chapter  48
Person-centred therapy is a palliative for the worried well but lacks the depth and rigour to deal with people who are `ill'
Pages 2

A popular view of person-centred therapy is that it is mild and inoffensive, great for people who want and need little more than a sympathetic ear but, in reality, anodyne and weak so of little or no use to anyone with real mental distress. People with mild neuroses and acute but everyday problems may gain something from the opportunity to just talk to someone who will listen in a non-judgemental way but person-centred therapists lack the knowledge and skills to deal with deep-rooted psychological problems. Paradoxically, another view held by (for example) Kovel (1976: 116) is that person-centred therapy is adequate when working with people who are so deeply disturbed and dysfunctional as to be `unsuitable' for psychotherapy (ground which, via pre-therapy and contact work, person-centred therapy has proudly claimed for its own ± Point 34). What both these views amount to is the assumption that person-centred therapy is a palliative but that it is ineffective with people experiencing deep-rooted emotional distress. Even though there is an increasing recognition that person-centred therapists do work with people who may be called mentally ill this is seen as a recent development and the old myths persist. In reality, at least from the days of the Wisconsin project in the 1960s which involved investigating the ef®cacy of person-centred therapy with people diagnosed as `schizophrenic' (see Barrett-Lennard 1998: 267± 270), there has been evidence of person-centred practice with people who may be described as `severely disturbed'.