Carl Rogers

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Carl Ransom Rogers (January 8, 1902February 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.

Contributions to psychology

'Rogerian psychotherapy' became widely influential, embraced for its humanistic approach. Rogers also made significant contributions to the field of adult education, with his Experiential theory of learning. Rogers maintained that all human beings have a natural desire to learn. He defined two categories of learning: meaningless, or cognitive learning (e.g., memorizing multiplication tables) and significant, or experiential learning (applied knowledge which addresses the needs and wants of the learner).

Rogers' basic tenet was that if unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathic understanding, was present in any relationship (though he started out by focusing on counselor-client relationships), that growth and psychological healing would occur. According to Rogers, these tenets were both necessary and sufficient to create a relationship conducive to enhancing the client's psychological well being, by enabling the client to fully experience all of themselves. He saw one of the chief causes of mental, emotional and existential suffering as people not being able to accept or allow themselves to fully experience all of who they are—which includes aspects that are not always socially acceptable.

Writing about the role of the clinician, he remarked that, "In every respect in which we make an object of the person—whether by diagnosing him, analyzing him, or perceiving him impersonally in a case history—we stand in the way of our therapeutic goal. [...] We are deeply helpful only when we relate as persons, when we risk ourselves as persons in the relationship, when we experience the other as a person in their own right. Only then is there a meeting at a depth that dissolves the pain of aloneness in both client and therapist."

Rogers' idea of the fully functioning person involved the following qualities, which show marked similarities to Buddhist philosophy:

  • Openness to experience: The accurate perception of one's feelings and experience in the world
  • Existential living: Living in the present, rather than the past (gone) or the future (yet to come)
  • Organismic trusting: Trusting one's own thoughts and feelings as accurate; do what comes naturally
  • Experiential freedom: To acknowledge one's freedoms and take responsibility for one's own actions
  • Creativity: Full participation in the world, including contributing to others' lives


"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." Carl Rogers, from '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-intitiated learning." Carl Rogers

See also