Carl Ransom Rogers (190287) was the most influential psychotherapist in American history and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. He originated the nondirective, client-centred and person-centred approach to psychotherapy and counselling, (client-centred therapy), to education (student-centred learning), organisations, and other group settings. The basics of Rogers' approach look simple. He says there is in each of us an actualising tendency, some built-in motivation to develop our potentials as much as we can do. Surroundings and accommodations and social networks may oppose it, though, to our loss.
The elderly Rogers:
As a boy, I was rather sickly, and my parents have told me that it was predicted I would die young. This prediction . . . has come profoundly true . . . I think it is correct that I will never live to be old. So now I agree with the prediction: I believe that I will die young." [Tcrr 51]
Rogers went on to study at the Union Theological Seminary, New York City. After two years he left the seminary and took his MA (Master of Arts) in 1928) and his PhD (doctor of philosophy) in 1931 from Columbia University's Teachers College.
From 1935 to 1940 he lectured at the University of Rochester. "[The] years in Rochester were exceedingly valuable ones," he says. "During this period I began to doubt that I was a psychologist. The University of Rochester made it clear that the work I was doing was not psychology, and they had no interest in my teaching in the Psychology Department." [Tcrr 11, 12-13]
He moved on:
In 1940 I accepted a position at Ohio State University. I am sure the only reason I was considered was my book on the Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child, which I had squeezed out of vacations and brief leaves of absence. To my surprise, and contrary to my expectation, they offered me a full professorship. I heartily recommend starting in the academic world at this level. I have often been grateful that I have never had to live through the frequently degrading competitive process of step-by-step promotion in university faculties, where individuals so frequently learn only one lessonnot to stick their necks out. [Tcrr 15]
He says further, "I felt I had something to contribute, and wrote the manuscript of Counseling and Psychotherapy, setting forth what I felt to be a somewhat more effective orientation to therapy." He suggested that a client can resolve difficulties and gain the insight necessary to restructure his life in rapport with an understanding, accepting therapist. [Tcrr 15]
He served as professor of psychology at the University of Chicago (194557). He came into contact with thousands of students who were deeply affected by his courses and went on to spread his ideas and methods. Many of his classes at the University of Chicago regularly attracted hundreds of students who came from across the world to study with him.
Later he taught psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (195763).
He managed to write many more books and generated many theories, encouraging studied research into them. In fact, he carried out and encouraged more scientific research on counseling and psychotherapy than had been undertaken anywhere till then. A prolific writer, he authored sixteen books and more than two hundred professional articles and research studies. Millions of copies of his books are sold, and there are more than sixty foreign-language editions of his works. He also wrote he quit his job to actualise himself better outside the campus . . .
He was a leader in the humanistic psychology movement of the 1960s through the 1980s. He was also a leader in developing and spreading the intensive therapeutic group experience that is sometimes called the "encounter group". He went for effective interpersonal communication to resolve intergroup and international conflict.
In 1963 he helped found the Association for Humanistic Psychology. The same year he also moved to La Jolla, California and became a resident fellow of the Center for Studies of the Person.
Many professionals credit the "quiet revolutionary" Carl Rogers as one of the most influential teachers and models in their careers and in their lives. In academic settings today his work is not as predominant as earlier, but it continues to have a significant impact in many walks and fields of life, including counselling. Today's counselling approaches to helping and education incorporate his ideas and claim to be person-centred or student-centred. [Fcc 15; cf. Csd 65-67, 131-32]. His thinking may be relevant for therapy, personal growth, education, science, philosophy, and various social issues. Rogers:
I have felt that I have always put forth my thoughts in a tentative manner, to be accepted or rejected by the reader or the student. But at different times and places psychologists, counselors, and educators have been moved to great wrath, scorn, and criticism. [Tcrr 16]
Hurt by "friends":
Perhaps the storms of criticism are more than matched by the damage done by uncritical and unquestioning "disciples" . . . using as weapons both inaccurate and accurate understandings of me and my work. I have found it difficult to know, at times, whether I have been hurt more by my "friends" or my enemies. [Tcrr 16-17]
Rogers on swimming and being alone:
Perhaps partly because of the troubling business of being struggled over, I have come to value highly the privilege of getting away, of being alone . . . I have found isolated hideaways . . . where painting, swimming, snorkeling, and capturing some of the scenery in color photography are my major activities. Yet in these spots, where no more than two to four hours a day goes for professional work, I have made most of whatever advances I have made in the last few years. I prize the privilege of being alone. [Tcrr 17]
In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not . . . I have not found it to be helpful or effective in my relationships with other people to try to maintain a facade; to act in one way on the surface when I am experiencing something quite different underneath. Carl Rogers [Tcrr 18]
In his approach Rogers emphasised a person-to-person relationship between the therapist and the client. It is the client who determines the course, speed, and length of treatment. Further, a very direct, frank manner of addressing the reader or listener became a Carl Rogers hallmark, and exploring attitudes too. Eventually he also began to enrich his communication with anecdotes to speak directly in a meaningful way. An example:
So, who am I? I am a psychologist whose primary interest, for many years, has been in psychotherapy. What does that mean? . . . I would like to take a few paragraphs from the preface to my book, Client-Centered Therapy, to indicate in a subjective way what it means to me . . . I wrote as follows.
To what extent do we rely on the individual's ability to guide his own growth and development, and to what extent do we introduce outside motivation, strategies, guidance, direction, or even coercion? Howard Kirshenbaum [Tcrr xv]
In his approach Rogers emphasised a person-to-person relationship between the therapist and the client. It is the client who determines the course, speed, and length of treatment. But rogers finally wanted his own share of "that bargain", saying:
I have found it enriching to open channels whereby others can communicate their feelings, their private perceptual worlds, to me . . . [Tcrr 19]
"On a national scale, we cannot permit another nation to think or feel differently than we do," says Rogers, meaning to expose a mentality that way. [Tcrr 22]
All of my professional life I have been going in directions which others thought were foolish . . . But I have never regretted moving in directions which "felt right", even though I have often felt lonely or foolish at the time. [Tcrr 23-24]
"But I have not been too much concerned, because I have come to feel that . . . one person (at least in my lifetime, and perhaps ever) can know whether what I am doing is honest, thorough, open, and sound, or false and defensive and unsound, and I am that person. [Ibid, 24-25]
"I enjoy the discovering of order in experience [Ibid 25]."
"Being closer to the truth can never be a harmful or dangerous or unsatisfying thing [Ibid 27]."
A free individual process of search should converge toward truth, he says [With Ibid 29]
I became very dimly aware that though our sexual relationship was great for me, it was not that great for her. I realize, though, how little I understood the deeper meaning of her phrases: "Oh, not tonight"; "I'm too tired"; "Let's wait till some other time." . . . One thing I came to realize was that I just didn't know whether my wife had ever had an orgasm. She often seemed to enjoy our relationship . . . [Tcrr 31]
Old Age and Retirement
Sixty-five marks, for many people, the end of a productive life and the beginning of "retirement" . . . [Tcrr 37]
Rogers speaks well of his support group, "the loose cluster of friends and close associates", and of his affinity for younger people. "I cannot say why I have this affinity, but I know it exists," says Rogers, and [Tcrr 41]
It is often said or assumed that the older years are years of calm and serenity. I have found this attitude misleading . . . I am more ready to touch and be touched, physically. I do more hugging and kissing of both men and women . . . feel as though a whole new depth of capacity for intimacy has been discovered in me. This capacity has brought me much hurt, but an even greater share of joy. [Tcrr 45, 47]
The Polish Workshop
The Polish workshop was unusual. Interest in Rogers' work drew together ninety people, both professional and nonprofessional. The Polish staff felt insecure. In the middle of the week-long session individuals sensed their power and began to use it, and especially the professionals used it to hurt others. Hurtful labels and diagnoses, and skillful put-downs became quite prominent. To Rogers it resembled Princeton: "Oh, no! Not again!" But people began to be aware of the consequences of such behaviour and it gave way to a close and loving community where people did not lose their own personality and went about without imposing.
Rogers found the group as a whole to be very sophisticated, intelligent, and often more scholarly than a similar American group. In a Socialist country their problems, feelings, ways of coping, and their desire for openness and integrity seemed very similar to what he had found in every land. [Tcrr 54-55]
Rogers' client-centred therapy is an approach for dealing with personal troubles, unclarified issues and also neurotic disorders by fostering the client's general personality growth. What is attempted is to try to help gains in insight into one's own feelings and behaviour. The function of the therapist is to extend warm and positive regard toward the client. It is a welcoming regard that is hoped to be unconditional. A vital element of the person-centred approach is repeating and restating the client's own verbalised concerns in the attempt to enable the client to see himself more clearly and react more openly with the therapist and others.
Much depends on the therapist, how accepting and skilled he or she his, and on the rapport that arises. And yet it is the client who paces, heads, steers, and closes the therapy. The therapist seeks to work as a facilitator, or "midwife", if you like.
Carl Rogers' approach influenced later methods of group therapy and individual counselling and therapy. Suitable for mild persons, the clergy finds it attractive. [Pary]
Rogers distinquished between theoretical knowledge and applicable knowledge. The latter addresses more immediate needs and wants of the learner, and may bring about personal change and growth. One has to be open to change, in this light. Participating fully in the learning process and having enough and fit control over its main directions and outcomes, is viewed as a boon. Helping such learning on and up (facilitating it, making steps easier, smoother) includes:
According to Rogers, learning which is threatening to the self (e.g., new attitudes or perspectives) are more easily assimilated when external threats are at a minimum. One has to learn things to be able to evaluate anything. Self-initiated learning measures that seem relevant to the personal interests, often are lasting and pervasive. Self-evaluation is a main method of assessing progress or success.
Roger's learning theory applies primarily to adult learners and has influenced other theories of adult learning. There are other methods than this subjective one, which may fall short in many ways in relation to challenges and what is at stake - but "many are necessary and subjective estimation can seldom be done completely away with".
Rogers launched five hypotheses concerning learner-centred education, and these five points relate to them:
GUIDANCE and counselling is an enlarging profession. It has been favoured by research and development of new instruments and procedures. Counsellors are trained to administer and to interpret tests and questionnaires that assess a student's vocational interests, aptitudes, and problems. Counsellors have also learnt to interview people in such a way that they feel comfortable talking about themselves and expressing their questions or problems. However, services vary, depending in part of facilities.
Increasing numbers of students at all academic levels are seeking counselling to deal with problems. Some counsellors believe that students should be told what things they should or should not pursue. Other counsellors believe that they should only help students become aware of the nature of their problems and that with such awareness students can take fit steps themselves it is naïve to think that, however, for the steps that could help, may well lie beyond what the student has previous or current awareness of.
In the Rogers inspired school of guidance and counselling a basic theory is that people have a basic need to realise their abilities and to attain psychological health and well-being. There is nothing wrong with that. Rogerians hold that the role of the counsellor is not to resolve clients' conflicts, but rather to help them become the best that they can be. Hence, a Rogerian counsellor might help clients explore and discover the reasons for their social and emotional stresses, their occupational choices or emotional hassles. The risk is that there will only be talk, talk, talk and little or no resolution-making.
Besides, students with serious problems have to be sent to the school psychologist.AT UNIVERSITIES and related institutions a common counsellor has overlapping guidance and counselling activities. Although counsellors may differ a great deal in theory, in practice they often operate similarly, due to their much identical overriding situation where there is a network of regard and status "lines" to consider. They have meetings with single students, or small groups of students, and may lecture to whole classes.
Things to talk about may include:
Many students may have problems dealing with the pressures of campus life. Long before such pressures lead into extreme behaviours such as eating disorders and drug abuse, the student may benefit from guided counselling not always non-directive counselling, who can be marked by "talking about" and not solving real issues at stake.
Anyhow, counsellors who subscribe to a nondirective approach may be able to refine and confirm student's ideas. And they may recognise that some students need more active guidance. Really, most guidance counsellors recognise that students are so different that no one approach suits everybody. Young people who have inter-relational problems can be counselled to reach more mature and effective ways of interacting. There are some therapies for it.
CARL RANSOM ROGERS was the founder of mulling-over-centred counselling. He was the originator of non-directive measures where the subjective nature of the client-counsellor interaction is basic [Stes 73].
His theory of the self is considered to be humanistic and phenomenological. His client-centred method becomes less dependable if used to present or explain remote events, and depends on skills. [Stes 74-5].
Freewheeling overall conception of a person
THE INDIVIDUAL is trustworthy: he is basically good and trustworthy, reliable, constructive. In this we contrast sharply with psychoanalysts who see persons as innately destructive and antisocial [cf Stes 79].
The individual self is a regulator of behaviour. It may not be fully capable, though. (See later) [Cf Stes 83].
To be non-defensive is thought to be fit for healthy growth in some major ways. That's one of the reasons why person children need to be protected in such as early childhood, preferably much longer. A society needs to protect itself too [cf Stes 84-88].
Much research evidence supports many of these tentative assertions [Stes 102-3]
An individual is predominantly subjective: he finds subjective purpuse and subjective choice [cf Stes 76]
Optimal adjustment of the fully functioning person: In Rogers' view, he may be likened to a giant electronic computing machine, weighing, balancing, not infallible, but trying for the best possible answer under the circumstances [Stes 90-91] ◊
Facilitative conditions help the individual to profit from what his organism tries to communicate from inside at times, somehow. If his grown-up mentors are freely and deeply themselves with no fronts or facades, even unknowingly, difficulties may be brought out into the open [cf Stes 94-95].
What helps is called warm acceptance, which at first was named unconditional positive regard akin to the educator John Dewey's terms prizing and appraising. The mentor has to prize the boy or girl underneath his wings and be willing to experience it fully, according to this theory. Attempts to help or back up a person dealing with preconscious material, needs accurate empathy too. Thus, mentor genuineness, respect or warm acceptance, and accurate empathy are the attitudes that a person has to have for personality change. It means that those that deal with him or her, have to bring these hallmarks out into the open [Op cit 96-98].
Every person exists in a continually changing world of experience of which he is the centre: This is the private world called the experiential field or the phenomenal field. Many of the person's experiences are not readily available to his awareness and thus are not a part of his phenomenal field. He reacts to it as it is experienced and perceived as "reality" and in several goal-oriented attempts to satisfy needs he caters to. He is continually checking his perceptions to make them a more reliable guide. On top of this we can understand him somewhat and predict a bit too [cf Stes 80-82]AN individual has an innate tendency toward actualisation: The individual has an inherent tendency to move in directions that can be roughly described as growth, health, adjustment, socialisation, self-realisation, independence, and autonomy to maintain or enhance the organism (much as in the the selfregulation of Angyal). The person expresses himself (herself) in varied ways of interactions. Rogers thinks that the person's life is an active and not a passive process, one of growth and development [cf Stes 76-78].
We can have belief in the dignity of the individual: According to the theory, one had better believe in the dignity and worth of each individual as both independent and self-directing [cf Stes 75].
The individual has his internal frame of reference: It is a subjective reality that in some attempts at emphasising objective reality too [cf Stes 82].
If mentor genuineness, respect or warm acceptance, and accurate empathy are shown and registered much and fairly early, there is a far better chance that the personality changes will be steadied and remain. Good, favourable conditions mean much too along with relevant concreteness that aids debating person feelings and experiences [cf Stes 100-1].
Early childhood development and the basic estrangement of the person deal with such as: (a) An organismic valuing process, which regulates conduct through such as sensible feedback mechanisms. Very autonomic reponses like "fright, fight and flight" deal with such aspects of life too. (b) A self-concept is developing; (c) Conditions of worth are developed through the need for positive self-regard in interactions; (d) Incongruence between self and experience; (e) Estrangement of the person; and (f) Conform rearing. ◊THE PERSON may react to threats by defense skills if he can: Feeling vulnerable may breed anxiety and bring on neurotic behaviour that often seems incomprehensible but we shall not take the time to illustrate it here.
The individual is wiser than his intellect, wiser than his conscious thought. It helps him to function better [cf Stes 79-80].
The process of changing a person
One may change for the better or worse, and maybe in between them too. But the process of changing is not that simple: Often, negative feelings or hostility increase before positive feelings pop up. It is important to know about that [cf Stes 104-5].
If the person's blocked or pent-up feelings are let out, he or she may become freer; get better able to differentiate and discern; and experience more accurately too. He should move toward greater accuracy and finesse, and an increasing congruence between self and experience, with less internally rooted need for defensiveness [cf Stes 105].
A good process tends to move from the abstract issues to more concrete ones, but there are limits to that. If a person is manipulated by logic, feels alone, is deprived and debased, he may be too victimised to profit from a warm, caring and helping hand. It happens in real life.
The crux of having caring individuals around, or someone to talk with, is a preferably unbiased experiencing that pops up in a moment. It may be called experiential focusing. It reminds of the blank Zen mind, or beginner's mind in Zen [Stes108, 109; Zeb]
Carl Rogers' theory [Ccpi] is based on 19 propositions where the individual in many ways is talked of as rather similar to the very small, one-celled organism that is called amoeba. There is nothing wrong with that! Rogers calls for enhanced, sane integration through propositions. The following is more or less rendered and chunked:
As for development, Carl Rogers described principles rather than stages of a self concept and the progress from an undifferentiated self. Rogers sees unconditional positive regard as key to developing the self concept. (1959)
Yet, personality and behaviour theory are still filled with uncertainties [cf Stes 112].
These outcomes can be good too, although not a little in a life depends on overriding circumstances:
Optimal development, according to Rogers, results in a certain process rather than some static state. The process is aimed at and/or part of "the good life", where the organism continually aims to "fulfill its full potential". He lists the characteristics of a so-called fully functioning person:
Apart from talking inadequately about the "fully functioning individual" which Abraham Maslow does about self-actualisers Carl Rogers' also talk rashly about the good life. There is far more to say about it than what Rogers does. I have tried to modify the gist of his insights so as to make them constructive. You find many of his central views and many of his key statements on Wikipedia (s.v. "Carl Rogers")
This process of the good life involves growing to realise more of one's potentialities. It involves the courage to be and be oneself well and good. It means launching oneself into the stream of [upward-moving, helpful] life. (Cf. Rogers 1961; Ccpi)]
Hardening of the Person
Mental hardening is a main difficulty. It can be marked by:
If hardening worsens, helping hands can fail, and the individuality development too [cf Stes 115].
If life becomes too hard, hardening is one way to respond to it, but a more preferable way is to relax, if and when possible. That approach is in step with major steps of psychoanalytic counselling too. Relaxing is to figh barriers and thus aid insights on and up in time. It is quite rough to deal with hardening. Some forms back up defence mechanisms which may mar a life, a family, a home, and be implanted in offspring also [Psykoan. counselling].
Client-centred counselling deals in problems in largely reflective ways. They include nonevaluative listening and some measure of understanding of feelings or sharing in them. Thus they may tie in with looks from afar one way or another. Other parts of psychological thinking and strategies include confrontation; interpretation; behaviour modification; and information giving, but these are not all essential for our purposes [cf Stes 116-25].
However, information giving may assist growing and accurate perceptions of reality, a better perceived Umwelt (world around oneself).
To produce changes through a decent information-sharing approach is hard work if things have settled in menial no-good ways beforehand. Cognitive deficiencies may block and stop the process towards handy, allround living we are proud of. Maturing interpersonal relationships determine a whole lot. It could be good to marry [cf Stes 129-30]
Along with the text-related references below are several books by Carl Rogers and of his prominent ways (client-centred councelling, client-centred therapy and a line of empathy).
Awbi: Rogers, Carl. A Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
Bamm: Rogers, Carl. Becoming Partners: Marriage And Its Alternatives. New York: Dell, 1972.
Ccpi: Rogers, Carl. Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951.
Crdc: Kirschenbaum, Howard, and Valerie Land, eds. Carl Rogers: Dialogues: Conversations With Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, B. F. Skinner, Gregory Bateson, Michael Polanyi, Rollo May, and others. London: Constable, 1990.
Csd: Evans, Gail. Counselling Skills For Dummies. Chichester: John Wiley, 2007.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica (Yearly DVD suite or Online).
Engr: Rogers, Carl. Encounter Groups. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.
Epe: Jakobsson, Håkan. Exploring the Phenomenon of Empathy. Doctoral dissertation. Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Psychology, 2003
Fcc: Sanders, Pete. First Steps in Counselling: A Students' Companion for Basic Introductory Courses. 3rd ed. Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, 2002.
Frov: Rogers, Carl. Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become. Columbus: Merrill, 1969.
Fuf: Shertzer, Bruce, and Shelley Stone. Fundamentals of Counseling. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton, 1974.
Lte: Schunk, Dale. Learning Theories. An Educational Perspective. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2012.
Mp: Buzan, Tony, and Barry Buzan. The Mind Map Book: Unlock Your Creativity, Boost Your Memory, Change Your Life. Harlow: BBC Active / Pearson, 2010.
Pary: Nilsen, E. Pastoralrådgivning. Oslo: Luther, 1974.
Pct: Tudor, Keith, and Mike Worral. Client-Centred Therapy: A Clinical Philosophy. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge, 2006.
Ppht: Rogers, Carl, and Barry Stevens. Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human: A New Trend in Psychology. London: Souvenir, 1973.
Roe: Bruner, Jerome. The Relevance of Education. Edited by Anita Gil. London: Allen and Unwin, 1972.
Ropp: Rogers, Carl. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.
Tcrr: Kirschenbaum, Howard, and Valerie Henderson, eds. The Carl Rogers Reader. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.
Zeb: Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. New York: Weatherhill, 1971.
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