As It Is or As I Am – the Art of Becoming

A journey … towards … being

Learning and Being in Person-Centred Counselling by Tony Merry

Learning and Being in Person-Centred Counselling– Completed this book on Tuesday, 21st August 2007.  Overall an amazing book.  Relatively speaking consider myself still fairly new to the Person-Centred Approach (PCA). Found this book a great help in clarifying the concepts. Had read several other books about the PCA, and this one seemed to bring them all together. Maybe it would have been different if the books had been read in reverse order. For example, if I’d read this book first and was now reading Person-centred Counselling in Actionperhaps that book would be bringing all things into better perspective for me now?

Isn’t life is like that in all ways? Our experiences help determine our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Not that they fix our thoughts, etc. but rather give us leanings toward certain ways of viewing the world. We can though change, if we have a desire to do so. That is what person-centred counselling (indeed all counselling) is about – changing, developing and growing – the actualizing tendency as Carl Rogers termed it.

Looking at the title of the book “Learning and Being in Person-Centred Counselling”, the arrangement or layout of the text on the cover struck me:


and Being




It was the “Learning and Being” at the top, in such large print compared to the rest. It was like it was saying this is what person-centred counselling is all about – being concerned with helping people to “learn” how “to be”, that “being” is important and person-centred counselling is about that – helping people “being”, “becoming”, what they want to be, not guiding them into a situation or person they do not want or perhaps even should not be.

In chapter 2, Tony Merry begins to outline the person-centred concept of human personality. What makes us what we are? Do we have any choice over who we are? Are we completely determined by our past? Are we basically destructive in our natures or constructive?

There is not the time to do full justice to the chapter, but the basic premise is that our natures are constructive, not determined by our past, though past experiences may influence us to some extent and that we have the responsibility for who we are and can become, because we can choose and to a significant degree have the freedom to make those choices. This is a very simplistic outline and should not be taken as is, without further reading.

Seem to be take longer to read through Learning and Being, than other counselling books previously studied. Why so? Following some thought, feel the answer is, it is one of the better person-centred books I’ve come across. Not that the others I’ve studied and read are bad, just that this one covers everything in a more appealing way for me. Perhaps, though, the other books helped lay a foundation and this book is cementing together all the previous thoughts and concepts, so it all makes greater sense and purpose. If I’d come across this book first then maybe another book would take it’s place in brining everything together? For me, I’m glad to have encountered things in this order. In time, I shall go through the previously studied books again, hoping that an even greater depth of understanding will be achieved. On surface reading the person-centred approach seems very simple and perhaps it is, but the underlying theory involves depth. Rogers, “The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change” seem simple enough:

  1. Two persons are in psychological contact.
  2. The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, bring vulnerable or anxious.
  3. The second person, whom we shall term the counsellor, is congruent or integrated in the relationship.
  4. The counsellor experiences unconditional positive regard for the client.
  5. The counsellor experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavours to communicate this experience to the client.
  6. The communication to the client of the counsellor’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved.

No other conditions are necessary. If these six conditions exist, and continue over a period of time, this is sufficient. The process of personality change will follow. (Quoting Rogers in Learning and Being, pg 49)

Yet, there are books written on each step, particularly steps 3 to 5. My comprehension of each step is evolving but, perhaps, with still a long way to go?

Review originally written August 2007


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