Carl Ransom Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) the author of On Becoming A Person was an influential American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology.
Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1956.
The person-centered approach, his 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.
For his professional work he was bestowed the Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Psychology by the APA in 1972. Towards the end of his life Carl Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with national intergroup conflict in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
In a study by Haggbloom et al. (2002) using six criteria such as citations and recognition, Rogers was found to be the sixth most eminent psychologist of the 20th century and second, among clinicians, only to Sigmund Freud.
Theory of the self
Rogers’ theory of the self is considered to be humanistic and phenomenological.
His theory is based directly on the “phenomenal field” personality theory of Combs and Snygg (1949).
Rogers’ elaboration of his own theory is extensive. He wrote 16 books and many more journal articles describing it. However, Prochaska and Norcross(2003) states Rogers “consistently stood for an empirical evaluation of psychotherapy. He and his followers have demonstrated a humanistic approach to conducting therapy and a scientific approach to evaluating therapy need not be incompatible.”
His theory (as of 1951) was based on 19 propositions:
- All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience (phenomenal field) of which they are the center.
- The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This perceptual field is “reality” for the individual.
- The organism reacts as an organized whole to this phenomenal field.
- A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self.
- 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 organized, fluid but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of characteristics and relationships of the “I” or the “me”, together with values attached to these concepts.
- The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism.
- The best vantage point for understanding behavior is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.
- Behavior is basically the goal-directed attempt of the organism to satisfy its needs as experienced, in the field as perceived.
- Emotion accompanies, and in general facilitates, such goal directed behavior, the kind of emotion being related to the perceived significance of the behavior for the maintenance and enhancement of the organism.
- The values attached to experiences, and the values that are a part of the self-structure, in some instances, are 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.
- 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.
- Most of the ways of behaving that are adopted by the organism are those that are consistent with the concept of self.
- In some instances, behavior may be brought about by organic experiences and needs which have not been symbolized. Such behavior may be inconsistent with the structure of the self but in such instances the behavior is not “owned” by the individual.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”