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What is Unconditional Positive Regard?

Unconditional positive regard was introduced by Carl Rogers, who developed Person-Centered therapy. Unconditional positive regard refers to having complete and nonjudgmental love and acceptance towards someone. This does not mean that you accept or approve of all of the person’s actions, but that you believe that despite everything, the person is inherently human and in-turn inherently lovable. An example of unconditional positive regard that often comes up in therapy is when clients share information that would otherwise feel “bad’ or “wrong.” A therapist shows unconditional positive regard by highlighting the courage and strength it took the client to share what they shared.

How does Unconditional Positive Regard affect me?

Carl Rogers believed that oftentimes people present in therapy longing for the unconditional regard they never received as a child (either form parents or from other authority figures and caregivers in their life). Because of this, they often experience low self-worth, shame, anxiety/worry, and depression. This may even impact the adult’s ability to form social relationships if they do not view themselves worthy of these relationships or if they worry that these relationships will be judgmental or unaccepting of them. However, when we are able to empathize with others and accept them despite their actions, they are able to build trust. In therapy this translates to clients opening up more and more with their therapist, feeling connected to them, and feeling safe in the session. In their personal lives, this translates to making healthier decisions, practicing self-love, and having and increasing self-worth.

How Can I Practice Unconditional Positive Regard Outside of Therapy?

We cannot control the acceptance or the amount of love someone gives us, but we can control two things: 1) How we allow conditional love/unacceptance to affect us; and 2) How we give and show love to ourselves and people we care about. If people are not willing or able to show and give us unconditional positive regard, it’s important to recognize that their feelings and behaviors do not define our value or worth. We are the only ones who have the ability to define that worth and we can do that by believing we are inherently loveable and deserving of love, and through accepting love from others. When we are able to love ourselves completely, it makes it easier to love others and accept love from others.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.