Homeopathy and Carl Roger’s Person-Centered Approach to Psychotherapy

Homeopath Katja Schütt finds similar themes in Hahnemann’s homeopathy and Carl Rogers’ person centered approach to psychotherapy.

 CarlRogers

Psychotherapy and homeopathy are two different therapeutic methods whose practitioners aim at helping their patients to find alleviation for their suffering. Including the mind is an integral part of both therapeutic approaches. Psychotherapy as a therapeutic method wasn’t yet established at Hahnemann’s time. However, he disregarded the methods and attitude of treating the mentally ill at his time and gave several recommendations for psychotherapeutic interventions in the Organon. When he lived in Georgenthal, in 1792, he cured the mentally ill patient Klockenbring. He argued:

I never allow an insane person to be punished either by blows or any other kind of corporal chastisement, because there is no punishment where there is no responsibility, and because these sufferers deserve only pity and are always rendered worse by such rough treatment and never improved.” Samuel Hahnemann [1]

Moving forward, several therapeutic approaches to psychotherapy have been developed, each of them claiming to be helpful in some way. Carl Rogers‘ humanistic approach of person-centered therapy is of special importance as its philosophy marked a paradigm shift to existing approaches in psychotherapy. It offers valuable aspects that can easily be integrated into the homeopathic practice. The similarities and differences in their theory and practice of treatment shall be explored in this article.

 

Carl Rogers and The Person-Centered Approach To Psychotherapy

– Talent hits a target no one else can hit –

 

The history of treating mental and emotional disturbances is as old as mankind. As long as humans existed we have relied on friends, priests, astrologers, shamans, physicians, magicians, wise ones or healers to understand suffering and to find alleviation. However, with the earliest ideas of malevolent deities being the cause for mental illness, the patient was to blame and was punished and cruelly treated. Only with the recognition in the eighteenth century of mental illness as a medical disturbance, did treatment conditions for the mentally ill start to improve. In the late nineteenth century, the term psychotherapy began to be used to describe the approach of attempting to “cure the body by mind, aided by the impulse of one mind to another“.[2] The main theoretical schools of psychotherapy that developed historically were the psychoanalytic, behavioral and humanistic approaches. However, until now, a universally accepted theory underlying psychotherapy hasn’t been established.

Carl Ransom Rogers (1902-1987) was a preeminent American psychologist. He is known as the founder of the humanistic approach of client-centered psychotherapy and the father of psychotherapy research. Humanism emphasizes the study of the whole person. One of the basic assumptions is that humans are basically good and trustworthy. They have free will with regard to choices and the path they go down. Central to the humanistic theories are the subjective experiences of the individual. Objective reality is less important than a person’s subjective perception and understanding of the world: “Man essentially lives in his personal and subjective world“. Thus,“There are as many realities as there are humans.“ [3] [4]

Rogers regarded personal growth and fulfillment in life as a basic human motive. He agreed with the main assumptions of Maslow, but added that for a person to grow, they need an environment that provides them with genuineness, acceptance and empathy. Without these, relationships and healthy personalities will not develop as they should. Each person seeks to grow psychologically and to continuously enhance oneself, which is captured by the term “self-actualization“. He emphasized, that the potential of each individual is unique, and that we are meant to develop in different ways according to our personalities.

Rogers established a new approach to therapy as a result of his frustration with the authoritative style of psychoanalytic therapy and his rejection of the deterministic nature of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. He began developing his approach while working with children at the Institute for Child Guidance when he noticed that he got better results upon listening and allowing his clients to determine the rate of treatment. Subjects refused to be influenced to maintain their integrity so he abstained from overtaking control or exerting any pressure.

If I avoid to influence them, humans will become themselves.“ Carl Rogers[5]

The year 1942, in which Carl Rogers published his book “Counseling and Psychotherapy” is considered the birth hours of the person-centered approach. It puts the existential encounter of two human beings into the focus of treatment and defines the therapist’s attitude as therapeutic in itself and not as a mere instrument to facilitate the therapeutic process.

The concept of Self Central to Rogers’ personality theory is the notion of self or self-concept which is defined as the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself – the perceptions that the individual has of the “I” or the “me”. It also relates to the self in relationship to others and the environment, and to the values that are attached to these perceptions.[6] The self is our inner personality and is influenced by the experiences we have in our life, particularly those made in childhood, and the interpretation and evaluation of these experiences. The self-concept includes three components:

 

Self worth or self-esteem – how we value ourselves

Self-image – how we see ourselves

Ideal self – the person we would like to be

 

Roger defined the person‘s phenomenal field as their perceived reality – the ever changing world of external and internal experiences which include all experiences available at a given moment, both conscious and unconscious. A person’s self develops while a portion of this field becomes differentiated through interactions with others and the social evaluations they have experienced.

 

The self-actualizing tendency

The self-actualizing tendency describes the inborn tendency of the organism to develop all one‘s possibilities, and in such a way that it serves the maintenance and promotion of the organism.[7] This tendency is directional, constructive and present in all living beings and considered by Rogers as “the most profound truth about man“. Self-actualization is possible if self-worth, self-image and ideal self overlap. The concept of the self-actualizing tendency is the only motivating force in his theory, it encompasses all other motivations and tendencies. Only the organism as a whole has this tendency but parts of it do not.

It seems to me that at the bottom each person is asking, Who am I, really? How can I get in touch with this real self, underlying all my surface behavior? How can I become myself?” Carl Rogers [22]

Humans strive to become what they can be, to realize their potentialities, to live in a way which is deeply satisfying to them and which truly expresses them. The actualizing tendency can be suppressed but can never be destroyed without the destruction of the organism. Based on this theory, symptoms must be seen in connection with unhelpful relationships and unrealized self-actualization and persist as long as the individual doesn’t develop his full inner potential. As such they constitute a valuable hint for necessary change on the path towards self-actualization and shouldn’t be suppressed or treated superficially.

 

Organismic Valuing and Conditions of Worth

Rogers opined that organisms know what is good for them and they have the ability to make changes, which is called “organismic valuing”. Related to the self-concept and self-actualization are secondary needs such as the “need for positive regard from others“, which refers to love, warmth, sympathy, respect, affection, attention, nurturance etc., and “the need for positive self-regard“, an internalized version of the previous, which refers to self-esteem, self-worth, and a positive self-image. If we receive only conditional positive regard, we develop an ideal self and conditions of worth, which also leads us to have conditional positive self-regard and to lose our integrated personality. To gain the approval of others the true inner self is denied and one exists only in response to the demands of others. This constitutes the fundamental alienation in humans.

Rogers believed that for a person to achieve self-actualization there must be a state of congruence between ideal self and self-image. We want to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like – our ideal self. Therapy is to support the development of psychic maturity – the removal of conditions of negative worth and self-alienation, to reach a self that is congruent with experience, and living a life that is true to ourselves and who we are in the inside. Incongruity means to be out of synch with our true self. Incongruent individuals in their pursuit of positive regard cannot realize their potential. Conditions put on them by those around them make it necessary for them to forego their genuine, authentic life to meet with the approval of others. The more incongruity there is, the more the suffering. A state of total congruence rarely, if ever, exists, and all people experience a certain amount of incongruity.

 

The fully functioning person

Rogers described an individual who is self-actualizing as a “fully functioning person”. The needs for positive regard from others and positive self-regard match organismic evaluation and there is congruence between self and experience, with full psychological adjustment as a result. This ideal healthy human condition is embodied in the person who is open to experience. He is able to live existentially, is trusting his organism, expresses feelings freely, acts independently, is creative and lives a richer life – “the good life“. Rogers regarded the fully functioning person as an ideal and one that people do not ultimately achieve.

 

The therapeutic relationship

Among the most significant contributions is Rogers’ redefinition of the therapeutic relationship. As various therapeutic methods produce similar success in therapy the therapeutic relationship is seen to be a generic element, common to all forms of therapy. Rogers interest in psychotherapy led him to investigate the characteristics of helping interpersonal relationships that facilitate growth. Investigating interactions and studies he had noticed that regardless of the type of therapy, the therapists attitudinal elements and how these were perceived by the client accounted for the changes during therapy.

Freud had also argued that the therapeutic relationship is a crucial factor in therapy, but he had emphasized the phenomenon of transference, which involves a distortion of the real relationship. In contrast, Carl Rogers emphasized the real relationship between client and therapist and based his person-centered approach on the assumption that both persons establish a relationship to each other in the encounter. He felt that a therapist, in order to be effective, must have the qualities of being emphatic, congruent and accepting. He argued that these qualities are necessary and sufficient. If the therapist shows these three qualities, the client will improve, even if no other special techniques are used. The therapeutic relationship is but a special form of a diversity of human interactions. Thus, Roger‘s approach is not limited to psychotherapy but is applicable to any interhuman interaction to promote mutual understanding and to establish more stable relationships.

 

The essential conditions for the therapist’s attitude:

 

Congruence

With congruence Rogers refers to the therapist being transparent and authentic, without “front” or facade. Only when the therapist offers authentic reality will the client be able to search for his own truth. “Whatever feeling or attitude I am experiencing would be matched by my awareness of the attitude. When this is true, then I am a unified or integrated person in that moment, and hence I can be whatever I deeply am.” Carl Rogers [9]

 

Unconditional positive regard

With unconditional positive regard Rogers means there is acceptance, sympathy and appreciation whatever the client‘s situation, behavior or feelings may be. The therapist hasn’t to agree with the client. However, his positive regard does not depend on the client’s thoughts or behavior. This helps the client to differentiate between his worth as a person and the evaluation of his actions. The experience that one’s own thoughts and feelings aren’t judged or met with rejection is a powerful experience that allows for self-acceptance and the ability to integrate increasingly more experiences, which facilitates growth and development.

People who are able to self-actualize are more likely to have received unconditional positive regard from others, especially from their parents and significant others in childhood. Rogers opines that self-appreciation is prerequisite for change. To gain satisfaction from self-appreciation the individual must once have experienced unconditional positive regard from others. Satisfaction and the attitude toward oneself then becomes independent from other’s opinions and the experiences with others, so that the individual becomes his own significant social counterpart. In therapy, Rogers aims at freeing the client as much as possible from the external threat of non-acceptance, so that he can begin to experience and deal with his internal feelings and conflicts. “Each person is an island unto himself, in a very real sense; and he can only build bridges to other islands if he is first of all willing to be himself and permitted to be himself. So I find that when I can accept another person… then I am assisting him to become a person. ” Carl Rogers [10]

 

Empathy

Emphatic understanding means to be at home in the client’s world of perception. It means to let yourself enter the world of another person‘s feelings and meanings and to see them as he does – stepping into his private world without evaluating or judging him, but without losing the “as if” position of being a separate person.

 

Therapy according to Rogers

The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism. Whether one calls it a growth tendency, a drive toward self-actualization, or a forward-moving directional tendency, it is the mainspring of life, and is in the last analysis, the tendency upon which all psychotherapy depends.” Carl Rogers [8] In Rogers’ opinion personality change toward self-actualization is possible and a necessary part of growth. For the vast majority of persons who did not have an optimal childhood there is hope for change and development toward psychological maturity via therapy. Therapy focuses on the whole person, not their isolated problems. When certain conditions in therapy exist, a process is seen to get under way which leads to changes in personality and behavior. “I can’t make corn grow, but I can provide the right soil and plant it in the right area and see that it gets enough water; I can nurture it so that exciting things happen. I think that’s the nature of therapy.” Carl Rogers [11]

 

The therapeutic process

Rogers’ trust in the person’s inherent drive to grow gave him the conviction that clients not only have the problem but also carry their solutions within them. The therapist supports the client in finding his own solutions, in developing and solving current and future problems by himself. This is a constant process of development and psychological growth which is at the core of the person-centered approach. To facilitate constructive changes there first needs to be a minimum of psychological contact. The therapist must be emphatic, congruent and accepting. To promote the re-organization of the client’s self-structure, therapy aims at dissolving the conditions of negative worth, to achieve self-congruence with experience, and to restore the organismic valuing process. The transformation of incongruity requires adjusting the person’s perception of self-image and self-worth as well as making one‘s ideal self more realistic.

Roger’s found that this was best achieved through the method of “reflection“, which refers to the mirroring of the emotional communication. By doing this, the therapist is communicating to the client that he is listening, cares enough to understand, and that he knows what the client is communicating. It is important that a person is aware of what he is experiencing. Things which do not fit into the current self-concept are moved out of awareness, and if carried out to a considerable extent, this causes maladjustment.

Being able to speak freely in an atmosphere that makes any defenses unnecessary facilitates the exploration of one’s feelings and unknown aspects. When the individual’s negative feelings have been expressed, they are expected to be followed by positive emotions and the subsequent expressions of positive impulses, which make for growth. The therapist accepts and recognizes the negative and positive feelings. This promotes insight and understanding with possible courses of actions on new levels, and the decreasing need for help. The intellectual acceptance has to come along with emotional relief and the acceptance of oneself. Within the process developing in the course of therapy the client’s perceptual field and self-concept reorganize and congruence between self-concept and experience increases. Their perceptions become less distorted and experiences less threatening. The client increasingly perceives himself as the arbiter of his own evaluation and his behavior to be under his own control. Rogers assumes these changes to be persistent.

sunsetRogersbatch

Samuel Hahnemann and Homeopathy

  – Genius hits a target no one else can see –

Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was a German physician. He is considered the founder of homeopathy and the father of experimental pharmacology. Homeopathy was born at a time when blood-letting, purging and blistering were standard medical practices. While practicing orthodox medicine Hahnemann had noticed that the treatment was often worse than the complaint, and that patients rather died from the barbaric treatments than the disease itself. Treating his fellow men with unknown medicines that had very adverse effects afflicted his conscience, so Hahnemann gave up practicing medicine and supported his family by translating books into his native German language. While translating a text about Cinchona (Peruvian Bark), he read that it was effective in the treatment of malaria because it was bitter and astringent. As other medicines had the same properties but did not help Malaria, he wondered why it was effective. In 1796 he decided to test Cinchona bark on himself, which brought about symptoms similar to those of malaria. This year is considered the birth year of homeopathy. Over the coming years Hahnemann tested many other remedies on himself and others. After having enough evidence, released his findings, explaining the Law of Similars. The idea of curing by means of similars had already been mentioned by early philosophers and physicians such as Hippocrates, but it had now been validated by experiments and systematically developed into a therapeutic method. The therapeutic goal of homeopathy is outlined in § 2 Organon:

The highest ideal of cure is the rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health, or removal and annihilation of the disease in its whole extent, in the shortest, most reliable, and most harmless way, on easily comprehensible principles.” – Samuel Hahnemann. To reach this goal Hahnemann established the basic laws and principles of homeopathy which he outlined in the different editions of the Organon, and which remained untouched by history. “Thus homeopathy is a perfectly simple system of medicine, remaining always fixed in its principles as in its practice, which, like the doctrine whereon it is based, if rightly apprehended will be found to be so exclusive (and only in that way serviceable), that as the doctrine must be accepted in its purity, so it must be purely practiced.” Samuel Hahnemann.   Similia similibus curentur: The fundamental idea of homeopathy is the Law of Similars: Like cures Like. A substance capable of causing certain symptoms in a healthy subject is used to treat similar symptoms experienced by ill people.

Doctrine of a single remedy: Only one remedy should be given at a time, not compound or mixtures of medicines as only simple medicines were proven thoroughly. It is impossible to know how compounds may hinder and alter each other’s actions.

Law of the minimum dose: The smallest dose is to be given to avoid aggravations. It produces the least possible excitation of the vital force and is yet sufficient to stimulate the vital force towards balance.

Doctrine of Drug Proving: To apply homeopathic remedies according to the law of similars their medicinal actions must be reliably known through the process of drug provings. For this, dynamized drugs are applied on healthy subjects of different ages and sexes. Mental, emotional and physical symptoms appear during drug provings and are therefore part of the homeopathic materia medica.

Theory of Chronic Diseases: Hahnemann noticed that acute diseases could be cured rapidly, but that some diseases tended to come back and that amelioration for chronically ill patients wasn’t lasting. After twelve years of investing this phenomenon he established his theory of the chronic diseases, stating that these are caused by miasms. He originally named psora, sycosis and syphilis. These miasms constitute inherited and acquired patterns with particular characteristics and disease propensities, that also relate to one’s innate constitution. Their cure requires anti-miasmatic treatment with properly indicated remedies.

Doctrine of Drug Dynamization: Potentization or dynamization is a process by which the latent medicinal properties of a substance are extracted from their crude form for curative purposes. Upon experimentation Hahnemann had found that the process of potentization not only concealed the medicinal powers of otherwise inert substances, but that the power of remedies increased with increasing potentization steps – which either constitute trituration or attenuation and succussion. The action of dynamized remedies is deeper, longer and more wide-spread with increasing potentization. “Changes that come to material substances, specially the medicinal, through the trituration of non-medicinal powder, agitation of non-medicinal fluid, are so incredible that it may be compared to miracles, and is a reason of joy that those changes belong to homeopathy.” – Samuel Hahnemann

Theory of Individualization: No two individuals are alike and so the remedies they need might be different, even when suffering from the same disease. Homeopathic remedies are prescribed based on the totality of characteristic symptoms of the individual, that is, not pathognomonic symptoms but those that characterize the individual expression of disease. Thus, in search of the homeopathic remedy the patient’s strange, rare, peculiar, uncommon and characteristics signs and symptoms are to be especially and almost solely kept in view, and must correspond to those of the remedy.

Treatment of the whole patient: Homeopathy teaches to treat the individual with the disease and not the diseased parts or single symptoms alone as it is always the whole human being who is ill. Thus, there cannot be local diseases that affect a single organ or part of the body.

Totality of symptoms: Hahnemann defined symptoms as the outwardly reflected picture of the inner essence of the disease and the sole means whereby the disease can make known the required remedy. As it is always the whole person who is ill and individualization necessary for treatment, determining the totality of characteristic symptoms constitutes the diagnosis of the disease and is the foundation for prescription.

Doctrine of the vital force: The vital force is the invisible, dynamic energy that animates all living beings. It is this spirit-like force that governs life and maintains all the bodily sensations and functions in equilibrium in the state of health, and which is the intermediate level connecting body and mind. When a person falls ill, it is this dynamic vital force, everywhere present in the organism, which is primarily deranged by the dynamic influence of an agent inimical to life. Thus, health and disease are merely two different states of the vital force. A truly curative method has to act upon this dynamic vital force – according to the law of similars. That is, as disease constitutes a dynamic, energetic disturbance of the vital force, cure cannot be brought about by material quantity. The mistuned vital force can be freed from the natural disease by the dynamized, homeopathic remedy which creates a similar, somewhat stronger and self-limited artificial disease. As two similar diseases cannot exist simultaneously, the stronger artificial disease replaces and annihilates the natural disease. Hahnemann encouraged his patients to strengthen the vital force by healthy food, pure fresh air and water, exercise etc. In modern times this dynamic vital force finds its equivalent in the biomagnetic field whose energy penetrates the whole organism and higher bodies. “In our time, which boasts such enlightened and deep-thinking souls, does it have to be so impossible to conceive of a nonmaterial dynamic force when we see around us every day so many phenomena that cannot be explained in any other way?” -Samuel Hahnemann

 

Classification of diseases in homeopathy

Case taking and case management has to be adjusted to the type of disease beforehand. Hahnemann classified diseases into two types, acute and chronic diseases. Among the chronic diseases he differentiated:

  • Iatrogen, drug induced diseases are artificial chronic diseases and caused by prolonged drug use in heroic doses. They are most difficult to cure.
  • True chronic diseases arise from the dynamic contagion of a chronic miasm. Their effects are passed on from generation to generation. The vital force is unable to extinguish miasms, even when aided by the best hygienic, dietetic and sanitary measures and a strong constitution.
  • Chronic diseases resulting from “false practices” are caused by maintaining or contributory causes such as bad living circumstances, unhygienic and unsanitary influences, dietetic errors, detrimental mental conditions, excesses of all kind, prolonged deprivation of things necessary to life, lack of exercise or fresh air, physical or mental overexertion etc. The related ailments disappear of themselves by mere change of regimen. If not addressed they may constitute an obstacle to cure. The resulting diseases are improperly called chronic diseases as they are based on the duration of exposure and go away on their own with improved conditions if no chronic miasm is present. Thus, to practice homeopathy properly also includes consulting the patient with regard to factors that undermine health. So long as these maintaining causes are not removed, medicines alone can do little. Hahnemann wrote about the physician in §4 Organon: “He is likewise a preserver of health if he knows the things that derange health and cause disease, and how to remove them from persons in health.”

The mind in homeopathy

The treatment of the whole person and the consideration of the patient’s totality of symptoms constitute some of the basic principles of homeopathy. That means that the mind is part of the whole, and mental and emotional symptoms are not to be seen isolated from the unity of man. As diseases of the mind do not constitute a class of disease of its own, they too require considering the patient’s totality of symptoms for homeopathic prescription. Hahnemann outlined in §214 Organon:

“…mental diseases… are to be cured in the same way as all other diseases, namely, by a remedy which shows, by the symptoms it causes in the body and mind of a healthy individual, a power of producing a morbid state as similar as possible to the case of disease before us, and in no other way can they be cured.”

Hence, the altered psychic condition of the patient has to be considered within the totality of symptoms if one desires to have a faithful picture of the disease from which to make a successful homeopathic prescription. With the concentration on the totality of the peculiar, uncommon and characteristic symptoms Hahnemann again emphasized the psychic condition in §211 Organon:

“… the state of the disposition of the patient often chiefly determines the selection of the homeopathic remedy, as being a decidedly characteristic symptom which can least of all remain concealed from the accurately observing physician“.

Hahnemann points out that the emotional and mental state is always altered, both in psychic and physical diseases. Therefore, he wrote in § 213 Organon:

One will never be able to cure according to nature – that is, homeopathically – if we do not, in every case of disease, even in such as are acute, observe, along with the other symptoms, those relating to the changes in the state of the mind and disposition, and if we do not select, for the patient’s relief, from among the medicines a disease-force which, in addition to the similarity of its other symptoms to those of the disease, is also capable of producing a similar state of the disposition and mind“.

Hahnemann mentioned that grief and displeasure account for the most frequent aggravation of existing ailments and the development of chronic diseases based on latent psora:

Uninterrupted grief and annoyance increases even the slightest traces of slumbering psora soon to increased symptoms and develops them unexpectedly to the breakout of all thinkable chronic suffering. And this much more certain and often than any other disadvantageous influences in the usual life of man...” – Samuel Hahnemann [12]

Therefore, it is not sufficient to apply the homeopathic remedy. The causes of grief, annoyance, displeasure etc. have to be addressed too, otherwise Hahnemann recommends abstaining from homeopathic treatment:

But are the ill’s person’s circumstances not to ameliorate, doesn’t he have so much philosophy, religion and power about himself to bear patiently and calmly all suffering and fate not being caused or changeable by him, if grief and chagrin continue to beat him unalterably, without the physician being able to permanently remove these major destructive agents of life, then he rather shall abstain from treating the chronic disease and leave the ill to his fate.” – Samuel Hahnemann [13]

 

How both approaches come together and fall apart

The desire to help people

About the author

Katja Schuett

Katja Schuett

Katja Schutt, Msc, HP, DHM, PGHom, DVetHom, has studied homeopathy with several schools, amongst which David Little’s advanced course stands out as it offers a really deep insight into homeopathic philosophy and materia medica (simillimum.com). Her current focus lies in working with animals and studying history, the old masters, and research.

2 Comments

  • Congratulations on an excellent resume of the similarities and differences between Homeopathy and Rogers’ Person-centred Approach. Having practised as a homeopath for 25+ years, and also as a person-centred supervisor and trainer, having worked to introduce the person-centred way of relating into homeopathic training at undergraduate and Master’s-level, and having previously published articles and book chapters on this from 2004 onwards, I can appreciate the great job you have done presenting the information to a new audience. There is a rich history (in both psychotherapy and homeopathy) of each discipline ‘giving the nod’ to the existence of the other and any reader interested in these references can contact me at [email protected]
    Ian Townsend, M.A, FS Hom [retired], MUKAHPP

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