Carl Rogers Person-centered theory

Carl Rogers originated a popular approach to psychotherapy known initially as non-directive or client-centered theory/ therapy and later as person-centered theory/ therapy.

  • Rogers’s personality theory, like Maslow’s, stands on humanistic psychology, which Rogers made the framework for the patient–therapist relationship.
  • Rogers developed his theory not from experimental laboratory research but from his experiences working with clients.
  • Thus, his formulations on the structure and dynamics of personality derive from his therapeutic approach.
  • The phrase person-centered theory. It suggests that the ability to change and improve personality is centered within the person. In other words, it is the person and not the therapist who directs such change.


The Self and the Tendency toward Actualization

  • Rogers came to recognize the importance of an autonomous self as a factor in his own development.
  • He developed a method for determining whether a child’s behavior was healthy and constructive or unhealthy and destructive.
  • He investigated the child’s background and had the child rated on factors he believed would influence behavior.
  • These factors included the family environment, health, intellectual development, economic circumstances, cultural influences, social interactions, and level of education. All of these factors are external, that is, part of the child’s environment.
  • Rogers also investigated a potential internal influence, the child’s self-understanding or self-insight. He described self-insight as an acceptance of self and reality, and a sense of responsibility for the self.
  • Rogers also predicted that the factors of family environment and social interactions would correlate most strongly with delinquent behavior. But he was wrong. The factor that most accurately predicted later behavior was self-insight.
  • Rogers believed an innate tendency to actualize, maintain, and enhance the self motivates people. This drive toward self-actualization is part of a larger actualization tendency, which encompasses all physiological and psychological needs.
  • By attending to basic requirements. Such as the needs for food, water, and safety, the actualization tendency that is, the basic human motivation to actualize, maintain, and enhance the self. serves to maintain the organism, providing for sustenance and survival.
  • The governing process throughout the life span, as Rogers envisioned it, is the organismic valuing process. That is the process by which we judge experiences in terms of their value for fostering or hindering our actualization and growth.

The Development of the Self in Childhood- person-centered theory

  • As infants gradually develop a more complex experiential field from widening social encounters, one part of their experience becomes differentiated from the rest.
  • This separate part, defined by the words I, me, and myself, is the self or self-concept.
  • However, the formation of the self-concept involves distinguishing what is directly and immediately a part of the self from the people, objects, and events that are external to the self.
  • The self- concept is also our image of what we are, what we should be, and what we would like to be.
  • For example, people who are disturbed about having aggressive feelings and choose to deny them dare not express any obvious aggressive behaviors. To do so would mean taking responsibility for actions that are inconsistent with their self-concept, because they believe they should not be aggressive.

Person-Centered Theory/ therapy

  • Person-centered therapy is Rogers’s approach to therapy in which the client (not the “patient”) is assumed to be responsible for changing his or her personality.
  • In the technique of person-centered therapy, Rogers explored the client’s feelings and attitudes toward the self and toward other people.
  • He listened without preconceptions, trying to understand the client’s experiential world.
  • Although Rogers considered person-centered therapy the only worthwhile approach to personality assessment, he noted that it was not infallible.
  • What the therapist learns about a client depends on the client’s ability to communicate. Because all forms of communication are imperfect, the therapist necessarily will see the client’s world of experience imperfectly.
  • Within these limits, Rogers argued that person-centered therapy provides a clearer view of a person’s experiential world than other forms of assessment and therapy.
  • The only predetermined belief of the person-centered therapist is the client’s inherent value and worth. Clients are accepted as they are.
  • The therapist gives them unconditional positive regard and offers no judgments about their behavior or advice on how to behave.
  • Rogers opposed assessment techniques such as free association, dream analysis, and case histories. He believed they made clients dependent on the therapist, who then assumed an aura of expertise and authority.
  • These techniques removed personal responsibility from the clients by giving them the impression that the therapist knew all about them. Clients could conclude that the therapist would solve their problems and all they needed to do was sit back and follow the expert’s instructions.

Encounter Groups

  • Rogers demonstrated that person-centered therapy could help individuals who were out of touch with their feelings and closed to life’s experiences.
  • However, through the therapeutic process, people could develop or regain flexibility, spontaneity, and openness.
  • Rogers wanted to bring this state of enhanced psychological health and functioning to greater numbers of people, so he developed a group technique in which people could learn more about themselves and how they related to, or encountered, one another.
  • He called his approach the encounter groups. A group therapy technique in which people learn about their feelings and about how they relate to (or encounter) one another.


Duane P Schultz, Sydney Ellen Schultz. Theories of Personality Loose Leaf. (10th ed).

 Jess Feist, Gregory Feist, Tomi-Ann Roberts. Theories of personality (9th Ed).

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