Unconditional Positive Regard (An Update)

The attitude of affection and care as shown by one individual towards another individual irrespective of their behavior and personality type.

Unconditional positive regard has been proven to put on a great impact on an individual’s well being and psychological health.

It also adds up to the individual’s self worth, growth and awareness.

In this article we will discuss unconditional positive regard.

Unconditional positive regard can be contrasted with conditional positive regard in which individuals are considered worthy of affection or care only when they have a certain personality type or exhibit desirable behavior.

Humanistic Perspective and Unconditional Positive Regard

The term unconditional positive regard was first coined by Carl Rogers (1902-1987).

Carl Rogers followed humanistic perspective and theorized that for individuals to reach their maximum potential, they need to have environment that provide them with following three dimensions:

·         Empathy

·         Genuineness

·         Acceptance

The third aspect covers the domain unconditional positive regard where a person is accepted the way he is.

An analogy was drawn by Rogers between growth of individual and growth of plant where he explained that as a little plant cannot become a fully developed tree without necessary conditions as light and water, in a similar manner an individual cannot reach its full potential unless he is provided with the environment in which he receives unconditional positive regard which is necessary for development of individual.

Advantages of Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional positive regard leads to a fully functioning human being. Roger identified fully functioning human beings as the one who can serve as ideal for others and can achieve whatever he wants.

He also established that fully functioning human beings are not the end but it is always the process.

Unconditional positive regard would inculcate following characteristics in an individual:

Feeling of Trust

Individuals who receive unconditional positive regard starts trusting their own self. They trust their gut feelings and instincts.

They make their own decisions and stick to them.

Openness to Experience

Individuals receiving unconditional positive regard become open to all kinds of experiences that are positive and negative.

They cherish not only positive but also negative emotions.

Instead of denying negative effects and letting defense mechanisms resolve it, they deal with it in a constructive way.


Being creative constitutes the major aspect of an individual’s life. People are not robots and tend to try out new things and be innovative in their ways.

Those who receive more unconditional positive regard are creative and confident in their ways than others.

Living with sense of existence

Individuals receiving unconditional positive regard tend to live in the moment.

They believe more in being in the present than regretting over the past or worrying about the future.

They refrain from having any kind of preconceived notions in any of their interactions.

Fulfilling life

Individuals receiving more unconditional positive regard live a more fulfilled life than others.

They are more satisfied, happy and have higher self-esteem.

They are always looking for new challenges that can add up to their growth.

Unconditional Positive Regard and Self-Concept:

According to Rogers there is a strong relationship between self concept and unconditional positive regard.

Self concept is a construct central to humanistic perspective.

Self concept can be defined as beliefs and perceptions that individuals have about him or simply put one’s perception about oneself.

The self is inner personality in this perspective. There are two major influences defined by Rogers on self-concept

·         Childhood experiences

·         Evaluations by others

There are three main components of self-concept


Self worth is also known as self esteem.

Self worth comprises how we evaluate our own self that is either positive or negative.

Self worth is the result of childhood experience of an individual specifically of child mother interaction.


Self-image is how a person sees himself. Self-image is strongly defined the person’s perception of his physical appearance and has deep impacts on his psychological health.

It also influences the way a person perceives the world and his behavior in society.


Ideal self explain the self that person wants to be that is his ambition and goals in life. Ideal self of a person is dynamics as it changes over the period of time as an individual grows.

Individuals in a society want to behave in a way they see themselves that is their self image and wants their behavior to be reflective of their ideal self.

The lesser the discrepancy in the individual’s self image and ideal self, the more congruence he will have.

The person would have a sense of totality and will be able to realize his full potential.

On the other hand if the discrepancy between self-image and idea self is greater than a person will lose his sense of worth resulting in lowered self esteem.

Unconditional Positive Regard and Self-worth:

 According to Carl Rogers, congruence between ideal self and self image can only be achieved by unconditional positive regard.

Person needs to be felt accepted for their self-image and this sense of acceptance through unconditional positive regard will inculcate confidence, creativity and feeling of trust in them.

Combined with these people would have higher self-esteem ultimately leading him to realize his full potential.

The sources of unconditional regard changes as the individual grows up. In childhood, parents have a major responsibility of bringing congruence in an individual’s self by providing them with unconditional positive regard.

In adult life this source is shifted from parents to significant others where their acceptance counts the most in bringing congruence to self.

Unconditional Positive Regard and Psychotherapy

The basic purpose served by unconditional positive regard in therapy is of rapport building. When a therapist accepts a client’s action and behavior, they are more inclined to elaborate them and describe them in an accurate way.

However, if a client starts questioning their actions or beliefs clients might get more served and secured in their disclosure or might not share anything at all which ultimately destroys the purpose of therapy.

Some therapists argue that unconditional positive regard by a therapist might act as a substitute of parent love for a client which makes the client more comfortable and easy for the therapist to gain trust of the client.

Through unconditional positive regard, a therapist can set the life of a client on the way to happiness by accepting their negative behavior.

When a client realizes that the therapist not only accepts his dysfunctional behavior, such as drug abuse or self harm, but also considers him worthy of respect and love it boosts his self-esteem.

With this boast in self worth, client gain confidence in him and engage in self rectifying behaviors.

Acceptance of negative behavior by a therapist can function as modeling of behavior for clients.

After being accepted by a therapist, the client might start accepting himself too for his dysfunctional behavior leading towards a better life.

Unconditional Positive Regard and Social Work

Unconditional positive regard can be applied to situations other than therapies such as social work.

In social work unconditional positive regard works in similar fashion as in therapy.

Social workers often work with clients who are at a low point in their lives. Most of those clients have markedly negative views about themselves.

Clients of social workers belong to diverse cultures and backgrounds which are strikingly different from social worker’s own culture and background.

Thus unconditional positive regard improves social worker’s ability to deal with the client and empathize with him in a better way.

With this tactic social workers do not necessarily imply his own belief system on clients rather he is able to accept his client’s version of reality.

In accordance with therapy, social workers should not accept all the behaviors of clients rather just accept that the client is a free being and works in their own reality.

They should make therapy tailored to the needs of clients.

Disadvantages of Unconditional Positive Regard

Consistent unconditional positive regard might have a detrimental effect in therapy.

As in couple therapy, couples would want to know what they are doing wrong that is affecting their relationship.

In this situation unconditional positive regard might backfire and result in negatively affecting the process of therapy.

Unconditional positive regard can also cause trouble where an individual’s behavior is harmful for himself and others.

In this case, the therapist cannot possibly keep on accepting the client’s negative behavior.

Thus it is suggested that the therapist maintain a balance in accepting client’s behavior and also pointing out his dysfunctional behavior to him so that he might grow out of trauma.

Unconditional positive regard should not be used as a tactic of accepting each and every behavior of client rather therapist should believe that the client is functioning with all the resources at his disposal.

Applying Unconditional Positive Regard Outside Therapy:

Unconditional positive regard can be applied to situations outside the therapy such as parent-child relationship, teacher-child relationship or intimate partner relationship.

Giving positive regard can significantly enhance self esteem of a person and can have positive impacts on their growth.

Following are the three techniques that can be followed to give positive regard in situations outside therapy:

Modifying words

A person should change the way they talk about other person’s negative or dysfunctional behavior. Instead of bluntly humiliating them or make them feel about their action, a person should provide reassurance and acceptance and then talk about their dysfunctional traits.

Focusing on feelings

Providing unconditional positive regard gives the best result when a person has acted in a wrongful way.

In this situation it is important to look for what a person feels about their behavior and act according to it instead of actions.

Reinforcing your own attitude

A person should himself again and again that he accepts the other person the way he is.

This enhances one’s unconditional positive regard for other people.

 FAQ’s: about Unconditional Positive Regards

Q1.What is the need of positive regard for children?

According to McLeod (2014) unconditional positive regard by parents for children helps children to fulfill their two essential needs that are:

·         Receiving positive regard from others

·         Improvement in self-worth

Q2.What is unconditional positive regard?

It is a concept developed by Carl Rogers who followed humanistic perspective.

According to Rogers it is unconditional acceptance and support by a person for others regardless of a fact from which background they belong to or which behavior they exhibit.

Q3. What are Carl Rogers’s three core conditions?

Carl Roger gave three conditions necessary for the growth and development of a client.

He necessitated these three conditions to provide conducive environment for a client:

·         Congruence

·         Empathetic listening

·         Unconditional positive regard

Q4. How can a mentor provide unconditional positive regard to his students?

A mentor can provide unconditional positive regard to his students for their healthy growth and development.

A mentor should follow following guidelines for this purpose:
·         He should genuinely acknowledge the success and accomplishment of his students.
·         He should personally praise students for their positive actions and good decisions.
·         He should respect his students as an individual by letting them make conscious choices, and he also should explain the reason for the decision they make for them.
·         He should provide different challenges for their growth and skill development.


Simply Psychology/Carl Rogers

Unconditional positive regard in parenting. Counseling for Adults, Families, and Children. 


APA concise dictionary of psychology.

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