Carl Rogers: As a Psychologist

For most of its independent life, psychology has been dominated by Freudian, behaviorist, and cognitive schools of thought. Only in the later years of the twentieth century did psychologists start acknowledging human and subjective aspects of the mind. This approach has been collectively named the humanistic approach. This approach emphasizes free will, optimism, and the fulfillment of one's potential. One of the greatest psychologists who represents the humanistic approach was Carl Rogers (1902 - 1987). Carl Rogers had made major contributions to psychology in general and counseling, developmental, and personality psychology in particular. The upcoming sections explore the life and contributions of this genius who revolutionized counseling psychology.

Education and Early Life

Carl Rogers was born in 1902 in Illinois to a very strict and religious family. He was a lonely child who loved reading as a means of escape from the less desirable life he had. He also had an inferiority complex against his older brother, whom he assumed to be favored by his parents, leading to his competitive attitude towards him. Rogers had poor physical health and was perceived as a nervous and sensitive kid by his family. He moved to farms at 12, where he developed an interest in insects like moths and scientific and empirical agricultural practices.

Initially, Rogers joined a graduation course in agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, which he left in its second year to get into ministry. A few years later, he got an opportunity to travel to China for a student conference, a visit that changed his life and perception forever. This trip played a critical role in liberating Rogers from his parents' fundamentalist codes and adopting his own. After returning from China, he took a break to recover from the physical and psychological distress caused by his breaking with his parents' views. He worked and received his Ph.D. in clinical and educational psychology from the Teachers' College of South Columbia in the year 1931. Finally, in 1941, Rogers started his academic and teaching career as a professor at the Ohio State University. He not only started building his theory but also worked to bring clinical psychology into mainstream psychology.

In 1945, Rogers started working at the University of Chicago. During his tenure in Chicago, he helped set up many counseling centers. During his professorship in Chicago, he used to counsel many of his students. When he failed to resolve one such case, it made him think of himself as worthless, helpless, and incapable. This led to a major nervous breakdown in his life, leading him to leave the university and take a break of 6 months.

After recovering from the Chicago incident, Carl Rogers went to teach at the University of Wisconsin from 1957 to 1963. During this time, he published many articles and books. After that, in 1964, Rogers became a resident fellow at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in California.

Rogers' education and life majorly shaped his views about human nature, personality, and counseling, and we can see its traces in his assumptions, propositions, and conceptualizations.

Role in Psychology

Rogers made many contributions to psychology. His contributions range from developmental psychology to personality psychology, counseling, and research methodologies. These have been discussed below.

Person-Centered Therapy

The notion of Self − Rogers considered self as one's perception of who one is as ' I, "; "we," and 'myself.' He stated that the self could be ideal, real, and ought. He also concluded that congruence between the three is important to living a fully functioning life. He considered this self-dynamic and changed over time based on one's experiences and perceptions.

  • Personality theory − Rogers's view of personality is non-deterministic. He believed that one can and does develop one's personality over time. This development, he stated, depended on childhood experiences, the condition of worth created, one is actualizing tendency, and one is subjective perceptions. He also suggested that personality develops over time, with genes playing a small role compared to the environment.

  • Person-Centered Therapy − This is one of the most popular therapies. It suggests that the center of the therapy is the individual and that the initiatives have to be taken by the person. The therapist only acts as a facilitator in therapy. This therapy assumes that the client is capable of resolving his problems.

  • Encounter group − In his later years, Rogers also came up with encounter group therapy, in which people could learn more about themselves and how they related to or encountered one another. This type of therapy involves a group of people who gather together regularly to discuss their feelings and perceptions in a positive environment provided by the facilitator to the group members.

View of Human Nature

Carl Rogers was a humanist. His view of human nature was optimistic and progressive, and he considered people responsible and capable of changing their present condition. The basic propositions of Rogers about human nature are as follows:

  • He believed that personality is dynamic and shaped by recent experiences rather than past childhood experiences.

  • He suggested that the primary motivation for personality development is self-actualization.

  • One needs unconditional positive regard in childhood for optimum development.

  • Self-actualization is a process that takes place throughout one's life.

  • One is that subjective perception shapes personality and this perception may not be congruent with reality.

  • Inconsistency between the ideal and actual selves causes emotional distress and psychological problems. These emotional problems he suggested are uncommon and can be solved by the person.

  • Humans have a free choice to decide their fate and personality.

  • The environment than genetics, influences one's behavior and personality.

  • Personality characteristics are universal, but how these qualities are expressed may differ.

Humans have an innate tendency to grow and fulfill their potential.

Achievements and Publications

Carl Rogers has published the most revolutionary content in psychology files, which is often considered a classic, especially for humanistic and counseling psychology. His major publications are Counseling and Psychotherapy (1942), Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practices, Implications, and Theory (1951), On Becoming a Person (1961), and A Co-Ordinated Research in Psychotherapy (1949), among others. Rogers was also accorded many distinguished awards, like the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and the Distinguished Professional Contribution Award. He also acted as the President of the American Psychological Association in 1946.


Carl Rogers is considered one of the most influential humanists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His contributions have a great impact and implications for the present psychology concepts. Whether it be his personality theory or the person-centered approach to theory, they have helped many academics and ordinary people. His optimistic view of human nature is inspiring and relevant for the future. In this twenty-first century, the role of humanistic psychology will only increase, and so will the relevance of the propositions made by Carl Rogers.

Updated on: 07-Dec-2022


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