Reapproaching Rogers: a discursive examination of client-centered therapy

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We examine the embodiment of client-centered core conditions of unconditional positive regard, congruence, and empathy in therapeutic discourse. We do this by arguing that the therapeutic relationship is a discursive space wherein Rogerian conditions for change can occur. Specifically, we locate particular lexical markers of Rogerian talk in therapeutic conversations, and explore how these particular ways of talking by therapists can produce change in clients. Using text-mining and discourse analysis on 31 session transcripts containing conversations of Carl Rogers with his clients, we attempt to understand the various clinical functions of Rogerian core conditions in therapeutic discourse. We see that unconditional positive regard can be constructed by Rogers as facilitative minimal responses, allowing for his client’s discourse elaboration. Rogers does congruence by talking tentatively by continually asking questions and feedback from his clients, and talking in an affiliative manner through laughter. Finally, we see empathy embodied in Rogers’s use of I-statements, helping clients expand emotional discourse and self-disclosure. Using a discursive lens to examine Rogerian therapy, this work provides specific linguistic formulations of Rogerian core conditions that enact therapeutic change in client-centered therapy, to serve as a guide to client-centered therapists in their practice.