UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD

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Wikipedia describes unconditional positive regard, or UPR, (a term coined by humanist Psychologist Carl Rogers) as “blanket acceptance and support of a person, regardless of what the person says or does.” Now you may be thinking to yourself something along the lines of, “Oh, you can’t really do that. You have to have some judgments or opinions. Nobody can do that.” The truth is, if I couldn’t do it, I’d have no business being a counselor. UPR is the cornerstone of any therapeutic alliance. A person seeking the help of a counselor has to feel that it is safe to openly and honestly describe thoughts, feelings and actions without fear of condemnation, or even rejection. Clients in no way have to earn acceptance; it is immediately and freely given. As a counselor at Life Skills Resource Group here in Orlando, it is my duty to offer each client a “judgment free zone” in which they can learn to accept themselves and take responsibility for their lives.

When a person makes the decision to seek out professional help, they are often (not always) at the end of their rope, or close to it. The last thing they want or need is to tell their greatest sorrow/deepest secret to a complete stranger and then have that person tell them that they are flawed, damaged, foolish or “crazy.” They have already confided in their friends or loved ones, in hopes of finding that miraculous bit of advice that will make the pain stop-make it all okay again. But, they haven’t found it. The ever elusive cure is always out of reach. They see everyone around them as happy and productive and fulfilled, and they feel left out of life’s riches. They’ve been down so long that they don’t remember what it’s like to be up. What happens is that over time the people in their lives who matter most to them stop listening to them cry, and vent, and rage. They lose support and encouragement, while their need for it only increases. They know they have been alienating the people around them, but they’re desperate for the pain to stop, and so they keep seeking advice.

Unfortunately, friends and loved ones have a finite amount of time and attention that they can give to the person in need. Also, it can be quite difficult for a friend to listen to the story of someone who’s struggling without projecting themselves into the situation. They can’t resist saying, “I told you this would happen,” or “Are you still hung up on this?” or “I would never put up with that…” The truth is that the people in our lives who love us can’t stand to see us in pain, and they wish there was a magic button they could push to make our problems go away. They become frustrated and annoyed when they watch us repeat patterns, receiving wounds from the same source(s), without learning. Often, our friends and family cease to see us as separate from our problems and grow tired of “dealing” with us. Family members can be critical, spouses can be at cross purposes, and co-workers can have agendas. Their advice giving may be flawed, reckless or have strings attached, no matter how well intentioned. Sometimes friends and loved ones just come right out and say, “I give up. I can’t deal with your problems anymore!” This can leave a person feeling isolated and misunderstood. They are left to wander in the desert of disapproval, judgment and dejection alone.

Fortunately, a counselor’s office is the place where a person can fully experience the gift that is UPR. Counselors know that an accepting and supportive environment is the number one condition for personal growth. Unconditional positive regard can be the most curative thing that a counselor can offer a person. For how can a person who sees herself in negative ways hope to see herself otherwise, without having the opportunity to experience total acceptance right where she’s at, no matter the circumstance? As a client begins to see herself, free of judgment and blame, she is able to walk back out of the desert, never to return. UPR can truly be that cool drink of water, after wandering for so long in the desert and it is available to everyone who seeks it out. Fondest regards, Kim C. Murphy

To arrange a Free phone consultation contact Kim at therapistkimmurphy@gmail.com or 321-352-2258.

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