Carl Rogers and Evaluation of Person – Centered Therapy

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Introduction Carl Ransom Rogers is “the most influential psychologist in American history’ according to Circumstance ; Henderson (1989). According to study made in 2002 by Haggardly et al. Using multiple criteria, Carl Rogers is the sixth most eminent psychologist of the 20th century and second, among clinicians, after Sigmund Freud. He is widely known as a founder of client – centered therapy. He was honored for his pioneering research by the American Psychological Association in 1956 with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions and was nominated for Nobel Peace

Prize shortly after the end of his life. In his name current psychologists can be awarded with Carl Rogers’ Award by American Psychological Association for an outstanding contribution to the theory and practice of humanistic psychology. In 1972 his followers founded the World Association for Person-centered and Experiential Psychotherapy and Counseling which has been active ever since, publishing quarterly a Journal as well. His approach is still widely used but as time goes by his theories were combined with other approaches and new psychotherapeutic modalities arise from his foundations.

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Carl Rogers and his work Rogers counted his clients to be his biggest teachers. But the idea of person centered approach came from his second biggest teacher Otto Rank (Rogers, 1983). Otto Rank was Sigmund Fraud’s student who later developed different view and criticized psychoanalysis for many aspects. Sigmund Freud had a medical view on psychology. Client was a patient, his psychological problem was a disease that needed to be fixed and psychotherapists approach was clearly authoritarian ignoring actual interpersonal relationship, claiming that therapy and theory is one thing.

Carl Rogers hared with Rank similar disagreement for this approach as for both of them “theory becomes after experience” (Gentling, 1988). In June 1936 Rogers invited Otto Rank to Rochester Society to conduct a seminar on post – Freudian practice of therapy (Evans, 1975). The influence and fame of Sigmund Freud passed away as new approaches emerged. At the same time in Europe Kurt Kafka published Principles of Gestalt Psychology, Hitler held 4th Nazi Winter Olympic Games in Germany and BBC started the first public television broadcast in London. On this background Carl Rogers started to develop his “client – centered” therapy.

He wrote his first book ‘Counseling and Psychotherapy in 1942 shortly after he was offered a professorship at Ohio State in 1940 at the age of 38. Setting up a counseling centre at the University of Chicago he gained more experience in clinical psychology and in 1951 he published his major publication “Client – Centered Therapy’. Rogers despite his education felt that help to clients can be reached easier by interpretative path. It was at Rochester Society where we worked with problematic children and their timeliest where the idea to “interpretative therapy’ or “non – receive therapy’ emerged.

With experience he realized that although he tries not to be directive and let clients chose pathway themselves, he was still influencing his clients by his non – directives so he changed the name to the widely used “client – centered” or “person – centered therapy’. Also these names were occasionally criticized as most of therapies are supposed to be client – centered. The newest term for his approach is Organic therapy. All these names describe one approach, “supportive, not restrictive therapy’ as Rogers used to describe it himself (Rogers, 1951).

The first empirical evidence of client – centered therapy effectiveness was given already in 1941 by Alias Porter who used the recordings of therapeutic sessions between Carl Rogers and his clients concluding that decision were made by client (Porter, 1950). The fully explored theory is based on years of experience which he has in common with Freud as well as clear structure and broad application. He developed an idea that clients are generally good and healthy people whose mental problems are Just a reflection of the distortion of their natural tendency. In other words Rogers tried to alp them get back to themselves.

Rogers compared therapy to riding a bike (Rogers, 1983) – he could help clients to direct them, to show them a way or to hold them for a short while. But if he didn’t let the client go and do things on his own he would create only dependence on the therapist. Thus client was the one who lead the therapy, who was coming up with solutions. His approach was not authoritarian like Fraud’s, he didn’t try to manipulate the client towards theories made beforehand. Although authoritarian model seems to work at first, in long – term view it creates only dependency on therapist.

Another difference with Freud is Rogers’ focus on the psychotherapist rather than psychotherapy itself. Typically it is taught that Rogers felt that the main factor for successful therapy is the therapist who, in order to be effective, must dispose three essential qualities 1 . Congruence – honesty with client 2. Empathy – feel what client feels 3. Respect – unconditional positive regard towards the client In fact, in his own paper from 1956 he stated six conditions that must exist and continue over a period of time.

In these he included also conditions related to the client himself: 1. Two persons are in psychological contact. 2. The first, whom we shall term the client, is in a state of incongruence, being vulnerable or anxious. 3. The second person, whom we shall term the therapist, is congruent or integrated in the relationship. 4. The therapist experiences unconditional positive regard for the client. 5. The therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference and endeavors to communicate this experience to the client. 6.

The communication to the client of the therapist’s empathic understanding and unconditional positive regard is to a animal degree achieved. The client’s problem will improve if therapist has these qualities disregarding other special techniques, for example if we use psychoanalysis or different type of therapy. In other words the personality of the therapist matters more than the therapy he This idea is very similar to some researchers who identified psychotherapist’s uses. Personality as the most important factor thus therapists are “born”, not “made”.

I personally disagree with this statement as from my own experience psychotherapist personality develops over time, with practice and studying. I can clearly remember when I started working as a doctor – I had a passion to help, I wanted to make things better. That was the necessary foundation I had but nothing more. I must admit there were moments when my attempts of counseling patients were clumsy and even contra-productive. Developing my listening skills I started to hear what my patients say “between the lines” and by practice I became more efficient as a psychotherapist.

And I am certain with years this “sixth sense” will develop even further. Main feature of Organic approach: Self actualization Self – Actualization was presented by Mascot in 1943 in his hierarchy of needs. He described it as a desire for fulfillment, desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming. His concept of the hierarchy of needs and the need to satisfy lower level needs in order to address higher level needs was used by many psychotherapists. Rogers extended his theory to all living creatures, including mushrooms and plants. In 1961 Rogers described this self-actualization as full function.

People who achieve their goals and fulfill their wishes, become self – actualities or fully functioning persons. As achieving of this state has such a powerful effect, Rogers called it the curative force in psychotherapy, force of life. Logically the aim for psychotherapy is to help the client achieve this, to fulfill their potential. There are various aspects of self – actualization and obstacles that can be identified during therapy. Some of them are described in this essay: locus of control, conditions of worth, positive regard and self- regard.

Locus of control Rogers divided clients into two groups – ones with internal locus of control, the others with external locus of control. Internal locus meaner the client is driven by his win personal values and opinions, disregarding what others think. Most people have external locus of control which meaner they try to live up to the expectations of other people. What their relatives, friends, acquaintances think becomes more important that what they think about themselves. In the practice we can identify how much the client has achieved in life, how much he expects from himself, how much he is happy with his progress so far etc.

In general there are two topics – self actualization as such and obstacles (typically in external locus of control) in achieving goals or receiving achievement as achievements. Such an example would be a beautiful woman who feels fat and ugly. Conditions of worth These are closely related to the external locus of control. Rogers identifies external factors that client perceives as necessary to be seen as worthy. In simple example: Parent’s are achievement oriented and child develops excessive competitiveness and hunger for success.

This may not sound too bad but should this child fail to be the best (and generally there is always somebody who is better in the same titled would feel worthless and depressed. Also the competitive character might make him ether unpleasant person to work with as in some Jobs it is about cooperation and not competition. Such a person can be coming to the therapy as utterly dissatisfied with his professional life, workaholic at the edge of burnout. Identifying conditions of worth and making them to verbalized at conscious level, offers ground to build the therapy on.

Positive regard Human being intuitively value positive regard which is a term used by Rogers for any positive emotional feedback or interaction. From the regard of others (whether it is positive or negative) we form our self – regard. Failing to achieve positive self – Edgar we feel helpless and small and fail to become all that we can be, hence we fail in self – actualization. The therapeutic approach is to first identify lack of positive self – regard and then enhance the positive self-regard. Identifying the insufficiency in positive self – regard is rather easy when the therapist searches for signs and listens beyond what client says.

Typically it can be presented as a fear of what others think about the client, what they may say, high degree of “enforceability’ by others. These people get very emotional when you praise them which I personally use as a agnostic tool when I am not sure. Generally therapists gain more and more insight with experience and as this problem is ever so common they also develop deeper understanding. Lack of positive regard and self – confidence / self – worth is a key issue in all problems according to some new age psychotherapist, such as Louise L Hay, American bestseller and currently 85 year old author of Heal your Life.

She describes that for whatever problem she encountered in clients working on loving ones-self and increasing self – esteem and self – value always helped with all other robbers, as if all psychological issues were grounded in self – worth and satisfaction with ones-self. Psychological disorders Rogers believed that organisms know what is good for them – animals avoid rotten food and chose good tasting fruit. In human psychology it can be applied as organism self – the good background self that develops towards the best potential. Rogers unlike Freud believed that people are good and healthy on default.

When they show signs of mental health problems he sees it as a distortion of the natural tendency. The therapy of such disorders should be aimed on identifying the moment hen the development started to divert. It was recommended in my favorite book How to fail as a therapist: 50 ways to Lose or Damage your client by Schwartz and Flowers (2006) that therapist should enhance the therapeutic effect by demonstrating some good values of a client. In other words clients do better when not only problems are addressed but their positive personal characteristics and features are emphasized.

And this is exactly what Rogers did. He genuinely believed that people are good and he approached them in that way giving them the credit and trust they needed. Final evaluation to Organic approach Many psychologists reproached to Rogers the almost utmost lack of techniques, the fact that all lies on therapist – client relationship. If there are any techniques they are listening, accepting, understanding and sharing, which seem more attitude- orientated than skills-orientated. The advantage for the therapist is no need for lengthy training and memorizing schemes and concepts but to focus on client in here and now.

On the other hand this may be a disadvantage in less gifted therapists who may fail to be natural in this relationship which is basically direction deprived. The client feels great when the therapist takes him as a unique individual rather than putting him in a labeled box. This approach was proved very important for example in women with eating disorders as these clients are very sensitive to a good rapport with the therapist. On the other hand the non – directive approach might be perceived by the client as a lack of competences of the therapist, it may seem like a friendly chat with no structure rather than actual therapy.

Those disadvantages can be minimalist by attentive approach to client and flexibility of the therapist. For example Just recently I had a patient with fear of birth of such extent that she started to cry only talking about it. Among other things she told me also she suffered from bulimia as a teenager and works as a solicitor. All these are indicators that there is a massive issue with control – vomiting controls weight gain after food, solicitors works in a precisely predefined environment with clear rules and the idea of birth pain getting out of control was terrifying.

Such a client would feel at ease if the sessions were fully under her control – the content, the time, the achievements of therapy etc. That approach would be totally different in a client who is a housewife, fourth of four kids, always told what to do, coming to therapy “l have a problem, sort it out, doctor. ” Such a person needs more directive approach in the therapy. However Roger would treat both women the same which according to me lacks the necessary flexibility. Rogers was also criticized for his incongruence with developmental psychology as his theory lacks the developmental structure.

In general he focuses on here and now, possibly future, but avoids digging in the past extensively (unlike Freud). I believe that as he had official training in psychology and was aware of conventional approaches he understood signals of clients and was able to go briefly in the past where necessary with a great efficiency. For himself he felt past as not the side focus of therapy but might have been employing techniques he learned before. In other words his followers trying to use solely his approach might be missing the background of other theories and techniques, hence fail to be as successful as Carl Rogers.

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Carl Rogers and Evaluation of Person – Centered Therapy. (2017, Sep 17). Retrieved from

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