Carl Rogers was born on January 8, 1902, in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Carl was the fourth of six children that grew up in the Pentecostal Church. The very conservative, well behaved Carl, however, would soon turn into one of the most influential psychologist that the world has ever seen.
Rogers was quite smart and could read well before kindergarten. He spent his childhood in the church, and breezed his way through school. After he graduated, his first career choice was agriculture at the University of Wisconsin??“Madison. That choice was then followed by history, and then religion. At age 20, following his 1922 trip to China, for an international Christian conference, he started to doubt his religious convictions. To help him clarify his career choice, he attended a seminar entitled Why am I entering the Ministry, after which he decided to change his career. After two years he left the seminary to attend Teachers College, Rogers moved to Columbia University and obtained an MA in 1928 and a PhD in Psychology in 1931.
In 1951, Rogers was the first to conceptualize Person-Centered therapy. Rogers developed his Person-Centered approach to psychotherapy after becoming frustrated by the standard methodologies and procedures used in Freudian psychoanalysis and other therapies. He found that he obtained better results by listening to his patients and allowing them to direct the course of treatment. In his book, On Becoming a Person, he wrote “Unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for direction of movement” (Rogers 1961). Rogers believed that if you were aiming for a good turn out with your patient, you needed to have unconditional positive regard (Respect), genuineness and honesty (Congruence), and empathic understanding (Empathy). In other words, for Rogers, an effective therapist does not need any special technique, just the three qualities of respect, congruence, and empathy. Without these three qualities, no technique would be successful.
The main technique Rogers recommended is that of “Reflection,” or the mirroring of emotional communication. For example, if a client says, “I hate men!” the therapist responds, “So you hate all men” By doing so, the therapist is letting the client know that he or she is listening and trying to understand, as well as clarifying what the client is communicating. In this case, the client may well acknowledge that she does not hate all men, certainly not her brother, father, or some others, hopefully including the therapist if he is a man. Finally, she may realize that it is not hate she feels, but rather a lack of trust toward men, as a result of being hurt by a particular man.
According to Rogers, the fully functioning person exhibits openness to experience, existential living, organism trusting, experimental freedom, and creativity.
As a Humanistic psychologist, Rogers regarded human beings as basically good, with an predisposed motivation to become the best person they can be. He thought that if a person chooses to do bad things, then something must have gone wrong psychologically. He viewed mental health as a process of psychological development. The optimism of Rogers view comes through in his belief that all problems can be solved through interaction with others, such as counselors, who bring the three qualities of respect, congruence, and empathy into the relationship.
Experiential learning is another thing that Rogers spent time working with. Rogers made significant contributions to the field of education with his theory of experiential learning. He maintained that all human beings have a natural desire to learn. Therefore, failure to learn is not due to the persons inability to learn, but rather to problems with the learning situation. Rogers defined two categories of learning: cognitive (meaningless) learning, which involves academic knowledge (such as multiplication tables), and experiential (significant) learning, which is applied knowledge, such as how to repair a car. The key distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner, and can help the learner want to become more involved, become self-initiated, conduct self evaluations, and can give long-term effects.
Experiential education, or “learning by doing,” is the process of actively engaging students in an authentic experience that has benefits and consequences. Students make discoveries and experiment with knowledge themselves, instead of hearing or reading about the experiences of others. Students also reflect on their experiences, thus developing new skills, attitudes, and ways of thinking (Kraft & Sakofs 1988). Experiential education empowers students to take responsibility for their own learning.
In 1957, he returned to teach at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, it was a time of conflict within their psychology department, and Rogers became very disillusioned with higher education. In 1964, he was happy to accept a research position in La Jolla, California. He provided therapy, gave speeches, and wrote, until his death in 1987. Rogers work has inspired psychologist all over the world, and his Patient-Centered Theory is used quite frequently by many people.