Person-centred counsellors' experiences of working with clients in crisis: a qualitative interview study

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Aims: This study aims to explore and understand person-centred therapists’ experiences and work with clients at the pivotal point of crisis. Specifically: how do person-centred therapists experience working with clients in crisis? Do they identify differences in crisis intervention compared to non-crisis work? What do they perceive as helpful to crisis clients? How relevant are therapists' own experiences of crisis? Method: Participants were all experienced person-centred therapists. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted and the data were analysed qualitatively using person-centred/phenomenological methodology. Results: Respondents identified differences in their experiences. Typically, therapists described polarity in their experience of danger and opportunity, also heightened energy levels within themselves, perceived higher levels of engagement, faster pace of work, experiences of reaching ‘relational depth’ earlier, and the importance of assisting symbolisation of clients' experience in awareness. Clients were experienced as vulnerable, unable to access previous coping mechanisms, in a state of breakdown and disintegration, but also as wide open, having dropped their usual defences, and more available to engage in therapy and enter the process of change and potential post-crisis growth. Discussion: The findings are discussed in relation to prevailing models of crisis intervention, person-centred theory and theoretical developments in post-traumatic growth in the aftermath of crisis..
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-280
Number of pages9
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number4
Early online date27 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014


  • crisis intervention
  • phenomenology
  • qualitative research
  • person-centred therapy


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