Carl Rogers was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. He was one of six children to Walter Rogers and Julia Cushing. Rogers was a studious child, and was schooled in a religious environment. He planned to study agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with undergraduate focus on history and religion.
Rogers was raised with a strict Pentecostal Christian faith, but after attending a Christian conference in his early twenties, he began to question his Christianity. He entered the seminary and left after only two years to pursue a master’s at the Teachers College of Columbia University. He earned his Ph.D. in 1931 and began his professional career in child psychology as a director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He taught at the University of Rochester and continued to explore and address psychological issues facing children when he took the position of professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University. It was during this time that Rogers wrote Counseling and Psychotherapy, in which he theorized that a client could gain the awareness necessary to transform their life by developing a respectful, nonjudgmental, and accepting relationship with their therapist.
Contribution to Psychology
While a professor at the University of Chicago, Rogers founded a counseling center. He developed the client-centered approach to psychotherapy and later became a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During this time, he wrote one of his most famous books, On Becoming a Person. Rogers moved to California in 1963 and eventually developed the Center for Studies of the Person. He remained in La Jolla, California until his sudden death in 1987.
Rogers spent many of his final years working to end oppression and cultural conflict. He helped unite Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and fought to end apartheid in South Africa. But it was his humanistic theories that had the biggest impact on psychology. Rogers believed in a self-concept, based on conditional and unconditional positive regards. He described the good life as a life in which a person strives to reach their potential and believed a person is fully functioning when engaged in that pursuit. Rogers introduced congruence and incongruence and the relation that a positive regard has in self-actualization. He believed that people who lead false lives, based on their own thoughts and influences of those around them, lead incongruent and malfunctioning lives. He explored distortion and denial as mechanisms employed when self-concept is threatened.
Rogers developed the non-directive approach to therapy, also called the client-centered approach. His research was published and later became the person-centered approach to therapy. This discipline has widespread acceptance and is applied in areas of education, cultural relations, nursing, interpersonal relations, and other service and aid oriented professions and arenas. Rogers’ psychological theories have influenced modern psychotherapy and have directly impacted the field of mental health.
Books by Carl Rogers