Butter Candles and Person Centered Therapy

Posted on February 4, 2024 by Rebecca Cola, MSW, LCSW

Famous chefs throughout time and all over the world love butter. Julia Child is famous for saying, "With enough butter, anything is good” and Food Revolutionary “Farm to Table” Chef Alice Waters, agreed by saying, “Everything tastes better with butter.”

You might be wondering “Where does butter fit into therapy?” In Person-Centered Therapy, where does butter not fit in? Person-centered therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy or client-based therapy, is a non-directive therapeutic approach that allows clients to guide their mental health journey as they discover their own solutions. The approach originated in the work of American psychologist Carl Rogers, who believed that every person is unique and, therefore, everyone’s view of his or her own world, and their ability to manage it, should be trusted.

During person-centered therapy, the therapist is there to encourage and support the client without interrupting or interfering with their process of self-discovery, as they uncover what hurts and what is needed to repair it. Rogers was a proponent of self-actualization, or the idea that each of us has the power to find the best solutions for ourselves and the ability to make appropriate changes in our lives.

In a recent session, I was asked if we could make butter candles in a future session. When the butter candle making session came around, there were many emotions to process; uncertainty, excitement, anticipation, fear of failure, comparisons to an ideal, problem solving, patience, planning, expectations, disappointment, team building, trust, making choices, joy, adventure, fun, satisfaction. Many of these were original emotions that were felt outside of the actual butter candle making activity that were being faced.

To better understand person-centered therapy, the therapist must be empathetic and non-judgmental. As the therapist accepts the client’s words and feelings, it helps build trust, understanding and confidence allowing the client to feel valued which in turn helps the client reshape their experiences and encourage the client to make their own decisions and choices.

We talked some during the process, mostly about small things like weather and our pets but as a clinician practicing person-centered therapy, I mostly observed or took direction as the “butter candle sous chef” in the butter candle making process. As in all sessions, it was all about the client.

As we put our Dixie Cup butter candles into the freezer, we began to clean up and reflect on not just the process of making the butter candles, but on the emotion and feeling that went in to making them. This activity boosted not only increased confidence and self-worth but put value on being in the present. It added the flavor of “Let’s Try”, and when life is given the opportunity to be brave enough to try, there is a whole new world to explore. Butter certainly can make things better.

For more information or if person-centered therapy sounds like something you’d like to try contact Rebecca Cola, MSW, LCSW.

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