Researched and written by: Abby Robosson
|I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original
| Carl Rogers was born in 1902 in Oak Park,
Illinois, to Walter and Julia Rogers. He was the fourth of six children,
and was the baby of the family for five years before his younger brothers
were born in 1907 and 1908. His father was a businessman who worked
in engineering and went on trips when he was growing up, and his family
moved across town around the time his younger brothers were born.
During the time he was the youngest, his older siblings, two older brothers
and a sister often picked on him. He was vulnerable to being picked
on, and was sickly as a very young boy. Even though he was especially
sensitive to the teasing, his older siblings helped him to learn new things
with their mother. Carl learned how to read by the time he was four
years old, and he was so intelligent that when he began first grade his
teacher advanced him to second grade. His parents were strict when
it came to discipline and behavior control of their children. They
were also very religious, especially his mother. The children were
not allowed to dance, play cards or engage in very many social activities.
The only displays of emotion that were expressed in the family were those
of humor and sarcasm. Although his father entertained the children
with story telling, he and Carlís mother looked down on Carlís constant
hobby of reading. They felt that he should do more practical things
with his time instead of always being involved in a fantasy world (Kirschenbaum,
Of all the children, Carl was the most sensitive
to the joking and teasing manner that often occurred in the familyís way
of interacting. Carl didnít feel close with his father. He
was invited on a trip with his father to introduce him to the practical
work world of the construction and engineering business when he was in
eighth grade. The trip allowed them to spend time together, but was
unsuccessful in persuading Carl to consider the trade. When Carl
was beginning adolescence, the family moved twenty miles away to a large
farm. He had to switch schools and leave the few acquaintances he
had behind. Even though he was elected class president in high school
and received good grades, Carl didnít have any close friends and he hardly
dated. The work the children had to do on the farm helped Carl overcome
his physical sickliness he had as a child. He began to play sports
and enjoyed working outdoors (Kirschenbaum, 1979).
Rogers went to the University of Wisconsin
where he majored in scientific agriculture. There he became involved
in camps and religious retreats, sparking his interest in religion.
He changed to studying religion, and after a six month trip to Asia he
contemplated many different religious views and began to doubt the beliefs
he was brought up to believe. When he returned, he was stricken with
pains in his abdomen that he suffered from earlier in adolescence.
It turned out that he had an ulcer, had to be hospitalized for over a month
and had to take a year off of school to recover (Kirschenbaum, 1979).
During college he began to date Helen
Elliott, his childhood friend and playmate. They were married even
though their parents disagreed with the decision. They moved to New
York and wanted to go to graduate school together. Rogers decided
to attend Union Theological Seminary. One particular event remained
significant to him during his time at Union. His classmates petitioned
to have a class without an instructor because they felt they were forced
to accept ideas as the correct theories in classes. They wanted to
explore each otherís perspectives in an accepting setting and not be forced
to accept otherís ways of thinking without considering alternative possibilities.
They were allowed to, and it shed new light on Rogersí thinking.
The class allowed him to contemplate his decision to enter the ministry,
and he then decided to pursue his interest in psychology (Rogers, 1961).
He attended Teachers College, Columbia University and graduated with his
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1931 (Boeree, 1998). He interned
at the Institute for Child Guidance and was offered a job as one of three
psychologists at the Child Study Department of the Society for Prevention
of Cruelty to Children in Rochester. He worked for years in Rochester,
learning about several therapy techniques and theories and he worked to
find an appropriate therapeutic approach. A significant experience
during his clinical work was when he reviewed a script of a therapy session
of another therapist and clients who were parent and child, which he perceived
as being a successful session. After years of experience he reviewed
the same session and found that the therapist used techniques that led
the parent and convinced her of things she did unconsciously before she
made these realizations. He felt that the client was ultimately the
one who could control the direction of therapy, and it was up to them to
decide what was important regarding their personal situations. He
became more involved in psychology during the formation of the American
Association for Applied Psychology. He also wrote the book Clinical
Treatment of the Problem Child (Rogers, 1961).
During these years Helen and Carl had
a son and a daughter, David and Natalie. He gained a great deal of
knowledge about children through the experience of raising them.
He started teaching at Ohio State University in 1940, and began writing
manuscripts presenting his therapy views. At that time he began to
be criticized by some. Although his approach was argued, he still
believed in it and wrote another manuscript, Counseling and Psychotherapy
(Rogers, 1961). For 12 years, Rogers taught at the University of
Chicago where he developed and published his most well known work, Client-Centered
Therapy. He also returned to teach at the University of Wisconsin.
Many stressors during his time at Wisconsin negatively affected Rogersí
outlook on higher education (Boeree, 1998). He went to Wisconsin
because he wanted to make a difference in a new setting after so many years
in Chicago. There were problems with the publication of The Therapeutic
Relationship and its Impact: A Study of Psychotherapy and Schizophrenics
that he worked on with three other collaborators. A troubling situation
occurred involving the motives of one of the researchers and his plans
for the credit of the project. After a confrontation with the researcher,
the data mysteriously disappeared and never resurfaced. The publication
was delayed for many years, and soon after it was, Rogers accepted a position
in La Jolla, California (Kirchenbaum, 1979).
Carl Rogers and his approach are considered
to be part of the humanistic perspective. His approach, Person-Centered
Therapy, involves keeping the focus on the client and allowing them to
discover and decide the need and direction of improvement and change.
Rogers emphasized the importance of Positive Regard, or unconditional love,
from a mother to child. He believed this was important for the child
to grow to be able to self actualize, or fully develop the potential of
the self (Schultz & Schultz, 2000). Rogers also discussed an
individualís Positive Self Regard, otherwise known as self-esteem or self-worth.
When individuals receive love from others only when they accomplish something
that is considered worthy by others, this is called Conditional Positive
Regard. Unconditional Positive Regard from others and Unconditional
Self Regard are when worthiness is expressed from others and from an individual
to him or herself without worthiness standards that require regard.
This is when a person expresses acceptance of another person or to him
or herself because the acceptance exists always, not just when he or she
did something well. When a person develops Unconditional Positive
Self Regard an Unconditional Positive Regard from others, they develop
what Rogers called a Real Self. Without these values, and with regard
expressed only conditionally, an individual develops an Ideal Self.
If this occurs, the Ideal Self can never fully accomplish desired goals
for the Real Self, which is known as Incongruence. The severity of
the Incongruence can lead to Neurosis. The qualities of what Rogers
calls a Fully Functioning person include openness to feelings, living in
the present, trusting oneself to do what is natural and right, freedom
and taking responsibility for actions, and being creative (Boeree,
Rogersí theory presents conditions expressed
by the counselor that are necessary for the client to feel confident in
being able to express feelings openly and honestly, and lead to the clientís
ability to positively change behavior. Unconditional Positive Regard
from the counselor involves complete acceptance of the client no matter
what they say or do, and allowing them to understand their acceptance by
the counselor. Accurate Empathy is the ability of the counselor to
place him or herself in the clientís perspective or situation without abandoning
the role of counselor. This allows the counselor to understand feelings
and emotions of the client and the ability of the counselor to express
that understanding. Finally, Genuineness is the ability of the counselor
to express honest openness to the client and to act in a way that is congruent
or matches the way they really feel (Cormier & Hackney, 1999).
The legacy of Carl Rogersí theory has been incorporated into many client
and counselor settings and continues to be taught in therapist training
| Boeree, C. G. (1998). Personality theories:
Carl Rogers. Retrieved April 13, 2002, from Shippensburg University Web
Cormier, S., & Hackney, H. (1999). Counseling
strategies and interventions (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Kirschenbaum, H. (1979). On becoming Carl
Rogers. New York: Delacorte Press.
Rogers, C.R. (1961). On becoming a person:
A therapistís view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2000).
A history of modern psychology (7th ed.). Orlando: Harcourt.