'... the most influential psychologist in American history'

Carl Ransom Rogers was born on the 8th January 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, and was the fourth of six children to Walter Alexander, a civil engineer, and Julia Rogers, a devout Christian and housewife. Considered to be a very gifted young child, Rogers' education began with him going directly into Second Grade, due to the fact that he could read well before he even attended kindergarten.

At the age of 12, his family relocated their home to a farm some 30 miles west of Chicago, and for the rest of his adolescent years, Rogers remained with his parents. His upbringing was quite harsh - with occupied labour and many chores, strict Protestant standards, and the discouragement of play, Rogers eventually became an isolated, independent and somewhat self-disciplined individual.

In 1924, at the University of Wisconsin, Rogers's college years were a diverse mixture of interests. Rogers initially began his further education as an Agriculture Major - his studies were then changed first to History, then to Religion for the Ministry, and then finally to Clinical Psychology. Rogers firmly believed that the turning point in his life which directed him to psychology, and in particular clinical psychology, occurred during his junior year when he was selected to attend the 'World Student Christian Federation Conference' in Peking.

"I consider this a time when I achieved my psychological independence. In major ways I for the first time emancipated myself from the religious thinking of my parents, and realized that I could not go along with them" (Corey, 1986).

After receiving his B.A from the University of Wisconsin, in 1928 Rogers married Helen Elliot, and the couple relocated to New York City. Rogers' time was spent studying for his Masters Degree from Columbia University, and attending the Union Theological Seminary, a distinguished liberal religious institution, as part of his Graduate work. Whilst taking a class entitled, "Why am I entering the ministry?", Rogers questioned his ideals about entering the ministry as a career, and transferred to study Psychology at the Teachers College of Columbia University, where he received his Masters in Psychology and his Doctorate in Psychotherapy in 1931. Rogers had already begun his clinical work at the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, where he learned about Otto Rank's theory and therapy techniques. This inspired Rogers to begin developing his own approach.

In 1940, Rogers was offered a full Professorship at Ohio State University, Columbus, and was lecturing there until 1945. During this time, in 1942, Rogers penned his first book, 'Counselling and Psychotherapy', the first of it's kind to be published with a Psychologist's ideas and clinical results based upon the recording and transcription of their client's therapy sessions. Rogers' research into this area eventually spanned many publications, and his research into this topic was constantly ongoing.

In 1945, Rogers was invited to set up a Counselling Centre at the University of Chicago, and it was during his time here, in 1951, that he wrote what was to be his most influential piece of work, 'Client-Centred Therapy'. The ground breaking theories contained within this book were eventually going to change the role of a Psychologist or Counsellor forever, and made Rogers perhaps one of the most well known figures in World Psychology. In the same year, Rogers became the Executive Secretary for the Counselling Centre.

"...Rogers' theory is particularly simple - elegant even! The entire theory is built on a single 'force of life' he calls the actualising tendency. It can be defined as the built-in motivation present in every life-form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible. We're not just talking about survival: Rogers believes that all creatures strive to make the very best of their existence. If they fail to do so, it is not for a lack of desire." Dr. C. George Boeree

Rogers' Client-Centred Therapy is among the most influential and widely employed techniques in modern Clinical Psychology, and is often clichéd by phrases such as "...and how does that make YOU feel?" from the Therapist.

Carl Rogers received abundant awards and recognitions for his contributions in psychology, which are briefly outlined in the following timeline1:

1902 Born in Oak Park, Illinois
1924 Completed B.A., University of Wisconsin
1928 M.A., Columbia University
1931 Ph.D., Columbia University, Psychotherapy
1940 Ohio State University, Professor of Psychology
1941-1942 Resident Fellow, Centre for Studies of the Person; Vice President, American Orthopsyhiatric Association
1944-1945 President of the American Association for Applied Psychology
1945 University of Chicago, Professor of Psychology and Executive Secretary , Counselling Centre.
1946 President of the American Psychological Association
1955 Nicholas Murray Butler Silver Medal, Columbia University
1956-1958 First President of American Academy of Psychotherapist and Special Contribution Award, American Psychological Association
1956 APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award
1956 Hon. DHL: Lawrence College
1957 Professor in Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin
1960 Member of Executive Committee, University of Wisconsin
1962 Fellow, Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences
1964 Selected as Humanist of the year, American Humanist Association
1967 Distinguished Contribution Award, American Pastoral Counsellors Association
1968 Honorary Doctorate, Gonzaga University
1971 D.H.L., University of Santa Clara
1972 First Distinguished Professional Psychologist Award, Division of Psychotherapy
1974 D.Sc. University of Cincinnati
1975 D.Ph. University of Hamburg and DS.Sc. University of Leiden
1978 D.Sc. Northwestern University
1984 Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, Cincinnati

In 1957, Rogers returned to The University of Wisconsin after accepting the joint position of Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry. However, it was a time of unrest within the University's Psychology Departments, and Rogers found himself becoming increasingly disillusioned with the therapeutic and diagnostic techniques of the establishment, as well as his own personal disagreement with the educational policies of Graduate Psychology programs.

Thus, Rogers departed from the University setting, and in 1959 joined the Western Behavioural Sciences Institute in La Jolla, California. His role within the Institute involved working with groups of individuals who were striving to improve their human relations abilities, and by 1968, Rogers and a handful of his colleagues had totally separated from the WBSI group in order to found their own Centre for the Studies of the Person, again based in La Jolla.

"... subsequently, throughout the 1960s and 70s, Rogers spearheaded the development of personal-growth groups, and his influence spread to working with couples and families; and his ideas were also applied to administration, minority groups, interracial and intercultural groups, and international relationships." (Corey,1986)

In his time at the Centre for the Studies of the Person, Rogers continued to provide therapy, gave speeches and lectures, and wrote many topical publications until his sudden death on 4th February 1987, after surgery for a broken hip.


1942 - Counselling and psychotherapy. Newer concepts in practice
1944 - Adjustment after combat
1946 - Counselling with returned servicemen (with John L. Wallen)
1951 - Client centred therapy. Its current practice, implications, and theory
1954 - Psychotherapy and personality change. Co-ordinated research studies in the client-centred approach (with Rosalind F. Dymond (eds.))
1961 - On becoming a person. A therapist's view of psychotherapy
1967 - Person to person. The problem of being human: A new trend in psychology (with Barry Stevens)
1968 - Man and the science of man (with William R. Coulson (eds.))
1969 - Freedom to learn. A view of what education might become
1970 - On encounter groups
1972 - Becoming partners. Marriage and its alternative
1977 - On personal power. Inner strength and its revolutionary impact
1980 - A way of being
1981 - On becoming a teacher (with Harold C. Lyon, Jr.)
1983 - Freedom to learn for the 80's


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