Congruence is one of the critical personal attributes required of a counsellor and yet perhaps one of the most difficult to explain simply.
The dictionary definition is:
Noun: ‘The quality or state of corresponding, agreeing’.
The word correlates in meaning to a mathematical term which describes two ‘congruent’ shapes as ‘two shapes that are identical in form and size’.
So, that goes some way to explain that we are considering a concept about same-ness, where two or more parts of something are exactly the same.
In counselling terminology, congruence is sometimes translated as ‘genuineness’ or ‘authenticity’.
On the part of the counsellor therefore, congruence is built and shown through the development of a fully integrated person. What the counsellor shows facially, through their posture, through their voice, the words they say, their gestures and behaviours are all authentic representations of the counsellor’s true opinions, thoughts, way of life and belief systems.
There is no difference.
There is no pretence or artifice.
The client can expect that the counsellor is not ‘hiding’ behind an ‘ideal’ or ‘adopted’ pose; what the counsellor displays is what the counsellor is, the truth they live by – their way of being.
This may be in contrast initially to the clients demeanour. The client has come to counselling at least partly because they are in a state of incongruence. Some part of their life, behaviour or presented self is not genuine or authentic and is used to hide, disguise or cover up, a part of themselves which it feels unsafe or unhelpful, or unnecessary to reveal.
The difference will become obvious as the client and counsellor begin to work together and the incongruity within the client will gradually reveal itself as a discomfort or dissonance that becomes bigger and bigger in the room until it is seen clearly and brought into focus. The client can then understand it better and choose how they want to address it.