HUMAN NATURE: A DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVE
The person-centered approach to counseling implies great confidence in each client. This confidence arises out of a belief that all people have innate motivation to grow in positive ways and the ability to carry out such a growth process. This highly positive view of human nature varies widely from other theories that view human nature as evil, negative, or a nonissue. Such a positive view of human nature is essential for the person- centered practitioner because of the major responsibilities clients are given in the direction, style, and content of the helping relationship. The person-centered perception of people is based on five key beliefs: (a) People are trustworthy, (b) people innately move toward self- actualization and health, (c) people have the inner resources to move themselves in positive directions, (d) people respond to their uniquely perceived world (phenomenological world), and (e) there is an interaction of these with external factors. The activation of these characteristics within a person's external environment brings about the most desirable aspects of development.
People Are Trustworthy
Person-centered counselors must treat their clients as trustworthy, or there will be no reason to allow them to take a leadership role in the helping relationship. From this point of view, words such as good, constructive, and trustworthy describe natural characteristics of human beings, although people also appear to take actions that demonstrate the opposite. These inappropriate actions are taken when the individual's ideal view of self does not match the real self. Individuals use defensive thoughts and actions to protect themselves from having to observe that they are not living the lives they believe they should. Such actions are not deceitful so much as they are direct actions based on conflicting perceptions of a person's world. All individuals are trying to improve and to act in the world as they see it in as honorable a manner as possible.
Consider a teenage girl who skips school and has been arrested for the fourth time for shoplifting. Many in society will judge her to be a bad person or one who cannot be trusted. The girl will recognize that lack of trust and consequently have little motivation to seek a productive relationship with them. Only when she is convinced of a meaningful relationship with a person who is genuine and trusting will she feel free to explore herself fully. A major part of that relationship will be a counselor or other individual who can convey genuine trust through words and actions. Anything less than this trusting relationship will simply confirm to her that this is just another person who will not trust her and is therefore not to be trusted. The result would leave her with little motivation to work on her own potential for trustworthiness in a therapeutic relationship. Only when such trust can be established will the girl be able to accept the potential for an honest, respectful, and risk-taking relationship.