In this brief guide, we will be discussing the topic: congruence in counseling. We will be discussing the meaning of congruence, the core conditions of counseling, and tips to practice congruence.
Congruence in counseling
Congruence can be otherwise called the level of genuineness, of a person. In therapy, as Carl Rogers has stated, congruence is the primary and the most prominent element that cannot be compromised, during the course of therapy, by the therapist. It denotes the balance between inner experience and the outward expression of those experiences and feelings. This is important for the client and the therapeutic relationship. Congruence in counseling ensures the genuineness of the therapist and enables the smooth transitions that are involved in the therapeutic process.
When a therapist is congruent, there is no facade being presented to the client and the client eventually feels secure enough to trust the therapist with their innermost emotions and deepest thoughts. This also serves as a role model for the client to be themselves and to feel free during therapy. They are being encouraged to express their thoughts and concerns honestly without fear or doubts.
Person-centered or humanistic psychotherapy
Carl Rogers was a therapist who ardently placed his belief in the goodness of humanity and the ability of human beings to think, act, and pull themselves up from any kind of rut they might go through. He gave birth to the idea of person-centered or humanistic therapy during the 1940s.
According to his theory of practice in counseling, human beings possess an innate ability and tendency towards self-actualization that refers to an innate desire to grow and engage in meaningful self-exploration of feelings, beliefs, and behavior, to help the client move forward in the process of growth, which in turn empowers them to face current and future challenges.
He strongly stated that for the change to occur in the clients, the counselor needs to be warm, empathetic, genuine, and understanding. According to Rogers, in person-centered therapy, the client-therapist relationship must be placed above everything else. It is considered a mutual and aided relationship, where the client is guided by the therapist to understand their problems and how to go about them, in the future, which empowers and makes the client more aware of themselves.
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The other two core conditions
Given the foundation and aim of person-centered therapy, Rogers came up with three core conditions to facilitate the counseling process which are congruence/genuineness, unconditional positive regard (acceptance), and empathy.
Unconditional positive regard (acceptance)
Acceptance or unconditional positive regard refers to the need for the client to be valued as a person and accepted wholeheartedly for who they are, by the therapist. When the clients are seen and heard as individuals, it enables them to gradually grow and realize their hidden potential. This requires the therapist to accept the client, without any kind of judgment or condemnation.
The therapist must be able to genuinely and willingly care for the client, even when there are circumstances where the client’s actions are disapproved or not acceptable. They need to be heard completely, and with utmost attention, for a wholesome understanding of their current state and their patterns of behavior. The therapist, at all times, must maintain a positive and non-judgemental attitude.
Empathy refers to the ability of the therapist to sincerely understand the deepest emotions, experiences, and thoughts of the client, with sensitivity and wholeness. As humans, we have a strong tendency to resist and look down upon changes as they require us to move out of our comfort zone and to explore something new and unknown.
According to Rogers, when you work to understand life and its varied dimensions through another person’s perspective, it allows us to gain the courage to walk into the change itself.
Empathy is one such quality that helps the therapist in this process. When a therapist is empathetic, he can put himself in the shoes of the client and deeply feel their state of emotions, without losing the “as if” component in the whole process.
Congruence – a state of being
To be congruent is to be completely present at the moment. It refers to the ability of the therapist to be aware of their gut-level feelings and thoughts and to express them outwardly without any filters, at the same time. In Roger’s own words, “ the therapist is openly being the feelings and attitudes that are flowing at the moment. There is complete congruence between what is being experienced, what is present in the awareness, and what is being expressed to the client”.
Being congruent is to be in touch with your innermost experiences and thoughts and to genuinely be honest about them, to yourself as well as the client. It requires the therapist to stay connected at all times, during the counseling process with the client and the impending space. It is, to share a consistent thought or feeling. This feeling could be coming up now and then, which could be disrupting the flow of thought process, in the counseling session and the therapist finds it difficult to stay connected with the client at the given moment. The therapist has to have a congruent and centered relationship with themselves first, and for the same reason, there is a high emphasis on the personal development of the therapist.
Praticisng congruence (tips)
- Get a piece of paper or you could use a personal journal or diary
- Jot down how you generally express feelings and your thoughts through the use of words and in the absence of words
- Take a couple of instances or situations which are relevant to you and categorize them into expression using words and without words.
- Honestly write down the answers for each instance.
- Further, reflect upon the answers you’ve given and try gaining insight into your ways of expressing feelings and the changes required in your behavior.
- Once you’ve reflected upon your understanding, try putting it into practice and see how it works for you.
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In this article, we discussed the topic: congruence in counseling. We examined the meaning of the term congruence and discussed the nature and aspects of person-centered therapy or humanistic therapy, along with the core conditions of the therapy, developed by Carl Rogers.
We also looked into congruence as a state of being and how to practice congruence on your own.
FAQs: congruence in counseling
What did rogers mean by congruence?
Congruence refers to the term that is used in therapy to describe the condition the therapist is being genuine and remains authentic, int the therapeutic relationship. The therapist, when congruent does not experience conflicting emotions or does not get emotionally disturbed by what the client has to say. They are on par with the feelings they are experiencing and are also able to genuinely communicate with the client, when required, without hesitation or doubt.
In other words, there is a precise match between experience and awareness for the therapist. The therapist does not up to any kind of facade or ingenuine feelings or reactions towards the client.
How do you develop congruence?
Here is a handful of useful tips to develop your level of congruence in a counseling setup:
Always try to be aware and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. One of the pre-requisite for achieving congruence is noticing our internal state and actively responding to it when the need arises.
Try to remain as you are in real and do not try to change or fake your appearance, demeanor, attitude, and reactions, in front of your client.
Never hind behind facades. Always be your true self and do not engage in any sort of inauthentic actions, while the counseling session is going on.
When you are wrong, own up the mistake and admit it openly. Talk with your client and seek clarification, when in doubt. Do not proceed with assumptions or confusion.
If you truly do not possess an explanation or answer for any of the client’s doubts or questions, tell them so. Let them know that you are unaware but would try to find out and also stand by the client when they are seeking some sort of reassurance from you.
Is congruence a skill?
Yes. congruence, in counseling, is an interpersonal skill. Congruence involves the ability to communicate your feelings openly and honestly, without filtering them. It is a genuine and beautiful way of expressing your heartfelt emotions and in a way that is facilitative and connectable, to the person on the receiving end.
Transparency is the main rule behind congruency and it defines the nature of a therapeutic relationship. The client and the therapist need to share a mutual understanding and open relationship for the smooth transitions of the counseling process.
What is congruent behavior?
A congruent behavior can be defined as a consistent and pervasive state of behavior which means, there exists, good consistency between the goals, attitudes, and values projected and the actual behavior observed. In other words, the way you think and feel should be the same. As the way you behave. If there exists any discrepancy between the way you think and the way you act, it indicates incongruency within the psyche.
Incongruency can lead to mental conflicts and confusion that can affect your daily functioning and your ability to understand yourself better.
What is mood congruent affect?
Mood congruent affect is a psychological phenomenon. It explains the tendency of an individual to selectively remember the memories and information that is congruent to the individual’s current state of mood. They usually tend to recall those memories that are consistent and coinciding with the mood they are experiencing at a particular time.
For instance, if someone is experiencing a sad mood, they will automatically start recalling those memories that have made them feel hurt, sad, and disappointed, in the past. They will specifically pay attention to those events, people, and emotions that trigger their state of despair and grief.
What is the euthymia effect?
In the simplest terms, euthymia refers to the state of life which is characterized by the absence of mood disturbances. It has a common association with bipolar mood disorder. When someone is in a euthymia state, they experience feelings of cheerfulness, happiness, joy, and tranquillity. As their state of mind is not influenced by the varied shades of mood, such people tend to display an increased level of resilience to stress.
These people can remain calm and composed, in the face of stress and think aloud about their values, perceptions, and evaluations. They do not fear nor depend on other people’s validation to prove themselves and their lives.
What causes incongruence?
Incongruence refers to a concept of humanistic psychology, developed by Carl Rogers, that suggests, unpleasant feelings can arise from a discrepancy between our ideal self and our perceived self.
The perceived self is how an individual views themselves and the ideal self is how the individual wishes they were. Mostly incongruence occurs when there is an imbalance between both.