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Carl Rogers. The Humanistic Approach. Biography. Carl grew up on a farm in Illinois, developing an interest in biology & agriculture. Expressing emotions was not allowed in the Rogers household & it took its toll on Carl who developed an ulcer at 15.

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carl rogers

Carl Rogers

The Humanistic Approach

  • Carl grew up on a farm in Illinois, developing an interest in biology & agriculture.
  • Expressing emotions was not allowed in the Rogers household & it took its toll on Carl who developed an ulcer at 15.
  • Rogers went to the University of Wisconsin to study agriculture in 1919.
  • He changed careers becoming interested in religious studies. He finished his degree and left for Union Theological Seminary in NY to become a minister.
  • Rogers view of humanistic psychology was at odds with Freudian theory & behaviorism.
  • He gained recognition when he won the APA award for distinguished scientific contribution in 1956.
  • In 1963, he moved to LaJolla, California. Developed the Center for Studies of the Person.
  • He continued his scientific efforts, writing, holding workshops, etc. until he died in 1987.
carl rogers person centered approach
Carl Rogers: Person-Centered Approach
  • Rogers believed that humans are basically good.
  • He argued that we have an innate drive to reach an optimal sense of ourselves & satisfaction with our lives.
  • He felt that the process by which we do this, not the end result is what matters.
  • A person who does this is what he calls a “Fully Functioning Person.”
basic premise
Basic Premise
  • Humans are motivated through an innate potential to actualize, maintain and enhance the self
  • Sees people as basically good
experiential world
Experiential World
  • Phenomenology
    • The reality of our environment depends on our perception of it
    • Subjective perception of reality
  • No aspect is predetermined
  • Actualizing tendency: Innate, but more influenced by social factors than biological
  • Accounts for childhood, but later experiences are more important
  • Optimistic, positive view of change as

possible at any point over the lifespan

emergence of self concept
Emergence of Self-Concept
  • Self-concept: How I see myself
  • As infants grow, they develop the need for positive regard
  • Positive regard: Acceptance, love and approval from others
  • Child does not receive positive regard: fails to develop actualizing tendency fully
if we don t do what our parents want us to do
If we don’t do what our parents want us to do?
  • Rogers argued that in these cases, parents withhold their love from us.
  • As a result of this, children learn to abandon their true feelings, wishes, & desires, for those of their parents.
  • This paves the way for us to become alienated from our true selves.
unconditional positive regard
Unconditional Positive Regard
  • Approval granted regardless of behavior
  • Conditions of worth
  • Conditional positive regard
  • Positive self-regard
    • Eventually grant positive regard to ourselves
conditions of worth unconditional positive regard
Conditions of Worth & Unconditional Positive Regard
  • Rogers argues that most of us grow up in an atmosphere where we are given love & support as long as we behave the way we are expected to.
  • This is what he calls Conditional positive regard. The emphasis is that love is given conditionally (with a string attached).
unconditional positive regard12
Unconditional positive regard
  • We need this to accept all parts of our personality.
  • With this we know we are loved & valued for being who we are.
  • Parents can do this, by making it clear that their love is not contingent on the child’s behavior (even when such behavior is abhored).
  • Discrepancy between self-concept and aspects of experience
  • Experiences inconsistent with how we see ourselves cause anxiety
  • Psychological adjustment/emotional health

Basic Human Problem: The two needs are often in conflict. Satisfying one may mean giving up the other.

Effect on Personality: We get a false picture of who we are—our interests, motivations, goals, abilities.

Our Two Selves

Real Self (“Organism”): all our experiences (feelings, wishes, perceptions)

Self-Concept: the person we think we are (e.g., “I am...”)

  • Rogers identifies only two defenses:
  • 1. Denial – keeping a memory or impulse out of awareness – similar to Freud’s idea of repression
  • 2. Perceptual Distortion – reinterpreting the situation so that it appears to be less threatening – covers many Freudian defense mechanisms
person centered therapy
Person-Centered Therapy
  • Represents a shift from medical model to growth model
  • Strong emphasis on the therapeutic relationship
3 conditions in person centered therapy
3 Conditions in Person-Centered Therapy
  • Conditions are necessary and sufficient for change
    • Empathy
    • Congruence/Genuineness
    • Unconditional Positive Regard
person centered therapy the goal is congruence
Person-Centered Therapy: The Goal is Congruence

Incongruence has many harmful effects. One is that it prevents self-actualization. You have to know who you are to fulfill your potential.

The therapist tries to bring the self-concept closer to the real self:


Real Self


characteristics of fully functioning persons self actualizing
Characteristics of Fully Functioning Persons (Self-Actualizing)
  • Awareness of all experiences
  • Live fully in the moment
  • Trust own behavior and experience
  • Sense of freedom in decision making
  • Creative, flexible to change
  • Recognition that difficulties will inevitably arise
research in rogers theory
Research in Rogers’ Theory
  • Q-Sort Technique
    • Client sorts large number of statements about self-concept into categories
    • Goal: Reduce the discrepancy between the ideal and actual self
  • Incongruence between perceived self and ideal self indicates poor emotional adjustment
  • Failures to realize actualizing tendency can lead to maladjustment
criticisms of rogers theory
Criticisms of Rogers’ Theory
  • Ignores aspects of personality that client may be unaware of, but that still influence client’s behavior
  • Ambiguous concepts: Self-actualizing tendency
contributions of rogers
Contributions of Rogers
  • Research in psychotherapy
  • Growth model
  • Emphasis on developing self-concept in personality
  • Conditions necessary for therapy accepted and used in many other schools of therapy