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Unconditional Positive Regard

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 13 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
Counsellor Counselling Client

Of all the skills a counsellor has to acquire unconditional positive regard is by far the most complex and difficult to learn. Being able to accept a client unconditionally enables the counsellor to provide non-judgmental support throughout the counselling relationship.

Understanding Unconditional Positive Regard

Besides empathy and congruence, unconditional positive regard is one of the most important core conditions in person-centred counselling. All trained counsellors must therefore be able to demonstrate an understanding of this attribute confidently.

Unconditional positive regard requires that a counsellor suspends any form of personal judgment, and accepts the client, regardless of the content of any disclosure they may have made. A judgment is made in a very short amount of time, and overcoming this instant reaction can be difficult for many people. A counsellor however, has undergone specific counselling skills training and is able to provide this unconditional form of therapeutic support.

What Happens During Counselling

During one-to-one counselling a client is able to freely express his/her emotions, feelings and thoughts, in a safe, totally confidential environment. They are free to explore all thoughts without having to maintain any level of behaviour, and are acceptably able to do so without any fear of condemnation or reject from the counsellor.

The counsellor is then able to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings expressed, and to perceive and understand the client’s issues and problems more clearly. A client will feel valued, respected, accepted and appreciated, as well as more able to build a trusting relationship with the counsellor.

What is Positive Regard?

There are a number of key components that make up unconditional positive regard. These are:

  • Respect for another person.
  • Being non-judgmental and impartial.
  • Valuing a person and accepting them as a unique individual.
  • Acceptance of another person, and their views, opinions and beliefs.
  • Nurturing and caring for another person, and being conscious of their needs.
  • Being compassionate, and understanding a person’s personal struggle with issues and problems.

In the counselling room, and throughout the one-to-one session, a counsellor must be able to demonstrate, and maintain, all of the key components, whilst displaying a positive attitude to the client at all times.

Negative and Positive

Many people feel uncomfortable if they attract another person’s disapproval, and during counselling this feeling can be intensified. For others however, being ignored can feel considerably worse, as the person will feel unvalued and unaccepted. This may explain why some people willingly accept grudgingly given positive regard or display negative behaviour to attract some form of attention.

A counsellor therefore must demonstrate unconditional positive regard towards a client throughout the length of the counselling relationship. Without this expression of understanding and acceptance the client’s development may be considerably hindered. For some clients however, accepting unconditional positive regard poses a personal challenge. This may be because they have had no previous experience of total, unconditional acceptance. For these clients, a counsellor will have to pay close attention to their own behaviour and the way in which they demonstrate unconditional positive regard to the client.

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