Originally developed by Carl Rogers in the 1940’s and 1950’s, the philosophy underpinning this approach to coaching is that under the right circumstances, we’re all capable of sorting ourselves out.
To achieve this, the coach needs to offer his or her client both a ‘safe space’ for talking and a heavy dose of empathetic listening. Don’t forget, however, that this is an approach to coaching, not a model or technique. Indeed, one of its strengths is that it is both fluid and non-directional. With careful attention paid to the six conditions Rogers identified as necessary for constructive personality change, coaches can help clients to flourish.
As Ruth L Waterhouse (‘Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues’: A Feminist Critique of ‘Person-centred’ Counselling and Therapy) notes, this approach places great faith in the human ability to be self-determining and ‘to realize agency and responsibility in everyday activities.’
But the reality, according to Waterhouse, is that not everyone has this ability. She suggests that Rogers simply did not understand that personal troubles come not just from within, but also from without (i.e. the real world). The possibility that, for example, a woman might not ever become ‘all that she could be’ in a patriarchal society for reasons beyond her control, was not considered. Waterhouse does admit that ‘cathartic release has its value’. But the problem is that Rogers failed to recognize that throughout history, ‘family life privileges adult men to the detriment of women and younger men’.
So, what kind of client is most likely to benefit most from the Person-Centred approach? For this, I suggest that we look to the astrological significators of the man who pioneered and developed it:
No surprise, that five out of ten planets are in Capricorn (including Saturn ruler of Capricorn). Of the remaining five planets, two are in Aquarius, also a Saturn ruled zodiac sign). It’s through Saturn, that we find the strength and wisdom to get through life. Without Saturn, we’d have neither the ambition nor the patience and dedication to succeed. Saturn provides the solid structure through which can express (and manifest) our talents and strengths. Without Saturn, we would achieve little or nothing.
Astrologically, we often equate Saturn with ‘virtues’ such as responsibility, duty, and obligation. Heavy going! This was never going to be easy. Saturn may not be the brightest light on the block (we leave that to Jupiter), but he lies at the base of all our accomplishments. Hence, Saturn is often considered somewhat tedious (bywords include self-control, tact, thrift, and caution). But he is very necessary. In effect, Saturn equates to your backbone.
Equally, Saturn is associated with fault, failure, fear, guilt, and blame and, for this, he gets deserved bad press. When things go wrong, as inevitably they will do with Saturn, it’s easy to blame others. But in reality, when Saturn is in play, you cannot afford to blame anyone but yourself. Tough talk. But it is true that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger (although I suspect that it was someone with lots of Saturn in his/her chart who first said that).
So, what kind of client (and coach) are likely to most benefit from Person-Centred Coaching? May I suggest one with a healthy dose of Saturn!
NB – also no surprise that one of my coaching colleagues at Cambridge that is very keen on this approach, has Sun and Venus in Aquarius (Saturn-ruled) as well as Mercury in Capricorn (also Saturn-ruled). Interestingly, however, my colleague has a weak Saturn (in Sagittarius). Ok, well, time will tell.