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The Person-Centered Approach:
A passionate presence

by Peggy Natiello, foreward by Jules Seeman
pp. 190 ISBN 1 898059 20 9
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Phone: +44 (0)1989 77 07 07

Peggy Natiello writes:
Whether the remarkable way-of-being initiated by Rogers is called client-centered or person-centered, I am primarily concerned with its complex and demanding practice. I have adapted some of my papers previously presented elsewhere, and added a few more to describe how I see person-centered practice. Although the theory, based in client-centered principles and values, informs each chapter, this book is not about theory. It is a challenge to those who practice the approach to recognize and fully engage the philosophical belief system, the passionate style of living and the integrity that person-centeredness demands.

The book is addressed to facilitators of human growth, including but not limited to group leaders, educators, health care providers, parents, and therapists. It is also intended for the clients, students, patients, and other participants involved in person-centered relationships who, if we listen carefully, teach us how to improve our work. At the outset of this millennium, I hope it might speak as well to all persons who understand that we are intimately connected, one with the other, that we need to find more creative, healing ways to be together; and that we all bear fundamental responsibility for the health of the world community in which we live.


Theory and Practice
1 Easy to Understand; Difficult to Practice
2 It's the Being, Not the Doing
The Person-centered Relationship
3 The Relationship that Heals
4 For a Quality Relationship Include Equality
5 An Argument for Client Self-determination
Power and the Person-Centered Approach
6 Collaborative Power and Social Change
7 Collaborative Power: Can it Succeed in the World of Work'
Training for Person-centered Facilitation
8 Preparing to Practice
9 A Person~centered Training Program
10 From the Intern's Point of View
Large Groups and Community
11 From Group to Community
12 Healing the Wounds of Sexism for Men and Women
13 What's Next?

EXTRACT from the foreword by Jules Seeman

Peggy Natiello’s depth and strength of conviction is illustrated with special fidelity in her discussion of collaborative power. To begin with, her view of its importance in client-centered therapy is indicated by the fact that she devotes an entire chapter to that topic. Beyond that, she applies the concept to client-centered therapy in such a fundamental way that she comes very close to advocating it as an additional necessary and sufficient condition, co-equal in importance to unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence. The crux of her argument is that the development of collaborative power within the relationship not only strengthens the relationship itself, but that it augments for each of the participants their own personal sense of power, presence, and effectiveness in the relationship.

In the end, I could understand and appreciate exactly why Peggy Natiello used the subtitle “A passionate presence." It is exactly that kind of book. And if you as reader match Peggy's passion with your presence, the experience may be one of rare


'For anyone seeking to understand the person-centred approach, this book will give a real insight into the rigour, discipline, courage and depth required. For those already committed, this timely book with its many examples deepens our under-standing of the radical, political, yet deeply personal nature of this way of being. Not since reading my first Carl Rogers book, have I been1 so moved, empowered and affirmed.'
-Jenny Biancardi

'Peggy Natiello's original voice strikes the same chords of excitement, empowerment and integrity stirred in me when sitting with her and Carl Rogers in their training program some twenty>, years ago. On reading this book I felt intellectually aroused, supported in deep reflection on my practice and passionate about doing this work. This level' of introductory clarity and theoretical intricacy is hard to find. It is a gift.'
-Carol Wolter-Gustafson.

BOOK REVEW by Nick Baker
Senior lecturer in Counselling, St. Martins College, Lancaster, UK

This book has on its back cover a very effusive affirmation, and do you know, it is fully justified. This is a gem, a real beauty of a book. Just as it seems that the person centred movement may be riven by splits (literalists, Rennie-ists), Natiello's passion may well be the cement that holds. It is insightful and incisive. Let me illustrate. In talking about being aware of issues at the edge of the client's awareness, she writes about what she refers to as 'the process of weaving together the fragments and threads of clients' experiences over a period of time' (p. 11). This metaphor of the client's life as a tapestry comprising many pictures, images and themes and all made up of different threads is a powerful aid to understanding what we actually do.

An abiding interest of Peggy Natiello's is the issue of power, and the book contains much here that is both a revisiting and an opening up of new aspects of this dimension of the work. Her concept of collaborative power is stunningly perceptive and strongly challenging. Therapists cannot encourage clients to embrace their personal power if they themselves are scared witless by the exercise of their own authority. The idea of "authentic presence' keeps appearing in the several pieces about power, as does her commitment to another theme in these essays—interconnectedness.

An absolute highpoint of the book is the chapter, "The Relationship That Heals'. Here, Natiello fully explores the two themes of authenticity and connectedness. In doing so, she moves away from the familiar 'being/doing' split, and instead talks about 'collaborating' with the client. The first step is to move away from the role of expert, which is not always easy. She writes about her strong conviction 'that a deep personal connection between the therapist and the client plays a major role in growth and healing' (p.28). Peggy Natiello's aim is to co-create a relationship with
all the characteristics with which we are all so familiar (although, she does manage to present them in a fresh way), and at the same time keep at the heart of the work a deep respect for what she feels must stay sacrosanct, i.e. ‘the uncompromised authority of the client' (p.27). This chapter is quite simply magnificent. It really needs to be read by all, including those who wish to seek to regulate Counselling. The work is presented with clarity and coherence. And as is so much in keeping with the author, it is written from within the work and not from some cold, dis-passionate 'objective' stance. It is full of her understandings' academic references; client work, and her own professional and personal life. To read it is to be uplifted.

In the chapter "An Argument for Client Self-Determination', Natiello makes crystal clear that the prizing of the client as the only expert on their life, does not render the counsellor dumb or passive. She writes:

In the Client-centred Approach, therapists will sometimes respond to a self-initiated question or request from the client; make a joke; reach out and touch; ask a question; say how they feel or what they are thinking; intuit something that the client has not said; say nothing at all; or choose a myriad of other behaviours that express genuine presence (p.46).

Now isn't that a provocative statement? Peggy makes you think and reflect long and hard as you read her ideas.

She is also, not surprisingly, not in awe of Rogers. That comes over clearly in the chapter as she reviews two of Rogers' presentational videos. With one, she is happy and explains why. With regard to the second one she has real reservations. The value here is two-fold. Firstly, Peggy Natiello uses the video analysis to sharply illustrate the cost incurred when the counsellor moves away from trusting the client to be in charge. Secondly the way she writes underlines the realness of Rogers—he makes mistakes like all of us.

In the section on training, she grasps the nettle of the word itself. Training is not what we do, she says. I agree. Training is for dogs. Peggy talks of two kinds of learning. There is cognitive/intellectual learning and pre-reflective learning. This second type of learning is about being open to how we experience ourselves and also how we relate with the world on all levels—emotionally, intellectually and so-matically. It is interesting here that she refers to Rogers' characteristics of the Fully Functioning Person. This reminds me of the point Patterson (1974) makes when he talks about connecting with the actualizing tendency as being both the goal and also the way to achieve it!

In the series of chapters on groups, Peggy Natiello revisits the idea of connectedness and restates that crucial tenet of the Person-centred Approach that we find our individuality in the companionship of others, and that the 'right' kind of connection is one that allows us to both see and be seen. This is powerfully evident in her magnetically attractive and involving chapter on healing what she calls the 'wounds of sexism'.

If you think Ms. Natiello is just heart, then think again. Her intellectual openness and rigour are clearly visible in her revisiting person-centred group theory through the approach of Systems Theory. It is a real eye-opener. In fact, it is an approach that focuses again on interrelatedness and interdependence and gives the idea of person-centred group further credibility.

Chapter three is entitled, "It's the Being not the Doing" and is based on a talk she gave at a graduation ceremony at Wigan and Leigh College. It is a pleasure to read. Not least because it is full of such quotable quotes, but also because I can say with some pride and one helluva lot of pleasure--I was there.

Buy this book, and read it regularly.

-Nick Baker, Senior Lecturer in Counselling, St. Martins College, Lancaster, UK