Unconditional Positive Regard

I’ve been spending a ton of time with a handful of counselors, psychiatrists, and cognitive behavioral therapists to help me get at the heart of the problems that I’ve been working through with my anxiety, depression, and anger.

Thankfully, the investment has been very fruitful and I can feel the positive momentum building in the right direction — and apparently it’s being felt from those around me too, which, is a positive dataset anyway that you look at it.

I’ve been given time and space to tackle topics that I do not always have the time or the patience or the emotional stability to interface with and that’s made an incredible difference.

Sometimes we just need space — visually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually — to get even the slightest of grips on our confusing reality!

I’ve also given some considerable thought about therapists and what makes a “good” and effective one. I went back into some of my Psychology 101 (mental) notes and drummed up some stuff from some of the fathers of modern psychology, like Carl Ransom Rogers.

Rogers was one of the first to create a client-centered approach to the space and he believed that a therapist needed to display three features to maximize the effectiveness of therapy (and his specific approach):

  1. Unconditional positive regard
  2. Genuineness
  3. Empathy

The second and the third are things that we all discuss enough to know instinctively and intuitively — we all know what it feels to meet someone who is (and isn’t) genuine and we all know what it feels to give and receive someone with empathy (or a lack thereof).

But what the hell is unconditional positive regard?

Well, here’s what Rogers says:

Unconditional positive regard refers to the fact that the therapist accepts their client for who they are, no matter what he or she might say.

Ooph. I’ve met a bunch of therapists who could do the 2nd and 3rd but who, for whatever reason, never really succeeded in doing the 1st. But there’s a point to this feature that’s really important!

You see, Rogers believed that if these three factors were consistently present then it was more than enough of a support system and created a fundamental environment that allowed the folks to deal with and work through their issues effectively.

Could it be that simple? It feels like it could be.

I think our world is in such desperate supply of unconditional positive regard that anyone who can effectively pull it off (genuinely and empathetically!) is like a super-hero! It’s a true super-power in today’s negative and ego-driven culture.

Who would have thought.