The Importance of Unconditional Positive Regard

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Receiving treatment for addiction or mental illness can be a difficult and trying experience, but unconditional positive regard can help you make it through. Unconditional positive regard is an important concept for both therapists and their clients to understand and practice in order to ensure treatment has the best chance for success.

What Is Unconditional Positive Regard?

Unconditional positive regard is a part of a person-centered form of psychotherapy developed by Carl Rogers during the mid-twentieth century. As a humanist, Rogers believed that people possess an inherent desire for and ability to work toward achieving self-actualization. If people tap into that potential, they can achieve personal growth.

Unconditional positive regard is part of this self-actualization, and it refers to the act of viewing another person as a human being possessing their own distinct agency. Despite whatever flaws or destructive behavior they struggle with, they are always striving toward a place of self-actualization.

Without unconditional positive regard, it becomes easy for a therapist to dismiss a person struggling with addiction or mental health as a lost cause. If you are the one struggling with addiction or mental health, it’s important to turn that unconditional positive regard inward and view yourself as a person who is capable and worthy of self-determination.

Is Unconditional Positive Regard Useful for Treatment?

It’s in these two distinct situations that unconditional positive regard becomes so important. First, for the therapist who is engaging those struggling with mental health issues or addiction, unconditional positive regard can provide a path toward building a healthy interaction with the client.

Therapists interact with all sorts of people, and sometimes those people make choices that are dangerous or destructive to the client or the people around them. It can be difficult not to engage those behaviors and attempt to correct them, but that strategy may lead to the client feeling like they can’t speak honestly.

With unconditional positive regard, a therapist can make it clear that, while they may not condone a person’s activities, they accept the person as able to make their own choices and that they are able to proceed toward a more constructive lifestyle.

How Can You Practice Unconditional Positive Regard?

If you’re struggling with addiction or mental health issues, that sense of self-determination should be turned inward. Often, destructive behaviors stem from feelings of inadequacy or lack of self-worth, but believing that you can achieve a more constructive life is vital to your physical and mental health.

While you may believe that you aren’t worthwhile as a person or that you will only ever make harmful choices, with unconditional positive regard, you can begin to unravel those beliefs and replace them with the idea that you have the ability to make your own choices.

Learning to accept yourself as worthwhile can help you have the courage and determination to make new choices, to accept your faults as part of who you are and to strive toward a healthier life. Accepting yourself as a person with agency can also help you view others the same way, changing how you relate to them.

Unconditional positive regard is important both for treatment and for everyday life. By viewing you as able to make your own choices, a therapist can create a safe environment to discuss the choices you are making. By viewing yourself as worthwhile, you can strive toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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