Legitimacy and Unconditional
Positive Regard

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." - Carl Rogers

Unconditional positive regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client-centered therapy.

Its founder, Carl Rogers, writes:

The central hypothesis of this approach is that the individual has within him or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his own attitudes and behaviour—and that these resources can be tapped only if a definable climate of acceptance can be provided.

Rogers believed that unconditional positive regard is essential for healthy development and tried to establish it as a therapeutic component. Through providing unconditional positive regard, humanistic therapists seek to help their clients accept and take responsibility for themselves. Humanistic psychologists believe that by showing the client unconditional positive regard and acceptance, the therapist is providing the best possible conditions for personal growth to the client.

By definition, it is essential in any helping relationship to have an anticipation for change. In the counselling relationship, that anticipation presents as Hope—an optimism that something good and positive will develop to bring about constructive change in the client's way of being. Thus, unconditional positive regard means that the therapist has and shows overall acceptance of the client by setting aside their own personal opinions and biases.

Rogers gives this description and personal experience:

“For me it expresses the primary theme of my whole professional life, as that theme has been clarified through experience, interaction with others, and research. This theme has been utilized and found effective in many different areas, until the broad label 'a person-centered approach' seems the most descriptive. The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior--and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”

David G. Myers says the following in his textbook, Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules:

“People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem.”

Unconditional positive regard can be facilitated by keeping in mind Rogers’ belief that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth. Rogers' theory encouraged other psychologists to suspend judgement, and to listen to a person with an attitude that the client has within himself/herself the ability to change, without actually changing who he/she is.

(Sourced from Wikipedia)

Further information can be found at: http://www.bapca.org.uk/about/carl-rogers.html

Jenny’s credentials:
Unconditional positive regard forms part of Jenny’s model and theory provided as part of her Masters thesis (2006)

Useful books:
On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers.