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Carl R.

Rogers, PhD, A Biographical Sketch

Carl Ransom Rogers was born in 1902 on Oak Park, Illinois. His father was trained as an
engineer at the University of Wisconsin. His mother was a homemaker. His earliest years were
spent in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Oak Park (Kirschenbaum,1979). His family later
moved to a farm in nearby Glen Ellyn, Illinois,where Carl spent his later childhood and
adolescent years. His family was very religious.

Carl was a very bright young boy and kipped one year in school. He was an excellent
student in grade school and in high school (Kirschenbaum, 1979). He later attended the
University of Wisconsin at Madison and majored in agricultural studies. Before leaving
Wisconsin, he married a childhood playmate, Hellen Elliot. He subsequently enrolled at Union
Theological Seminary in New York, where he attended on scholarship. While in the seminary,
Rogers enrolled in education and psychology courses at nerby Columbia University, which
signitificantly influenced him. He later left in seminary, preferring to study at Columbia
University’s Teachers’ College ( in 1926), where he would take coursework in educational
psychology. He received his MA degree in 1928 and his PhD degree in 1931, both from
Columbia University. His doctoral dissertation was entitled, Measuring Personality Adjustment
in Children Nine to Thirteen Years of Age.

After attaining the PhD, Rogers remainded in New York working as a psychologist until
1940; he then accepted a position at the Ohio State University to be a Professor of Clinical
Psychology. At Ohio State University to be a Professor of Clinical Psychology. At Ohio State he
became thoroughly engrossed in the academic life, while maintaining a schedule that allowed
him to counsel students and supervise counselor trainees. Under the pressure of teaching , he felt
obligated to develop his own position on counseling, and in late 1940, he presented apaper at the
invitation of the University of Minnesota that he described as significant to the development of
Client Centered Therapy. The reaction to his paper inspired his first major work, Counseling and
Psycotherapy; Newer Concepts in Practice (Rogers, 1942), which today is viewed as a classic. In
1945 he moved to the University of Chicago, lured by an opportunity to develop a counseling
center. It was while he was teaching and counseling at the University of Chicago that Rogers
publish his book, Client Centered Therapy (Rogers,1951)which is foundational to his position on
human growth, understanding, and changi. His years at Chicago were very productive, and it was
there that he became widely recognized. However, as if driven by a “pioneering spirit “, Rogers
accept a position developed for him at the University of Wisconsin ( see the discussion of his
move in Kirschenbaum,1979). At Wisconsin, Rogers applied his theory to severely disturbed
psychotics. His time and work at WIconsin, which produced outcome studies with mixed
findings, proved to be a very personally stressful, primarily due to serious disagreements among
his colleagues (see Kirschenbaum, 1979; Gendlin, 1988). He later left the University for La
Jolla, California, where he remained until his death in 1987. In La Jolla, he was a fellow with the
Western Behavioral Sciences Institute.

Rogers received many distinguished awards in his lifetime. He was awarded the
American Psychological Association’s “Distinguished Scientific Contribution” award nominated
for a Nobel Peace Prize. He was Truly an outstanding theorectician and counselor, and his
impact upon the field of counseling and psychotherapy will be long-lasting.

The Foundational Theory

The Object of Counseling

In describing the foundational theory, the focus will be on Roger’s earliest expositions of
his theory. Roger’s Client-Centered Therapy, as originally conceived, was a therapy focusing on
the individual and upon the self. The “self” and the “self-concept”are are foundational constructs
that reflect Roger’s early ontology-the self as an identifiable aspect of individuality. (Although in
his later years, Rogers moved away from viewing the individual in structural terms, his thinking
never completely reconciled a structural concept of self with a process orientation in therapy)
Rogers (1951) defined the self-structure as follows:

The self-structure is an configuration of perceptions of the self which are

admissible to awareness. It is composed of such element as the perceptions of
one’s characteristic and abilities; the percepts and concepts of the self in relation
to others and to the environment;the value qualities which are perceived as
associated with experience and objects; and the goals and ideals which are
perceived as having positive or negative valance. It is, then, the organized picture,
existing in awareness either as figure or ground, of the self and the self-in-
relationship, together with the positive or negative values which are associated
with those qualities and relationships, as they are perceived as existing in the past,
present, and future. (p.501)

Further, in describing the development of the self from childhood, Rogers stated: “The
child… begins to perceive himself as a psychological object, and one of the most basic elements
in the perceptions of himself as a person who is loved” (p.502). It isnoteworthy in these
quotations that the self is predominant as a personality construct. It is an organizing principe in
Roger’s theory of personality. It is a means of understanding his philosophy. The self is viewed
as an organized pattern of perception, yet Rogers stated that the self is also “fluid” to a degree. In
this way, the self is not immune to experience. It is not so structured that it is unalterable. Yet,
the self is more constant than perception. It provides continuity to the personality. As such, the
personality becomes amenable to counseling.

The process of Counseling

Roger’s exposition of the “necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic personality
change” in 1957 is perhaps the best summary of his foundational theory of change. Those six
coditions, paraphrased in the following, are useful for understanding both his theory of
personality and his ideas about therapy. In effects, the six conditions are; how the self is
positively affected in an interpersonal context. The six conditions are:

1. Two persons are in psychological contact.

2. The first, who shall be terned the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or
3. The second person, who shall be terned the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the
4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client
5. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of
reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client.
6. The communication to the client of the therapist’s emphatic understanding and
unconditional positive regard is to a minimal degree achieved.
According to Rogers (1957), if all of these six conditions are met over a period of time, they
are sufficient to be associated with healthy personality change.
The terms emphaty and unconditional positive regard, introduced in the six conditions, will
be more fully defined in a section which follows, entitled “counselor role”. The terms
psychological contact, congruence, and incongruence require further immediate elaboration.
Psychological contact, as defined by Rogers (1957) means that when two people interact,
“each makes some perceived differences in the experiential fild of the other”(p.96). according to
Rogers, the difference that one person makes in interaction with another person does not
necessarily have to be consciously recognized- it can be “subceived” (sensed at a nonconscious
or even an organic-phisical level). But at some level, there must be some effect due to the
interpersonal relationship.
Incongruence is a term that rogers used todescribe psychological maladjustment.
Rogers(1951) felt that psychological maladjustment exists “ when the organism denies to
awareness significant sensory and visceral experiences which consequently are not symbolized
and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or
potential psychological tension” (p.50). when a person essentially denies to conscious awareness
his or her own sensory or visceral experiences, he or she is denying important information to the
self. Such experiences must be fully recognized for psychological helth. Rogers believed that all
such “sensory and visceral experiences” should be symbolically and consistently incorporated
into “the concept of self” (p.513). When experiences are in a “consistent relationship with the
self”,there is psychological congruence. As an example, assume for a moment that a young man
accidentally brushes up against another young man in skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact
is arousing to humans and unless perceived through other sense organs, humans cannot identify
the sex of the individual with whom they have made contact. In the case of the young man, if he
felt aroused by the skin contact with the other man, he could :
a) Accept the arousal, and depending on his sexual preference, incorporate the
experience into the self-structure.
b) Could cause distress when confronted with similar data in the future, or
c) Accept the arousal and misinterpret it as an absolute sign of unitary sexual preference,
which could produce panic in a person who has viewed himself a heterosexual.
(Response “c” effectively requires denial of past arousal when in contact with
Response A is a congruent response. Response B and C are incongruent responses.
In effect, Rogers developed a picture of the human being which includes a real perceived
self (involving sensory and visceral experience, and ultimately, what one feels) and a perceived
self (which may be consistent or inconsistent with experience). When there is awareness of the
real self, and there is consistency between the real and perceived self, there is congruence.
It is also true that the individual has a “self ideal” (Rogers, 1951, pp.140-142). The self
ideal is a concept of elf related to what one hopes or dreams of being. Ideally, an individual’s
real, perceived, and ideal selves should allbe consistent; when they are not consistent, a person
may manifest psychological distress in some from.

Counselor Role

Related to the role of the counselor, Raskin and Rogers(1989) stated :

The basic theory of person-centered therapy is that if the therapist is successful in

conveying genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and empathy, then the client will
respond with constructive changes in personality organization. Research has
demonstrated that these qualities can be made real in a relationship and can be conveyed
and appreciated in a short time. (p.170)

One of the primary tasks of the counselor is to demonstrate the necessary and sufficient
conditions for therapeutic personality change.

Empathy basically is defined as the therapist’s ability to attend to and to live the feelings
and attitudes of the client. Essentially, the therapist should attempt to “feel” from the client’s
perspective, and althought it can never be known whether this has been accomplished, the fact
that the therapist expresses interest in such understanding is viewed as adequate for facilitating

Unconditional positive regard relates to a positive, nonjudgemental, and accepting

attitude conveyed by the therapist. In effect, no metter how the client acts at the moment of the
therapy, the therapist must convey that the client is respected as a human being, and even if the
therapist cannot agree with something a client says or does , the therapist can accept him or her
fully, as a person, without judgement.

Genuineness and congruence are practically equivalent concept related to the therapist’s
role in the therapeutic relationship. Congruence, as stated earlier, relates to consistency between
the real and perceived selves. The therapist must have the ability to understand and to express his
or her own feeling in an open and unfettered way. The therapist must be aware of, and must not
deny, his or her real self during the therapeutic encounter. For example, Raskin and Rogers
(1989) addressed the issue of therapist fatigue as follows:

An effective way of dealing with the common occurrence of therapist fatigue is

to express it. This strengthens the relationship because the therapist is not trying
to cover up a real feeling. It may act to reduce or eliminate the fatigue and
restore the therapist to a fully attending and empathic. (p.172)

Accordingly, the therapist must be fully human in therapy, just as he or she expects the
client to be fully human. Ultimately, the therapist must be a model of “congruence” and open

Goals of Counseling and Ideal Outcomes

Probably the clearest explanation by Rogers of the ideal outcome of therapy is contained
in his book, On Becoming a Person; A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy (Rogers, 1961). In
that book, Rogers descries how a fully functioning person can emerge from therapy:

For the client, this optimal therapy would mean exploration of increasingly
strange and unknown and dangerous feeling in himself, the ecploration proving
possible only because he is gradually realizing that he is accepted
unconditionally. Thus he becomes acquainted with elements of the experience
which have is the past been denied to awareness as too threatening, too
damaging to the structure of the self. He finds himself experiencing these
feelings fully, completely, in the relationship, so that for the moment he is his
fear, or his anger, or his tenderness, or his strength. And as he lives these widely
varied feelings, in all their degrees of intensity, he discovers that he has
experienced himself, that he is all these feelings. He finds his behavior changing
in constructive fashion in accordance with his newly experienced self. He
approaches the realizing that he no longer needs to fear what experience may
hold, but can welcome it freely as part of his changing and developing self.

A fully functioning person is a fully deeling and experiencing person.

At first glance, Roger’s conception of full functioning appears very similar to Abraham
Maslow’s concept of “self-actualization” (Maslow,1954,1968,1971). About the same time
Rogers was developing his ideas related to personality change and therapy, Maslow was
developing his ideas related to personality development and motivation and Mashlow was
refining the concept of self-actualizing.

Self-actualizing is a concept that describes what Mashlow (1954) believed was a state of being:
the ultimate in human mental and emotional naturation. Self-actually as their basic or
foundational needs are met. In contrast to ideas such as Maslow’s, Rogers defined full
functioning as “ a process, not a state of being… it is a direction, not a destination” (p.186)

General Procedures

Diagnosis, in the classic organic-medical sense, is completely avoided in Client-Centered

Therapy. In fact, Rogers (1951) made an explicit case a against diagnosis, indicating in some
ways that it can be deleterious to the therapeutic relationship. Rogers felt that diagnosis placed
the locus of evaluation on the therapist, instead of the client; he felt the client should be self-
evaluation. Also, Rogers believed that the traditional client should be controlled by a
professional who should accept the role of manager of the client’s life. Rogers felt both of these
implications of classic diagnosis warranted its avoidance.

The focus of treatment is the individual. Treatment occurs in a therapeutic relationship.

Although the therapeutic relationship can be extended to include other individuals in groups or
families, the primary focus of attention in therapy is upon an individual’s experiences in the here
and now, reflection the match between the experienced, perceived, and ideal selves. When the
six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic personality change are met, a positive
outcome is expected (Rogers,1957).

Case Management

The Client-Centered Therapist makes very effort to make the client comfortable. Sessions are
held at mutually agreed-upon times, and the therapist make every effort to accommodate the
client’s need and desires. This isn’t to say that the client dictates the mechanics of therapy, but
rather, the client’s position is respected.

Specialized Techniques

Beyond the more global methods used in therapy, such as empathy and unconditional
positive regard, specific techniques consistent with Client-Centered Therapy and exhibited by
Rogers in his therapy sessions are:

1. Paraphrasing verbalizations-restating what a client has said in different word. Thia