Carl Rogers was a 20th century humanist psychologist and the founder of person-centered psychotherapy

Early Life  

Carl Rogers was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. He was the fourth of six children of Walter Rogers and Julia Cushing. Rogers was schooled in a strict, religious environment. Originally, he planned to study agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with an undergraduate focus on history and religion.

In school, his interests shifted away from agriculture and toward religion; after receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1924, he entered a liberal Protestant seminary in New York City, to the dismay of his conservative father. Rogers spent two years in seminary before transferring to Columbia University Teachers College, where he worked with John Dewey. Rogers received his master’s in 1928 and a PhD in clinical psychology in 1931. 

Professional Life

Rogers began his professional career in child psychology in 1930 as the director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He also lectured at the University of Rochester between 1935 and 1940. He published The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child in 1939 and accepted a position as professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University in 1940. Rogers published his views in Counseling and Psychotherapy, in 1942, outlining his theory that a person could gain the awareness necessary to transform his or her life by developing a respectful, nonjudgmental, and accepting relationship with a therapist.

Rogers moved to Chicago in 1945 to work as a professor. He established a counseling center there and published results of his research in Client-Centered Therapy, in 1951 and Psychotherapy and Personality Change in 1954. Later, Rogers returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he remained until he moved to California in 1963 to join the staff of Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. In 1968, some of the staff at the institute joined Carl Rogers in developing the Center for Studies of the Person. He remained in La Jolla, California until his death in 1987. 

Contribution to Psychology

Rogers embraced the ideas of Abraham Maslow's humanism, and he also believed that personal growth was dependent upon environment. This belief became the basis for his development of client-centered therapy, later renamed person-centered therapy.

While teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rogers wrote one of his most famous books, On Becoming a Person, in which he claimed that people have their own resources for healing and personal growth. Rogers introduced the concepts of congruence, empathic understanding, acceptance, and unconditional positive regard into the therapeutic environment to enhance the outcome for clients. He encouraged counselors to demonstrate each of these aspects in order to help the client gain insight, recognize feelings, express self-concept, and achieve self-acceptance and self-actualization.

Rogers claimed that a self-actualized, fully functioning person had seven key traits:

  1. Openness to experience and an abandonment of defensiveness. 
  2. An existential lifestyle that emphasizes living in the moment without distorting it. 
  3. Trust in oneself.
  4. The ability to freely make choices. Fully functioning people take responsibility for their own choices, and are highly self-directed. 
  5. A life of creativity and adaptation, including an abandonment of conformity. 
  6. The ability to behave reliably and make constructive choices. 
  7. A full, rich life that involves the full spectrum of human emotions. 

Roger's person-centered approach to therapy 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’s psychological theories have influenced modern psychotherapy and have directly impacted the field of mental health.

Rogers also helped to popularize humanism in psychology. The humanistic psychology movement focused on the human experience of freedom, choice, values, and goals. It departed from traditional psychoanalysis and behaviorism in that it focused on the complete psychological health of a client, rather than simply treating symptoms, and it empowered the client to reach his or her full potential and direct the course of therapy, rather than the therapist diagnosing and assessing the client objectively.

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.

Books by Carl Rogers

  • Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child (1939)
  • Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice (1942)
  • Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory (1951)
  • On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy (1961)
  • Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human (1967)
  • Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become (1969)
  • On Encounter Groups (1970)
  • Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives (1972)
  • On Personal Power: Inner Strength and Its Revolutionary Impact (1977)
  • A Way of Being (1980)


  1. Kirschenbaum, H. (2004). Carl rogers's life and work: An assessment on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 82(1), 116-124. Retrieved from
  2. Rogers, Carl Ransom. (1999). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Retrieved from