Carl Rogers was among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. The person-centered approach, Carl Rogers‘ own unique approach to understanding personality and human relationships, found wide application in various domains such as psychotherapy and counseling (client-centered therapy), education (student-centered learning), organizations, and other group settings.
Rogers stated the six necessary and sufficient conditions required for therapeutic change:
1. Therapist-Client Psychological Contact: a relationship between client and therapist must exist, and it must be a relationship in which each person’s perception of the other is important.
2. Client incongruence, or Vulnerability: that incongruence exists between the client’s experience and awareness. Furthermore, the client is vulnerable to anxiety which motivates them to stay in the relationship.
3. Therapist Congruence, or Genuineness: the therapist is congruent within the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is deeply involved him or herself – they are not “acting” – and they can draw on their own experiences (self-disclosure) to facilitate the relationship.
4. Therapist Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR): the therapist accepts the client unconditionally, without judgment, disapproval or approval. This facilitates increased self-regard in the client, as they can begin to become aware of experiences in which their view of self-worth was distorted by others.
5. Therapist Empathic understanding: the therapist experiences an empathic understanding of the client’s internal frame of reference. Accurate empathy on the part of the therapist helps the client believe the therapist’s unconditional love for them.
6. Client Perception: that the client perceives, to at least a minimal degree, the therapist’s UPR and empathic understanding.
Carl Rogers‘ theory of the self is considered to be humanistic and phenomenological, being based directly on the “phenomenal field” personality theory of Combs and Snygg (1949).
Carl Rogers Nineteen Propositions
His theory was based on nineteen propositions:
1. All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience (phenomenal field) of which they are the centre.
2. The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is “reality” for the individual.
3. The organism reacts as an organized whole to this phenomenal field.
4. A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self.
5. As a result of interaction with the environment, and particularly as a result of evaluational interaction with others, the structure of the self is formed – an organised, fluid but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of characteristics and relationships of the “I” or the “me”, together with values attached to these concepts.
6. The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism.
7. The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.
8. Behavior is basically the goal-directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced, in the field as perceived.
9. Emotion accompanies, and in general facilitates, such goal directed behaviour, the kind of emotion being related to the perceived significance of the behaviour for the maintenance and enhancement of the organism.
10. Values experienced directly by the organism, and in some instances are values introjected or taken over from others, but perceived in distorted fashion, as if they had been experienced directly.
11. As experiences occur in the life of the individual, they are either, a) symbolized, perceived and organized into some relation to the self, b) ignored because there is no perceived relationship to the self structure, c) denied symbolization or given distorted symbolization because the experience is inconsistent with the structure of the self.
12. Most of the ways of behaving that are adopted by the organism are those that are consistent with the concept of self.
13. In some instances, behaviour may be brought about by organic experiences and needs which have not been symbolized. Such behaviour may be inconsistent with the structure of the self but in such instances the behaviour is not “owned” by the individual.
14. Psychological adjustment exists when the concept of the self is such that all the sensory and visceral experiences of the organism are, or may be, assimilated on a symbolic level into a consistent relationship with the concept of self.
15. Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.
16. Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.
17. Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of threat to the self structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences.
18. When the individual perceives and accepts into one consistent and integrated system all his sensory and visceral experiences, then he is necessarily more understanding of others and is more accepting of others as separate individuals.
19. As the individual perceives and accepts into his self structure more of his organic experiences, he finds that he is replacing his present value system – based extensively on introjections which have been distortedly symbolized – with a continuing organismic valuing process.
Additionally, Rogers is known for practicing “unconditional positive regard”, which is defined as accepting a person “without negative judgment of …. [a person’s] basic worth.”
Optimal development, as referred to in proposition 14, results in a certain process rather than static state. He describes this as the good life where the organism continually aims to fulfill its full potential. He listed characteristics of a fully functioning person (Rogers 1961):
1. A growing openness to experience – they move away from defensiveness and have no need for subception (a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness).
2. An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self concept but allowing personality and self concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust. “To open one’s spirit to what is going on now, and discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have” (Rogers 1961)
3. Increasing organismic trust – they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behaviour that is appropriate for each moment. They do not rely on existing codes and social norms but trust that as they are open to experiences they will be able to trust their own sense of right and wrong.
4. Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual, they are able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behaviour and so feel responsible for their own behaviour.
5. Creativity – it follows that they will feel more free to be creative. They will also be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.
6. Reliability and constructiveness – they can be trusted to act constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.
7. A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely.
Rogers’ description of the good life: “This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life”.
Person-centered therapy (PCT) is also known as person-centered psychotherapy, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy. PCT is a form of talk-psychotherapy developed by psychologist Carl Rogers in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s one of the most widely used models in mental health and psychotherapy. In this technique, therapists create a comfortable, non-judgmental environment by demonstrating congruence (genuineness), empathy, and unconditional positive regard toward their patients while using a non-directive approach. This aids patients in finding their own solutions to their problems.
While in session, therapists encourage patients to discuss their experiences and express their feelings. Therapists then empathically repeat emotionally significant statements back to their patients. The purpose is to allow patients to arrive at solutions to their problems by examining their own thoughts. Patients can then decide for themselves in what ways they need to change.