Today's post was contributed by Dr Chong, a family physician who uses unconditional positive regard with her patients. She is a caring and compassionate person who has helped many cancer patients. I wish to thank her for sharing this article with us.
Unconditional positive regard is a term made popular by Carl Rogers. It is basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. This type of communication is essential to healthy development. People who have not been exposed to it may come to see themselves in the negative ways that others have made them feel. Through this therapy patients eventually accept and take responsibility for themselves. By showing my patients unconditional positive regard and acceptance, I am providing the best possible conditions for my patients' personal growth.
David G. Myers says the following in his Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules:
People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem.
Unconditional positive regard can be facilitated by keeping in mind Carl Rogers' belief that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth. Rogers' theory encouraged other psychiatrists to suspend judgement, and to listen to a person with an attitude that the patient has within himself the ability to change, without actually changing who he is.
The concept of unconditional positive regard also has a simpler meaning outside of the therapist's goal to elicit change. It is the simple act of one individual accepting all traits and behaviors in another individual, as long as is it does not entail causing significant harm to oneself. The key word here is "significant". If one states that "This person's behavior annoys me, and thus is causing me 'significant' harm", then unconditional positive regard is made subject to so many objections that it cannot exist. Thus, finding a person's behavior/beliefs reprehensible when they pose no threat of harm to oneself or others, is incompatible with unconditional positive regard. To treat a flawed individual's otherwise harmless behavior or beliefs as cause to reject the individual's worth, morality and right to merit interaction with oneself, is a violation of the unconditional precept.