Person-Centered Therapy

Person-Centered Therapy in Toronto

When many people think about therapy, they picture a cold psychotherapist taking notes in an old office, while the patient lays back, waiting to be diagnosed. At one point, this is exactly what psychotherapy entailed.

Person-centered therapy is anything but. This therapy approach is exactly what it sounds like; therapy where the client’s story, issues, and goals are prioritised above all else. 

In this approach, you are the expert of your life, not your therapist. Your therapist’s job is to empower you by showing you opportunities to overcome your issues and reach your goals that you hadn’t considered before.

What are the key concepts of person-centered therapy?

Person-centered therapy is non-directive. This means that you will not receive explicit advice on how you should live your life. Rather, you are encouraged to develop compassion and autonomy for yourself.

Person-centered therapists will never have a secret agenda; their desire is simply to understand clients as best they can, and reflect back their understanding so that their clients can figure out, accept, and appreciate themselves.

Person-centered therapists believe that for anyone to achieve meaningful change in their lives, their counsellor must fulfil three conditions in each session: 

  • Congruence
  • An unconditional positive regard
  • An empathetic understanding of their client


Congruence refers to transparent communication. This doesn’t mean that a therapist will blurt out whatever they’re thinking, nor that they will share everything about their lives with the client. 

It simply means that a therapist will be open about what they see and experience during a session. Unlike the cold psychotherapist mentioned in the introduction, a person-centered therapist will be authentic with their client.

This authenticity allows the client to trust their therapist, and sets a foundation of relaxation and openness between them.

Unconditional positive regard

An unconditional positive regard refers to a warm and non judgemental openness from the counsellor to the client. Regardless of what the client may share, a person-centered therapist holds a positive attitude towards them.

A therapy session may be the first time a client ever experiences outright and unequivocal acceptance from another person. Throughout person-centered therapy, this can help them develop internal acceptance, forgiveness, and self-love. 

It’s important to note that unconditional positive regard does not mean that your therapist will, without exception, approve and enable your behaviours. It does mean, however, that you will not be judged or shamed for those behaviours.

Empathetic Understanding

Empathetic understanding is the desire to understand the thoughts and emotions of another, and through that understanding, experience compassion for their experience. In person-centered therapy, it also means accurately communicating this empathy back to the client.

An empathetic understanding does not mean a counsellor parrots back what their client has said to them, they try to absorb themselves in their client’s experiences and reflect back deeper meaning from their stories. 

Through empathetic understanding, the person-centered therapist and client can better their relationship and deepen a respect and understanding for the other person.

What issues does person-centered therapy help with?

Person-centered therapy is not problem-centered, rather people-centered. Person-centered therapists do not see your issues as illnesses that need to be resolved. Healing comes from the collaborative relationship that is built from mutual respect and genuine understanding. 

Because of this philosophy, there is no area that person-centered therapy cannot help. Although this approach does not look to diagnose issues, it has been shown to alleviate and treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Distress
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Low energy
  • Low self-worth
  • Social withdrawal
  • Substance abuse
  • Self-acceptance issues
  • Anger management issues
  • Difficulties with life transitions

Since the formation of person-centered therapy in the 1940s, countless studies have proven the effectiveness of its methods. 

How does person-centered therapy at KMA work?

Person-centered therapy at KMA begins with a 50-minute introductory session with one of our intake counsellors.

Because the therapist-client relationship is the most important factor for successful person-centered therapy, at KMA, we ensure we pair you with the best possible fit based on your goals and personality.

We will provide you with a set of customised next steps. This includes the recommended person-centered therapist who is best equipped to help you and any additional resources or services we feel would be helpful.

The consultation is also a wonderful time to address any questions you may have.

Once you’re matched, your person-centered therapist will prioritise getting to know what’s most important to you:

  • What do you want out of therapy?
  • Do you carry shame or self-doubt?
  • Tell me what you want to focus on during sessions

Developing your relationship will be at the forefront of your therapy sessions. Through this relationship healing and meaningful change can occur.

Get started with person-centered therapy today

KMA Therapy has five locations throughout Toronto and we offer online therapy, too.

To learn more about person-centered therapy, give us a call at 416 487 6288, or fill out our registration form below to have our care coordinator reach out with more information. 

You can also book a session with us directly. 

Want to know if person-centered therapy is effective for depression? Read The 4 Best Types of Therapy for Depression.

Still not sure if therapy is the right fit for you? Read the article Will Psychotherapy Help Me? to learn more.

To learn about other approaches, check out our therapies page.

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