The Importance of Empathy and Congruence in the Counselling Relationship

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According to Stephen Palmer, congruence involves the counselor being self-aware and open. (p. 178). It supposedly has two dimensions: first, the counselor must be wholly and genuinely themselves within the therapeutic relationship, being alert to the presence and movement of their thoughts, feelings and perceptions. and, second, this genuine presence extend itself to the client (p. 178). Although person-centred counselors don’t seek to provide their clients with an example to imitate, the congruence of the counselor is likely to inspire an increase congruence in the patient as well. This is particularly significant because incongruence, wrote Colin Feltham, is one of the characteristics of emotional disharmony (p. 63).In addition, congruence of the counselor offers the client the genuine reaction of another person whose integrity can be trusted, and whose professionalism has ensured that as far as possible that [reflection] is not discoloured by the counsellor’s own need system. (Mearns and Thorne 1999, p. 87). What this tells us is that congruence empowers a therapist because it allows for a deep, real, vibrant and vital self of the counselor in his interaction with the client and that it has a great potency in his quest for transformation. As a result, congruence allows for the thoughts and behaviours of the therapist and the client to correspond. As a result, both the patient and the therapist will be more genuine because the therapist dared to be more real.Carl Rogers (1971), one of the leading advocates of congruence, elaborated on how congruence is applied in his practice:I express anger, and affection, and annoyance and all kinds of things, as well as being very responsive to hurt. Hurt arouses in me feelings of really wanting to be emphatic so that a lot of therapeutic attitudes that I’ve stressed, I think, are very real parts of me, and of many therapists, and so they need expression as well, but other feelings, too, have equal validity. (cited in Frick, p. 89).