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The Life of Carl Rogers

Updated on August 15, 2012

Carl Rogers was an American psychologist who wrote several influential books in the 1950's and 1960's. He was an innovator when it came to actual, hands on therapy.

Rogers developed client-centered theory, which turned the typical approach to therapy on its head. He is believed by some to be the most influential psychologist of the 20th century.

Early Life

Rogers was born in Oak Park, Illinois outside of Chicago in 1902. He was raised on a farm, where he learned to be independent and self-reliant.

He did work in religious studies at the University of Wisconsin. But after learning much about the subject, he decided to move on to a new field. He chose to pursue a Ph.D in psychology from Columbia, where he focused primarily on clinical psychology.

Professional Life

Rogers began working as a professor at Ohio State University in Columbus. His success there led to the opportunity to set up a counseling center at University of Chicago. It was there that he developed some of his most important theories, summing them up in his influential book, Client-Centered Therapy, which was published in 1951.


In his book, Client-Centered Therapy, Rogers outlined his basic theory. Rather then imposing new ideas and suggestions on the client, Rogers believed that a therapist should simply create an environment where the client felt comfortable and free of judgment. In such an environment the human mind would then begin to heal itself. As a client talked, their mind slowly worked out their problems. In most cases, the client was struggling to conform to the wishes and values imposed on him by other people. By creating an environment where no such wishes and values were being imposed, the client's mind was free to move towards a healthy understanding of himself and the world.

In his books, Rogers' theory can be quite complex. But when simplified it is a basic truth that all people can readily acknowledge. All people have a sense of who they are and what they like. They also have a sense of what the other people in the world want them to be and want them to like. Most problems in psychology are a result of the conflict between these two mindsets. Because society can be so overwhelming and in your face, it can be difficult for a person to really live as they are and by their own wants. This leads to many maladies. By providing an environment stripped away of other people's judgments, Rogers simply allowed people to speak about what they really want and who they really are. Doing so is a powerful experience that leads to happiness and mental health.


Rogers strongly influenced the world of client treatment. His non-directive approach has been widely adopted, and provided a much needed alternative context to the typical medical model of therapy. He realized his ideas could be applied outside of psychology. In fact, educators found that his person-centered approach was useful, especially in colleges. Its influence on foreign relations helped earn him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.


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    • steve of ian fame profile image

      steve of ian fame 6 years ago from Essex

      most informative.