My AP Psychology students are accustomed to being greeted each morning with “Good morning, fellow psychologists!” This comes from my philosophy that regardless of the subject we are teaching, we are teaching a discipline and learning the ways of thinking (habits of mind) and practices of said discipline. Yesterday, I told the class I would greet them each morning with “Good morning, my fellow World Historians!” if we were in World History class and that we would be exploring history following the discipline, practices and habits of mind of historians. Psychology is unique, fun and especially applicable, though, because we can also practice what we are learning to possibly improve our everyday lives!
Over the past several days our focus has been on the Psychological Therapies and comparing/contrasting the approaches of the Psychoanalysts, the Humanists, the Behaviorists, and the Cognitive/Behaviorists to the treatment of psychological disorders. Yesterday, we wrapped up discussion with a comparison between Freudian Psychoanalysis and Carl Rogers’s Humanistic therapies. Hallmark to Carl Rogers’s therapy is client-centered therapy where the person treated is a client not a patient (Freud). The difference between patient and client/person may seem subtle at first, but it highlights the differences each approach views therapy and the therapist/client relationship.
Within the context of client-centered therapy is nondirective therapy wherein the therapist meets the client in a non-judgmental fashion that Rogers called “unconditional positive regard” (UPR). I explained to my students that UPR is the kind of love your dog shows you after an absence, be it long or short. Regardless of the kind of day you’ve had…good, bad, lazy, productive…your dog (reference my 13 year old Lab) doesn’t care-his/her love and acceptance is unconditional. When you walk in the door after a tough day, your dog meets you with soothing empathy. When you walk in after a truly awesome day of progress, you are met with the empathy of celebration. There is restorative power in this kind of emulative relationship—the tail wagging, body moving pure happiness to see you kind!
UPR sets the groundwork for a client/therapist relationship built on trust and helping the patient meet his/her true human potential, the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy-self-actualization and eventual self-transcendence. We ended the discussion wondering how different our own lives might be if we showed more UPR to our friends, family and those closest to us. At the end of class each day my students have become accustomed to my somewhat humorous parting mantras:
“Eat all your vegetables.” “Make sure you get your REM sleep.” “Do something nice for someone.” “Avoid Freudian slips.”
On this day, I sent them off with: “See how different your life can be when you show someone UPR today!” I walked away from class thinking of ways I could practice the lesson and I hope my students did too.