The terms congruence and incongruence are used in the 2nd and 3rd core conditions in Person-Centred Therapy.
Carl Rogers developed PCT, and outlined in a Journal of Consulting Psychology (1957) that 6 core therapeutic conditions are needed for constructive personality change and that all 6 must be present in therapy. Rogers considered that no other conditions are necessary. The 6 core conditions are:
- 2 people are to be in psychological contact
- The client is to be incongruent
- The therapist is to be congruent or integrated in the relationship
- The therapist experiences Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) for the client
- The therapist has empathetic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavours to communicate the empathy to the client
- The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathy and UPR is to a minimum degree achieved.
This term used in the 2nd core condition refers to a discrepancy between the client’s perception and the reality of the situation. The client will be aware of the reality but perceives it differently.
It refers to a discrepancy between the actual experience of the organism and the self picture of the individual insofar as it represents that experience… [An] instance would be the mother who develops vague illnesses whenever her only son makes plans to leave home. The actual desire is to hold on to her only source of satisfaction. To perceive this in awareness would be inconsistent with the picture she holds of herself as a good mother. (Rogers, 1957, p. 2)
This term used in the 3rd core condition refers to the exhibition of genuineness, transparency and wholeness. The therapist will not give perceptions of professionalism which disguises the humanity of the therapist. However, the therapist will convey any feelings of confusion, dislike or any other feelings arising within themselves through advanced empathy, in order to be transparent and genuine.
Can I be real in the relationship? This has come to have an increasing amount of importance to me over the years. I feel that genuineness is another way of describing the quality I would like to have. I like the term congruence by which I mean that what I am experiencing inside is present in my awareness and comes out through my communication. In a sense, when I have this quality, I am all in one piece in the relationship. (Rogers, et al., 1965)
-- Edit to clarify more as requested in comments --
The situation with the mother in Rogers' example shows that the mother sees her ideal self to be a good mother but her perception of her self image is that she is not a good mother as she develops vague illnesses whenever her son plans to leave home.
Rogers, C., 1957. The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change. [Online]
Available at: http://www.shoreline.edu/dchris/psych236/Documents/Rogers.pdf
[Accessed 15 March 2016]
Rogers, C., Perls, F. & Ellis, A., 1965. Video: Three approaches to psychotherapy. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgiX0QLnpBM
[Accessed 15 March 2016].