The establishment of the Hellenic Association for Person-Centered and Experiential Approach (HAPCEA)
Focusing grew from Gendlin’s collaboration in the 1950s with Carl Rogers and his team at the University of Chicago to establish Client-Centred Therapy, later known as the Person-Centred Approach. What underpinned this new and revolutionary way of working was the discovery that, when, offered empathic understanding in an atmosphere of acceptance and authenticity, the client- or any individual in any context- will discover and ultimately feel empowered to live from their own inner resources, regardless of the social pressures and constraints that surround them.
The far-reaching implications of empowering the individual in this way are present in the well-known description of Rogers as ‘a quiet revolutionary’ and Gendlin’s lesser-known admission that he was also a revolutionary, but one who was ‘not so quiet’ (interview with Germain Lietaer, 1983, https://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2102.html). The importance of the Person-Centred Approach to so many individuals and the great need we have for Rogers’ and Gendlin’s work in the world today is made clear in this announcement of the establishment of the Hellenic Association of the Person-Centered and Experiential Approach:
This is an announcement of the establishment of HAPCEA (Hellenic Association for Person-Centered and Experiential Approach) (https://hapcea.weebly.com). On the 14th of September 2014, 26 people gathered and signed the Statutes of this new Association, which had been discussed for many years, yet was able to become reality only 3 years ago. The Greek Person-Centered Community started forming in 1989 when Polly and Julius Iossifides established the Training Center for the Person-centered Approach. In addition, in 2001, the Hellenic Focusing Center started training ECP (the European Certificate of Psychotherapy) candidates in Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy, in Focusing and in FOT.
However, although the Greek Person-Centered and Experiential Community, acquired many members over the years, the establishment of a professional, non-profitable association proved to be very difficult, because of various problems, one of them being the Greek bureaucracy and legislation.
The establishment of this Association had been my dream for many years. I always thought that it is a pity that our approach doesn’t have an association here in Greece. So many students have been trained, have been deeply touched by Rogers’ and Gendlin’s theory and philosophical background, have communicated and shared deep, personal emotions, felt senses and thoughts, and then they lacked a place to stay connected.
This association was approved by the Greek authorities and officially started functioning in February 2015 and had its first General Assembly in May 2015. The main goals of this not-for-profit organization are:
We have had some meetings and gatherings since then, including encounter groups. The new members’ committee together with the Board of Directors has approved many new members. Today we have 93 members.
We have committees for various interests: a supervision committee, a continuing education committee, a scientific committee, an Ethics committee and a committee for Northern Greece. This association gives us the opportunity to meet, share our experience and offers us a chance to develop personally and professionally.
We also had two two-day conferences. One in April 2016 with the title “The Person-centered and Experiential Approach in Greece today. Contemporary tendencies, trends, applications and practice.” There were presentations, workshops and encounter groups. This conference was welcomed by psychotherapists and counselors, mostly from the PCEA. We had about 140 people attending. We had the opportunity of meeting and sharing our professional experience.
The second conference was held in October 2017 with the title “Empathy, congruence, unconditional positive regard. A contemporary interdisciplinary dialogue about the importance of the core conditions of the Person-centered and Experiential Approach”. The second conference, interdisciplinary as it was, was also welcomed by psychotherapists of various approaches and by people from other professions, teachers, doctors, artists, writers. 200 people participated, and we had a very fruitful dialogue and exchange of views and experience.
Once again the importance of Rogers’ core conditions was pointed out, not only for the creation of a therapeutic relationship, but for the establishment of any helping relationship. Furthermore, the core conditions were acknowledged as important for the inner relationship of each person with oneself, and consequently important for personal development.
Rogers’ theory is a contemporary theory, and can be of great use for Greek society, now that we are in the middle of a serious financial and social crisis. All we need is the emergence of the new person. This new person will be a person involved in life, with creativity, freedom of choice, interactive and caring. In other words, in Rogers’ words, a fully functioning person. This will promote personal progress and consequently progress for society, coming from the emergence of new ideas and their activation in new fields. As a society we need to find a new balance under our new circumstances, as the rule of homeostasis governs every aspect of the human existence.
Elli Avgerinou, MSc, ECP
Psychologist, Person-centered Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Trainer
PCA Trainer at the Hellenic Focusing Center
Chair of the Board at HAPCEA
European Focusing Association (EFA)