Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers:

Regard

By Will Stillwell

Regard

Rogers begins each session settling himself into his “authenticity” – manifest as being-here with a client. “Hi”, he says to Ritchie, and invites him to join in quiet “to get with ourselves.”

Once self-present, Rogers seldom loses his focus on the client. Part way through this interview, Dadisi seems to distance himself, the audience offers potential distraction; but see if you notice as I do that in his discipline, especially his eye contact, Rogers does not move from being present with Dadisi.

The client Steve often, as in this segment, speaks in a hesitating manner. Rogers was known for his frequent expression, “Uh huh.” Did you notice it? In the entire 45-minute interview with Steve, Rogers uses “Uh huh” or a variant 93 times.

I experience these expressions as Rogers applying self-discipline. Rogers is learning as he reflects for himself on a client’s experience. By means of this phrase he pauses, and paces his understanding of their interaction. He is not agreeing with the client’s statements. “Uh huh” is not Rogers applying expertise and evaluation. It’s even ambiguous about meaning. Most important, “Uh huh” is his action continually, positively, acknowledging the other person: “I am with you as we go along, I am present.” In moments of intensity a client is not alone, he is being addressed: “Here we are in contact. Here we can touch.”

In contrast is another of Rogers’ more minor expressions, “Okay,” that in some contexts might conceivably have the same meaning as “Uh huh.” He says “Okay” a half-dozen times or more with each of these men, and almost always in the early or late minutes of the interviews. In central sections of the interview with Ritchie, for me a couple of occasions the expression “Okay” would serve to acknowledge what Ritchie had said. Rogers does not use it.

In contrast is another of Rogers’ more minor expressions, “Okay,” that in some contexts might conceivably have the same meaning as “Uh huh.” He says “Okay” a half-dozen times or more with each of these men, and almost always in the early or late minutes of the interviews. In central sections of the interview with Ritchie, for me a couple of occasions the expression “Okay” would serve to acknowledge what Ritchie had said. Rogers does not use it.

He utilizes the expression, “Okay” in definitive summarization: for his client — “we both agree that this is what you mean;” and for himself – “this is a clear statement of what I mean.” He says it as he more overtly manages the interview’s orientation and conclusion processes. In this example, it seems to me Rogers is trying to close the interview. (We’ll have another chance later to visit these moments again in larger context and follow its development.)

Rogers attempts to keep himself open and tentative and exploratory, especially in an interview’s major middle section. For him, “Uh huh” serves that function. In contrast, his expression, “Okay” serves him as he tries to enjoin his more definitive shape to the interview’s content and process.

What further qualities of regard toward his clients can we see in Rogers? On one occasion he declared that in his valuing of another person, the client’s “experience is equal in authority and validity to mine.” I see in these interviews that Rogers’ form of relationship with the client is not one of living in equivalent roles, but its great consequence is that his presence is non-oppositional. Mostly he does not evaluate the content of a client’s remarks (or claim to even remember it later). In therapy he rarely interprets or connects a client’s content to a psychological theory.

In his acts of therapeutic facilitation I sense Rogers is unconcerned about establishing any general truth, rather he is striving to enter a reciprocal process — an action-and-response-possibilities dance wherein the truths of presence may emerge.

Rather than “a content” of propositional declarations or ordered steps, his attitude is attuned to the qualities of feelings, is an “approach” toward a relation of positive regard between the people. Watch how Rogers responds here as Ritchie moves further into their dance.

And here’s how it seemed to Rogers following that interview session.

It seems to me that during a therapy session (which Rogers calls “a very intense relationship”) Rogers clearly considers what is going on for himself and his client, and he chooses not to interfere with the freedom of this special dance. “Entrust a person with power, with responsible freedom of choice…” and that person will step forth and become his own presence with this therapist.