciation, his social skills may improve. Both of these issues should be thoroughly assessed and monitored throughout the therapeutic process.
Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Brooks/Cole.
Resick, P. A., Nishith, P., Weaver, T. L., Astin, M. C., & Feuer, C. A. (2002). A comparison of cognitive-processing therapy with prolonged exposure and a waiting condition for the treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder in female rape victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(4), 867-879. doi: 10.1037//0022-006X.70.4.867
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2006). Case Study: A Humanistic/Person-Centered Perspective [Streaming Video]. Baltimore: Author.