Learn more about Carl Rogers
Carl Ransom Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) was an influential American psychologist, who, along with Abraham Maslow, was the founder of the humanist approach to psychology. He was also instrumental in the development of non-directive psychotherapy, which he initially termed Client-centered therapy. He later renamed it as the Person-centered approach (PCA) to reflect that his theories were meant to apply to all interactions between people, not just to those between therapist and client. Today PCA is also called Person-centered psychotherapy.
Rogers was born on January 8, 1902, in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. His father was a civil engineer and his mother was a housewife and devout Christian; Rogers was the fourth of six children.
Rogers could read by kindergarten, and his education started in the second grade. Following an education in a strict religious and ethical environment, he became a rather isolated, independent and disciplined person, and acquired a knowledge and an appreciation for the scientific method in a practical world. His first career choice was agriculture, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by religion. At age 20, following his 1922 trip to Beijing, China, for an international Christian conference, he started to doubt his religious convictions. To help him clarify his career choice, he attended a seminar entitled Why am I entering the Ministry?, after which he decided to change his career.
After two years he left the seminary and took his M.A. (1928) and his Ph.D. (1931) from Teachers College, Columbia University. While completing his doctoral work, he engaged in child study at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, in Rochester, New York, becoming the agency's director in 1930.
He was offered a full professorship at Ohio State University in 1940. In 1942, he wrote his first book, Counseling and Psychotherapy. In it, Rogers suggested that the client, by establishing a relationship with an understanding, accepting therapist, can resolve difficulties and gain the insight necessary to restructure their life.
Then, in 1945, he was invited to set up a counseling center at the University of Chicago. It was while working there, in 1951, he published his major work, Client-Centered Therapy, wherein he outlines his basic theory. In 1956 Rogers became the first President of the American Academy of Psychotherapists. In 1957 he arrived at the University of Wisconsin. However, following several internal conflicts at the department of psychology at Wisconsin, Rogers became disillusioned with academia.
In 1964, Rogers was selected 'humanist of the year' by the American Humanist Association, and he received an offer to join the staff of the Western Behavioral Studies Institute (WBSI) for research, which he accepted and then moved to La Jolla, California, . Rogers left the WBSI to help found the Center for Studies of the Person in 1968. He remained a resident of La Jolla for the rest of his life, doing therapy, speeches and writing until his sudden death in 1987. Rogers' last decade was devoted to applying his theories in areas of national social conflict, and he traveled worldwide to accomplish this. In Belfast, Ireland, he brought together influential Protestants and Catholics; in South Africa, blacks and whites, in the United States, consumers and providers in the health field. His last trip, at age 85, was to the Soviet Union, where he lectured and facilitated intensive experiential workshops fostering communication and creativity. He was astonished at the numbers of Russians who knew of his work.
In 1987, Rogers suffered a fall that resulted in a fractured hip. He had a successful operation, but his heart failed the next night and he died a few days later.
"Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets -- neither Freud nor research --neither the revelations of God nor man -- can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction." -- On Becoming a Person
"If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning."
"It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried." -- On Becoming a Person
 His Theory
 Nineteen Propositions
His theory is based on nineteen propositions<ref name="r51">Rogers, Carl (1951). Client-centered therapy: Its current practice, implications and theory.. London: Constable. ISBN 1841198404.</ref>:
- All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience (phenomenal field) of which they are the centre.
- The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is "reality" for the individual.
- The organism reacts as an organised whole to this phenomenal field.
- A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self.
- As a result of interaction with the environment, and particularly as a result of evaluational interaction with others, the structure of the self is formed - an organised, fluid but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of characteristics and relationships of the "I" or the "me", together with values attached to these concepts.
- The organism has one basic tendency and striving - to actualise, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism.
- The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.
- Behaviour is basically the goal directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced, in the field as perceived.
- Emotion accompanies, and in general facilitates, such goal directed behaviour, the kind of emotion being related to the perceived significance of the behaviour for the maintenance and enhancement of the organism.
- Values experienced directly by the organism, and in some instances are values interjected or taken over from others, but perceived in distorted fashion, as if they had been experienced directly.
- As experiences occur in the life of the individual, they are either, a) symbolised, perceived and organised into some relation to the self, b) ignored because there is no perceived relationship to the self structure, c) denied symbolisation or given distorted symbolisation because the experience is inconsistent with the structure of the self.
- Most of the ways of behaving that are adopted by the organism are those that are consistent with the concept of self.
- In some instances, behaviour may be brought about by organic experiences and needs which have not been symbolised. Such behaviour may be inconsistent with the structure of the self but in such instances the behaviour is not "owned" by the individual.
- Psychological adjustment exists when the concept of the self is such that all the sensory and visceral experiences of the organism are, or may be, assimilated on a symbolic level into a consistent relationship with the concept of self.
- Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolised and organised into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.
- Any experience which is inconsistent with the organisation of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organised to maintain itself.
- Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of threat to the self structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences.
- When the individual perceives and accepts into one consistent and integrated system all his sensory and visceral experiences, then he is necessarily more understanding of others and is more accepting of others as separate individuals.
- As the individual perceives and accepts into his self structure more of his organic experiences, he finds that he is replacing his present value system - based extensively on introjections which have been distortedly symbolised - with a continuing organismic valuing process.
 Development of the Personality
With regard to development, he described principles rather than stages. The main issue is the development of a self concept and the progress from an undifferentiated self to being fully differentiated.
Self Concept . . . the organised consistent conceptual gestalt composed of perceptions of the characteristics of 'I' or 'me' and the perceptions of the relationships of the 'I' or 'me' to others and to various aspects of life, together with the values attached to these perceptions. It is a gestalt which is available to awareness though not necessarily in awareness. It is a fluid and changing gestalt, a process, but at any given moment it is a specific entity. (Rogers 1959 <ref name="r59">Template:Cite journal</ref>)
In the development of the self concept he saw conditional and unconditional positive regard as key. Those raised in an environment of unconditional positive regard have the opportunity to fully actualise themselves. Those raised in an environment of conditional positive regard only feel worthy if they match conditions (what Rogers describes as conditions of worth) that have been laid down by others.
Optimal development, as referred to in proposition 14, results in a certain process rather than static state. He describes this as the good life where the organism continually aims to fulfil their full potential. He listed characteristics of a fully functioning person (Rogers 1961<ref name="r61">Rogers, Carl (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy. London: Constable. ISBN 1-84529-057-7.</ref>):
- A growing openness to experience – they move away from defensiveness and have no need for subception (a perceptual defence that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness).
- An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self concept but allowing personality and self concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust.
To open one's spirit to what is going on now, and discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have . . . (Rogers 1961<ref name="r61"/>)
- Increasing organismic trust – they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behaviour that is appropriate for each moment. They do not rely on existing codes and social norms but trust that as they are open to experiences they will be able to trust their own sense of right and wrong.
- Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual, they are able to make a wider range of choices more freely. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behaviour and so feel responsible for their own behaviour.
- Creativity – it follows that they will feel more free to be creative. They will also be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.
- Reliability and constructiveness – they can be trusted to act constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.
- A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. Rogers' description of the good life:
This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. (Rogers 1961<ref name="r61"/>)
Rogers describes the concepts of congruence and incongruence as important ideas in his theory. In proposition 6 he refers to the actualising tendency. The drive to become what one can be, to realise one's potentialities. At the same time he recognises the need for positive regard. In a fully congruent person realising their potential is not at the expense of experiencing positive regard. They are able to lead lives that are authentic and genuine. Incongruent individuals, in their pursuit of positive regard, live lives that include falseness and do not realise their potential. Conditions put on them by those around them make it necessary for them to forego their genuine, authentic lives to meet with the approval of others. They live lives that are not true to themselves, to who they are on the inside.
He suggests that the incongruent individual who is always on the defensive, cannot be open to all experiences and is not functioning ideally and may even be malfunctioning. They work hard at maintaining/protecting their self concept. Because their lives are not authentic this is a difficult task and they are under constant threat. They deploy defence mechanisms to achieve this. He describes two mechanisms: distortion and denial. Distortion occurs when the individual perceives a threat to their self concept. They distort the perception until it fits their self concept. Denial follows the same process except instead of distorting they deny the threat exists.
This defensive behaviour reduces the consciousness of the threat but not the threat itself. And so, as the threats mount, the work of protecting the self concept becomes more difficult and the individual more defensive and rigid in their self structure. If the incongruence is immoderate this process may lead the individual to a state that would typically be described as neurotic (although Rogers himself preferred to avoid labels)(Hjelle & Jiegler 1981<ref name="h81">Hjelle, L. A., Ziegler, D. J. (1981). Personality Theories: Basic assumptions, research and applications, 2, New York: McGraw-Hill.</ref>). Their functioning becomes precarious and psychologically vulnerable. If the situation worsens it is possible that the defences cease to function altogether and the individual becomes aware of the incongruence of their situation. Their personality becomes disorganised and bizarre, irrational behaviour, associated with earlier denied aspects of self, may erupt uncontrollably.
As mentioned in the introduction, Rogers originally developed his theory to be the foundation for a system of therapy. He initially called this client-centred therapy <ref name="r51"/> but later replaced the term client-centred with the term person-centred. Even before the publication of Client-Centered Therapy in 1951, he believed that the principles he was describing could be applied in a variety of contexts and not just in the therapy situation. As a result he started to use the term person-centred approach later in his life to describe his overall theory. Person-centred therapy is the application of the person-centred approach to the therapy situation. Other applications include a theory of personality, interpersonal relations, education, nursing, cross-cultural relations and other "helping" professions and situations.
The application to education has a large robust research tradition similar to that of therapy. Rogers described the approach to education in "Client-Centered Therapy" and wrote "Freedom to Learn" donated exclusively to the subject in 1969. Freedom to Learn was revised two times. The new Learner-Centerd Model is similar in many regards to this classical person-centered approach to education. The application to cross-cultural relations has involved workshops in highly stressful situations and global locations including conflicts and challenges in South Africa, Central America, and Ireland. This work resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Rogers.
 See also
- Person centered psychotherapy
- Humanistic psychology
- Evolutionary psychology
 External links
- nrogers.com - Rogers Biography
- Personality Theories - Carl Rogers
- Portrait of Carl Rogers - Gallery of Writers
- Carl Rogers page at Mythos & Logos
- Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person (1961)
- Carl R. Rogers, Freedom to Learn (1969)cs:Carl Ransom Rogers
de:Carl Rogers es:Carl Rogers fr:Carl Rogers is:Carl Rogers it:Carl Rogers he:קארל רוג'רס nl:Carl Rogers ja:カール・ロジャース no:Carl Rogers pl:Carl Rogers pt:Carl Rogers ru:Роджерс, Карл Рэнсом sk:Carl Rogers zh:卡爾·羅哲斯