Carl Rogers’ self actualization theory centers on self-fulfillment and unconditional positive self regard where a person is responsible for determining what is good for himself or herself. As seen in the case of Katharine (Ashcraft, 2011), a personality change can occur when the person is placed in an environment that is characterized by genuineness, acceptance, and empathy.
Based on the organismic valuing process proposed by Rogers, Katharine might judge her marriage as incongruent to what she really wanted, that is, a gap existed between her real self and her ideal self (Boeree. 2006). Her real self wanted to be married and have her own business. However, because she had to conform to her husband’s wishes, her ideal self was a housewife whose main responsibilities were to cook for her husband and take care of the house. On the other hand, when Katharine had finally established her own business, she probably felt that she was finally being her real self as she was able to do the things that she knew were good for her and that made her happy, which included taking up some business courses and starting her own business.
Her participation in the Women’s Support Group altered her experiential world in that she was able to obtain support from women who understood her and who shared the same experiences as her. Her friends at the support group served as her therapists in that they helped her achieve the six conditions necessary for personality change to occur, as proposed by Rogers (Hill, 2007). In particular, these six conditions included 1. ) the need for relationship, which was fulfilled by the women in the support group; 2.) Katharine’s state of incongruence, as evidenced by her depression; 3.) the genuineness of the women in the support group; 4.) the unconditional positive regard, as well as the 5.) empathy that the women accorded Katharine; and 6.) Katharine’s perception of the women’s acceptance of and empathy towards her.
Before the divorce, Katharine received conditional positive regard from her husband where the conditions of worth included remaining a housewife and fulfilling her duties of taking care of her husband and taking care of house chores, as well as the condition of not taking up business courses or starting her own business. In this case, Katharine’s positive self regard depended on her husband’s positive regard of her. After the divorce, Katharine received unconditional positive regard from the women in the support group as they allowed her to openly express herself without judging her. They even encouraged her to pursue what she really wanted to do, which was to start her own business. In this case, the conditions of worth were not dependent on other people but on what Katharine wanted for herself, in turn enabling her to develop an unconditional positive self regard.
With regards to the relevance of Rogers’ theory in collectivist cultures, there would be limitations in the theory’s application as people from collectivist cultures are raised with a different set of values from those raised in individualist cultures. For example, while college students in individualist cultures like the American culture strive to do well in their studies to ensure a bright future for themselves, college students from collectivist cultures such as the Asian cultures would strive to do well in their studies in order to please their parents (Schultz & Schultz, 2009). As such, people from collectivist cultures won’t benefit as much from the application of the self actualization theory because even when they know they’re good at something (positive self regard), this will be meaningless to them unless they get the same positive regard from the people who are important to them. In other words, for people from collectivist cultures, positive self regard will almost always be conditional. As Goldfried (2007) suggested, Rogers’ client-centered approach cannot be used as a one-size-fits-all approach.
The case study depicts how Rogers’ self actualization theory was applied in the case of Katharine. It was shown how Katharine’s friends from the support group served as her therapists and provided her with an environment that was genuine and that accepted and empathized with her. This allowed the six conditions for personality change to be met, which in turn allowed Katharine to develop an unconditional positive self regard. Although this theory’s application is not equal across cultures, it still proves to be helpful for patients, especially if the conditions it proposes are met.
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