The Characteristics of a Helping Relationship

Posted on 27. October 2017

In 1961 Carl R. Rogers publishes his first best seller, a book he thought was for psychologists only, but which sold copy after copy to people in all kind of professions. The book was called “On Becoming a Person”, and marked the divulgation of the Rogerian approach.

Rogers coins the term “the actualizing tendency”, which he claims is a biological tendency in all living organisms to display their full potential. In a person this full potential may be reached if the person has the optimal conditions for growth. He or she will have these conditions if s/he is surrondded by people with three attitudes:

  1. Empathy
  2. Accept (unconditional positive regard) for the other
  3. Congruence (explicitizing the feelings relevant for the relationship between the facilitator and the person)

In chapter 3, he describes this in more detail, listing 10 questions he asks himself, in order to remind himself of what he needs to do in order to be helpful of another person’s growth and development.


Download Rogers 10 questions on a helping relationship




The text is gender biased, referring to people only as males. Rogers’ daughter Natalie critized him for this, and in later writings Rogers takes gender into consideration, being concerned about representing women as well, of course.

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