A Philosophical Response: The Kierkegaardian self and person-centred therapy

John Lippitt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


What kind of a therapist is Kierkegaard? In this brief response to Helle Møller Jensen & George Pattison's rendering of some of Kierkegaard's Upbuilding Discourses as dialogues, I shall approach this question by looking at a major form of contemporary psychotherapy that claims Kierkegaard as an influence. Carl Rogers’ ‘person-centred’ approach is one of the most commonly practiced forms of contemporary psychotherapy. I shall argue that what Kierkegaard offers is something essentially different from Rogers' approach. In fact, I argue, Rogers’ position ultimately rests on assumptions that manifest a version of what Kierkegaard calls the ‘despair of defiance’. I consider the view of the self and its autonomy presupposed by Rogers’ approach, and compare this view with that of Anti-Climacus, the pseudonym under which Kierkegaard wrote The Sickness Unto Death. While finding something admirable about person-centred therapy’s trust in its clients, I thus raise some Kierkegaard-inspired questions about this trust. And I close by briefly considering how, both in the dialogues presented here and in the therapeutic relationship, a kind of ‘indirect communication’ may be at work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKierkegaard's Pastoral Dialogues
EditorsGeorge Pattison, Helle Møller Jensen
PublisherWipf and Stock
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-62189-361-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-61097-832-3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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