Carl Rogers


Carl Rogers : biography

8 January 1902 – 4 February 1987


Rogers described the concepts of congruence and incongruence as important ideas in his theory. In proposition #6, he refers to the actualizing tendency. At the same time, he recognized the need for positive regard. In a fully congruent person realizing their potential is not at the expense of experiencing positive regard. They are able to lead lives that are authentic and genuine. Incongruent individuals, in their pursuit of positive regard, lead lives that include falseness and do not realize their potential. Conditions put on them by those around them make it necessary for them to forego their genuine, authentic lives to meet with the approval of others. They live lives that are not true to themselves, to who they are on the inside out.

Rogers suggested that the incongruent individual, who is always on the defensive and cannot be open to all experiences, is not functioning ideally and may even be malfunctioning. They work hard at maintaining/protecting their self-concept. Because their lives are not authentic this is a difficult task and they are under constant threat. They deploy defense mechanisms to achieve this. He describes two mechanisms: distortion and denial. Distortion occurs when the individual perceives a threat to their self-concept. They distort the perception until it fits their self-concept.

This defensive behavior reduces the consciousness of the threat but not the threat itself. And so, as the threats mount, the work of protecting the self-concept becomes more difficult and the individual becomes more defensive and rigid in their self structure. If the incongruence is immoderate this process may lead the individual to a state that would typically be described as neurotic. Their functioning becomes precarious and psychologically vulnerable. If the situation worsens it is possible that the defenses cease to function altogether and the individual becomes aware of the incongruence of their situation. Their personality becomes disorganised and bizarre; irrational behavior, associated with earlier denied aspects of self, may erupt uncontrollably.


Person-centered therapy

Rogers originally developed his theory to be the foundation for a system of therapy. He initially called this "non-directive therapy" but later replaced the term "non-directive" with the term "client-centered" and then later used the term "person-centered". Even before the publication of Client-Centered Therapy in 1951, Rogers believed that the principles he was describing could be applied in a variety of contexts and not just in the therapy situation. As a result he started to use the term person-centered approach later in his life to describe his overall theory. Person-centered therapy is the application of the person-centered approach to the therapy situation. Other applications include a theory of personality, interpersonal relations, education, nursing, cross-cultural relations and other "helping" professions and situations.

The first empirical evidence of the effectiveness of the client-centered approach was published in 1941 at the Ohio State University by Elias Porter, using the recordings of therapeutic sessions between Carl Rogers and his clients.Porter, E.H. (1941) The development and evaluation of a measure of counseling interview procedure. Ph. D. Dissertation, Ohio State University. Porter used Rogers’ transcripts to devise a system to measure the degree of directiveness or non-directiveness a counselor employed.Kirschenbaum, Howard (1979). On Becoming Carl Rogers. pp. 206–207. The attitude and orientation of the counselor were demonstrated to be instrumental in the decisions made by the client.Porter, E.H. (1950) An Introduction to Therapeutic Counseling. Boston: Houghton MifflinRogers, Carl. (1951). Client-Centered Therapy. p. 64

Learner-centered teaching

The application to education has a large robust research tradition similar to that of therapy with studies having begun in the late 1930s and continuing today (Cornelius-White, 2007). Rogers described the approach to education in Client-Centered Therapy and wrote Freedom to Learn devoted exclusively to the subject in 1969. Freedom to Learn was revised two times. The new Learner-Centered Model is similar in many regards to this classical person-centered approach to education. Rogers had the following five hypotheses regarding learner-centered education: