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Unconditional Positive Regard: What is it?

Unconditional positive regard - or UPR for short - is a term used by counsellors and psychotherapists often, yet many unconnected with the world of therapy may not be familiar with the phrase.  Put simply, UPR is the idea that a person is valued and accepted by someone else without reservation, no matter what they have done or have omitted to do.  The person is valued and held in esteem just by virtue of them being themselves, not because they have managed to lose the extra weight that they are carrying, or have fit in with the prevailing wind of their friends' or family's opinions.  The person is free to think, decide and act according to their own values, and is looked upon favourably whatever their decision.


People sometimes ask me why they should seek the assistance of a professional counsellor instead of confiding in a friend or family member.  The answer in my view is quite simple, and has everything to do with UPR.  For some matters, telling all to a family member is helpful and has no adverse side effects.  The troubled person feels heard, understood and gets things off their chest.  Sometimes, however, the act of sharing with a personal acquaintance or close friend can be problematic, especially when what has been disclosed alters the way the listener views the person discussing their challenges.  The person in need of support may be viewed in a different light - sometimes only very slightly different - and this can alter the dynamics of that personal relationship.  It can be the case that even if the helper accepts fully what is told to them, they cannot help but see the person divulging this new information in a different way.


As a trained counsellor, it is part of my job to offer unconditional positive regard to all my clients, regardless of how dark they feel their disclosures are.  Learning to offer UPR to clients is a key part of the therapeutic counselling training I have undertaken, and involves having a long, hard look at what makes up my opinions and the way I see the world, and why.  Ongoing clinical supervision is also essential for a therapist serious about offering consistent unconditional positive regard.


The relationship I share with clients is a professional and not a personal one, and as such we will never meet outside of the therapy space.  I have no agenda or wish to see my clients take one particular route forward over another, and so the focus can be on how the client wants to go about tackling a problem.  Subject to the defined limits to confidentiality, the client can share whatever they like with me, if they feel they want to, without fearing it will come back and haunt them later.


Very rarely (if ever), do we receive complete UPR from our friends and family.  In the person-centred approach to psychotherapy practised at Ashwood Therapy, UPR is a key and essential ingredient in the therapeutic process, and benefits so many of the clients I see.  Being present when UPR melts away the client's negative view of themselves, and thaws the judgmental opinions of those they may have grown up or associated with is a truly memorable experience.  So often it is what clears the way for the client to dust themselves down and take the first brave steps towards starting again.



Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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Unconditional Positive Regard: What is it? | Ashwood Therapy Blog