Unconditional Positive Regard
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 1, 2021 (modified January 17, 2023)
Unconditional Positive Regard is a central principle to Carl Rogers's person centered therapy, which theorizes that unconditional positive regard is a necessary ingredient for a person to achieve their potential.
Dr. Saul McLeod explained that Carl Rogers believed that "like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its environment, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough" (2014).
Unconditional positive regard is basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of their behaviors. Rogers believed that a therapists effectiveness depended on their ability to show unconditional positive regard, accepting and supporting their client, without placing any conditions on this acceptance.
Kindness through Understanding
A key component to unconditional positive regard is offering understanding. We must move past limited expectations based on our personal assessments. We must understand others within the frameworks that created their life.
In a 2019 interview with the executive principle of the Wellspring Academy Trust, David Whitaker explains the academy's unconditional positive regard approach to the children. He explains, "the only way is by understanding the children, because if you don't understand them then what you can't do is give them unconditional positive regard because human nature says you'll hold a grudge." Whitaker continues, "we've managed to do is get to a place where we're starting to really think about where the children are from, what makes them tick, what their families are like, what experiences they have had in their own lives."
Whitaker concludes, "once you start to understand that, then unconditional positive regard becomes really easy" (Wood, 2019).
Unconditional Positive Regard Beyond Therapy
While personal relationships require cooperation and reasonable expectations, we still can have unconditional positive regard. We may rightfully limit or leave a relationship for our sanity, but still respect and accept the person in their faults. Attain this level of compassion is a crowning achievement. We work towards this.
David G. Myers wrote in regards to giving unconditional positive regard to others, "this is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem."
Courtney Ackerman of Positive Psychology includes self and others in her definition of unconditional positive regard. She writes, "a general definition is the attitude of complete acceptance and love, whether for yourself or for someone else. When you have unconditional positive regard for someone, nothing they can do could give you a reason to stop seeing them as inherently human and inherently lovable" (2021).
Stephen Joseph Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article defines unconditional positive regard as "valuing the person as doing their best to move forward in their lives constructively and respecting the person’s right to self-determination—no matter what they choose to do" (2012).
A Word from Flourishing Life Society
Unconditional positive regard is goal worth striving towards. As we move closer to this compassionate attitude towards others, our judgements give way to hope, our patience expands, and our joys swell.
Ackerman, Courtney (2018). What is Unconditional Positive regard in Psychology? Positive Psychology. Published 5-22-2018. Accessed 9-5-2021
Joseph. Stephen (2012). Unconditional Positive Regard. Psychology Today. Published 10-7-2012. Accessed 9-5-2021
Mcleod, Saul (2014) Carl Rogers Theory. Simply Psychology. Published 2-5-2014. Accessed 9-2021.
Wood, Phil. (2019). Dave Whitaker – Unconditional positive regard: developing high-quality alternative provision. Management in Education 33.3 (2019): 147-149.