Client-centered refers to a counseling perspective where the client must make the choices which affect their lives. Clients are autonomous decision makers. The counselor’s role is to support the client so they can make the best decisions possible, and not make decisions based on fear. A client-centered approach goes well beyond simply providing legal or other “information.” It is based on building a supportive relationship, which requires a variety of techniques and understanding of basic human functioning. The Integrative Client-Centered Model (ICCM) provides a practical and robust model of human functioning, together with a number of tools to maximize client support.
The “client-centered” concept was pioneered by the famed American psychologist Carl Rogers, and has been adopted as the primary ethical legal standard in 49 of the U.S. states (RPC 1.2). It is the foundation of most mediation theories, most predominantly in Transformational Mediation theory. Prior to the “decade of the brain,” the reasons why a client-centered approach works was not understood, and few or no prior client-centered theory offered an explanation, nor a foundation to truly understand why a relational and autonomy-based counseling approach works, even in difficult cases. Modern neuroscience-based theory, including in particular Interpersonal Neurobiology, provides a foundation to better understand what “client-centered” means on the ground for lawyers, litigators, mediators, judges, doctors, medical professionals, law enforcement (including hostage negotiators), clergy, educators, psychotherapists, and any other helping professional who is working with clients in conflict.
The ICCM provides a richer foundation for client-centered theory, and more specific tools or approaches, to maximize autonomous client decision making.