While cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most widely used psychotherapy approach in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, there are alternatives a therapist may prefer to use in a given case.
One of the more common alternate approaches is “person-centered therapy”, also known as “client-centered” or “Rogerian” therapy, after the main premise of the approach or the original developer, Carl Rogers.1,2
Here, we’ll explain what this approach involves as well as its benefits and drawbacks for SUD psychotherapy treatment. If you’re interested in an alternative approach to your therapy sessions, please consult your therapist. You can get in touch with Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to find treatment and rehabilitation programs in Dallas-Fort Worth that specialize in SUD.
What is Person-Centered Therapy?
Person-centered therapy was developed in the 1940s by psychologist Carl Rogers. It was a breakthrough in psychotherapy as it used a more empathic, nondirective approach to treatment compared to psychoanalysis, the main approach used at the time.1,2
The main premise is that all people have the desire and ability to improve themselves and that each person knows best how to do this. The role of the therapist is to listen, empathize, and build a relationship with the client that allows them to make structured improvements of their own.1,2
Key Features of Person-Centered Therapy
Person-centered therapy, while superficially similar to other psychotherapy types like cognitive-behavioral therapy, has some distinct characteristics that set it apart.
Some key features include the following:1,2
- “Client” or “person” is used rather than “patient”. The main premise of client-centered therapy is that the person being treated takes charge of their recovery. To this end, terms like “client” or “person” are used, as these imply a more active role, rather than the typically passive role of a patient.1,2
- Allows the client to take the lead in their recovery. As the name implies, client-centered or person-centered therapy has the client do most of the work of understanding and analyzing their condition, as well as solving any specific problems they may have. This is in contrast with other forms of psychotherapy where the therapist usually takes the lead.1,2
- The therapist primarily facilitates by using empathy and active listening. The therapist builds a relationship with the client, using empathy. This encourages an environment where the client feels validated, confident, and competent enough to solve their own problems.1,2
- Diagnosis is not an objective. While the therapist may have some opinion about what’s going on with an affected individual, creating a diagnosis is not a goal in person-centered therapy. The client is allowed to discover more about themselves and act to improve themselves based on what they understand.1,2
Benefits for Addiction Treatment
Using a person-centered approach for SUD psychotherapy can potentially have the following benefits:3,4,5,6
- Helps build confidence.The approach is specifically designed to validate individuals and empower them to be their best selves. For people whose SUD is tied to anxiety or a low sense of self-worth, person-centered therapy might help them acquire the confidence they need to make more lasting gains.3,4,5,6
- Reduces guilt over things out of one’s control. Person-centered therapy may help some individuals come to terms with their condition. This may help them to move on from a rut and make more productive decisions later on.3,4,5,6
- Allows personal feelings to be expressed. The stigma around SUD and exploring one’s mental health may make it difficult for some people to express their emotions in a healthy way. Unfortunately, this makes it far more difficult to understand or properly control one’s emotions. The validation offered by person-centered therapy facilitates expression which may allow the individual to progress.3
- Helps create a personalized system for success. Because the affected individual creates their own strategies for tackling their problems, the solutions derived from person-centered therapy sessions can be more doable and personalized. This may make it more suited for unique SUD cases.3
- May help reduce depression and PTSD symptoms. The use of person-centered therapy has been linked to a marked reduction in depression and PTSD symptoms, both of which commonly co-occur with SUD. This is largely due to its focus on empowering individuals and improving their confidence, in contrast to other more directive approaches.4,5,6
Drawbacks for Addiction Treatment
Person-centered therapy is not to go-to approach for treating SUD primarily because of its main drawbacks:3,4,5
- Requires the patient to be rational. Substance use disorder can make it extremely difficult for affected individuals to act in their best self-interest. For this reason, cognitive-behavioral therapy and other more directive approaches may be preferred for individuals who are less stable or less able to make educated decisions.3,4,5
- May take a lot of time. The very nature of the person-centered approach means that the therapist is less able to use their direct experience with other patients to inform or speed up progress. This often means more sessions tend to be needed, which may be problematic if the affected individual lacks income or insurance coverage.3,4,5
- Book a Person-Centered Therapy Session in Dallas, TX
Achieving a full recovery from SUD often involves trying out different psychotherapy approaches, even after rehab. Ask your therapist if person-centered therapy might be right for you. If you’re in the North Texas region, you can call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers at +1(214) 935-2287 to find drug and alcohol rehab and aftercare programs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that use person-centered therapy or other approaches.
- Rogers, Carl R. (2012). Carl Rogers on Person-centered Therapy.
- Rogers, Carl R. (1957). The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21.
- Adams, N., & Grieder, D. M. (2004). Treatment Planning for Person-centered Care: The Road to Mental Health and Addiction Recovery.
- Cooper, M., & McLeod, J. (2011). Person-centered therapy: A pluralistic perspective. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 10(3), 210-223.
- Novotná, G., Urbanoski, K. A., & Rush, B. R. (2011). Client-centered design of residential addiction and mental health care facilities: staff perceptions of their work environment. Qualitative Health Research, 21(11), 1527-1538.
- McLean, C. P., Yeh, R., Rosenfield, D., & Foa, E. B. (2015). Changes in negative cognitions mediate PTSD symptom reductions during client-centered therapy and prolonged exposure for adolescents. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 68, 64-69.