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Carl Rogers

1902-1987
American psychologist who developed a nondirective, patient-centered method of psychotherapy known as humanistic psychology.

Carl Rogers was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, Rogers attended the University of Wisconsin and studied for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary before deciding to pursue a doctorate in education and clinical psychology at Columbia University. Between 1928 and 1939, Rogers worked as a counselor at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester. In 1940, he was appointed to the faculty of Ohio State University. By this time, he had worked out much of his new client-centered system of therapy, which was set forth in his second book, Counseling and Psychotherapy, published in 1942.

Rogers believed that the mental condition of virtually all patients, whom he referred to as clients, can be improved, given an appropriate psychotherapeutic environment. Central to this environment is a close personal relationship between client and therapist. Rogers's use of the term "client" rather than "patient" expresses his rejection of the traditionally authoritarian relationship between therapist and client, and his view of them as equals. The client determines the general direction of therapy, while the therapist seeks to increase the client's insightful self-understanding through informal clarifying questions. A hallmark of Rogers's method is the therapist echoing or reflecting the client's remarks, which is supposed to convey a sense of respect as well as a belief in the patient's ability to deal with his or her problems. The concept of an alliance between client and therapist has affinities with the methods of Carl Jung. Otto Rank (1884-1939) was also an early influence on the development of Rogers's system.

Rogerian therapy is a natural consequence of its creator's belief that a fundamental element of human nature is the drive to fully actualize one's positive potential, a concept based on an essentially positive view of humanity that contrasts with the psychoanalytic view of human beings as driven by antisocial impulses that are suppressed with difficulty and often at great cost. In Rogers's view, the primary task of therapy is to remove the client's obstacles to self-actualization. A further contrast to psychoanalysis lies in the fact that Rogerian therapy emphasizes the current emotions and attitudes of the client rather than early childhood experiences.

After leaving Ohio State in 1945, Rogers served on the faculties of the University of Chicago and the University

Carl Rogers (Corbis-Bettmann. Reproduced with permission.)

of Wisconsin. Between 1956 and 1947, he served as president of the American Psychological Association. As Rogers gained increasing acclaim, the popularity of his method grew rapidly. Rogerian therapy was widely practiced in the 1950s and 1960s, when its tenets of antiauthoritarianism and permissiveness gave it a wide appeal to many. Rogers published Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory in 1951 and produced numerous of papers in the decade that followed. In 1956, the American Psychological Association awarded him its Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. In the 1960s, Rogers was attracted to the human potential movement that had begun in California, and he adopted some of its principles, including its emphasis on frank and open expression of feelings and its use of group therapy. In 1964, he and his wife moved to La Jolla, California, where he continued to write and lecture, and served as a resident fellow at the Western Behavioral Science Institute. On Becoming a Person, published in 1961, became his most widely read book. In the last ten years of his life, Rogers became deeply interested in educational reform. Borrowing a central principle from his therapeutic method, he came to believe that teachers (like therapists) should serve as facilitators rather than judges or mere conveyors of facts.

Roger's other books include Psychotherapy and Personality Change (1954), Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become (1969), Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups (1970), Carl Rogers on Personal Power (1977), and A Way of Being (1980).

Further Reading

Thorne, Brian. Carl Rogers. London: Sage Publications, 1992.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaFamous Psychologists & Scientists