Biography of Carl Rogers

Carl Ransom Rogers was born on January 8, 1902, in Oak Park, Illinois, the fourth of six children bom to Walter and Julia Gushing Rogers. Carl was closer to his mother than to his father who, during the early years, was often away from home workhig as a civil engineer. Walter and Julia Rogers were both devoutly religious, and Carl became interested hi the Bible, readhig from it and other books even as a preschool child. From his parents, he also learned the value of hard work—a value that, unlike religion, stayed with him throughout his life.

Rogers had intended to become a fanner, and after he graduated from high school, he entered the University of Wisconsin as an agriculture major. However, he soon became less hiterested in farming and more devoted to religion. By his third year at Wisconsin, Rogers was deeply involved with religious activities on campus and spent 6 months traveling to China to attend a student religious conference. This trip made a lasting impression on Rogers. The interaction with other young religious leaders changed him into a more liberal thinker and moved him toward independence from the religious views of his parents. These experiences with his fellow leaders also gave him more self-confidence hi social relationships. Unfortunately, he returned from the journey with an ulcer.

Although his illness prevented him from immediately gohig back to the university, it did not keep him from working: He spent a year recuperathig by laboring on the farm and at a local lumberyard before eventually returning to Wisconsin. There, he joined a fraternity, displayed more self-confidence, and in general, was a changed student from his pre-China days.

In 1924, Rogers entered the Union Theological Seminary hi New York with the intention of becoming a minister. While at the seminary, he enrolled in several psychology and education courses at neighboring Columbia University. He was influenced by the progressive education movement of John Dewey, which was then strong at Teachers College, Columbia. Gradually, Rogers became disenchanted with the doctrinaire attitude of religious work. Even though Union Theological Seminary was quite liberal, Rogers decided that he did not wish to express a fixed set of beliefs but desired more freedom to explore new ideas. Finally, in the fall of 1926, he left the

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seminary to attend Teachers College on a full-time basis with a major in clinical and educational psychology. From that pomt on, he never returned to formal religion. His life would now take a new direction—toward psychology and education.

In 1927, Rogers served as a fellow at the new Institute for Child Guidance hi New York City and continued to work there while completing his doctoral degree. At the institute, he gamed an elementary knowledge of Freudian psychoanalysis, but he was not much influenced by it, even though he tried it out in his practice. He also attended a lecture by Alfred Adler, who shocked Rogers and the other staff members with his contention that an elaborate case history was unnecessary for psychotherapy.

Rogers received a PhD from Columbia in 1931 after having already moved to New York to work with the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. During the early phase of his professional career, Rogers was strongly influenced by the ideas of Otto Rank, who had been one of Freud's closest associates before his dismissal from Freud's inner circle. In 1936, Rogers hivited Rank to Rochester for a 3-day seminar to present his new post-Freudian practice of psychotherapy. Rank's lectures provided Rogers with the notion that therapy is an emotional growth-producing relationship, nurtured by the therapist's empathic listening and unconditional acceptance of the client.

Rogers spent 12 years at Rochester, workhig at a job that might easily have isolated him from a successful academic career. He had harbored a desire to teach in a university after a rewarding teaching experience during the summer of 1935 at Teachers College and after having taught courses hi sociology at the University of Rochester. During this period he wrote his first book, The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child (1939), the publication of which led to a teaching offer from Ohio State University. Despite his fondness for teaching, he might have turned down the offer if his wife had not urged him to accept and if Ohio State had not agreed to start him at the top, with the academic rank of full professor. In 1940, at the age of 38, Rogers moved to Columbus to begin a new career.

Pressed by his graduate students at Ohio State, Rogers gradually conceptualized his own ideas on psychotherapy, not intending them to be unique and certainly not controversial. These ideas were put forth in Counseling and Psychotherapy, published hi 1942. In this book, which was a reaction to the older approaches to therapy, Rogers minimized the causes of disturbances and the identification and labeling of disorders. Instead he emphasized the importance of growth within the patient (called by Rogers the "client").

In 1944, as part of the war effort, Rogers moved back to New York as director of counseling services for the United Services Organization. After 1 year, he took a position at the University of Chicago, where he established a counseling center and was allowed more freedom to do research on the process and outcome of psychotherapy. The years 1945 to 1957 at Chicago were the most productive and creative of his career. His therapy evolved from one that emphasized methodology, or what in the early 1940s was called the "nondirective" technique, to one hi which the sole emphasis was on the client-therapist relationship. Always the scientist, Rogers, along with his students and colleagues, produced groundbreaking research on the process and effectiveness of psychotherapy.

Wanting to expand his research and his ideas to psychiatry, Rogers accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin in 1957. However, he was frustrated with his stay at Wisconsin because he was unable to unite the professions of psychiatry and psychology and because he felt that some members of his own research staff had engaged in dishonest and unethical behavior (Milton, 2002).

Disappomted with his job at Wisconsin, Rogers moved to California where he joined the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI) and became increasingly mterested in encounter groups.

Rogers resigned from WBSI when he felt it was becoming less democratic and along with about 75 others from the mstitute, formed the Center for Studies of the Person. He continued to work with encounter groups but extended his person-centered methods to education (including the training of physicians) and to international politics. During the last years of his life, he led workshops hi such countries as Hungary, Brazil, South Africa, and the former Soviet Union (Gendlhi, 1988). He died February 4, 1987, following surgery for a broken hip.

The personal life of Carl Rogers was marked by change and openness to experience. As an adolescent, he was extremely shy, had no close friends, and was "socially incompetent in any but superficial contacts" (Rogers, 1973, p. 4). He did however, have an active fantasy life, which he later believed would have been diagnosed as "schizoid" (Rogers, 1980, p. 30). His shyness and social ineptitude greatly restricted Ins experiences with women. When he originally entered the University of Wisconsin, he had only enough courage to ask out a young lady whom he had known hi elementary school in Oak Park—Helen Elliott. Helen and Carl were married in 1924 and had two children—David and Natalie. Despite his early problems with interpersonal relationships, Rogers grew to become a leading proponent of the notion that the interpersonal relationship between two individuals is a powerful ingredient that cultivates psychological growth within both persons. However, the transition was not easy. He abandoned the formalized religion of Ins parents, gradually shaping a humanistic/existential philosophy that he hoped would bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thought.

Rogers received many honors during his long professional life. He was the first president of the American Association for Applied Psychology and helped bring that organization and the American Psychological Association (APA) back together. He served as president of APA for the year 1946-1947 and served as first president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists. In 1956, he was cowimier of the first Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award presented by APA. This award was especially satisfying to Rogers because it highlighted his skill as a researcher, a skill he learned well as a farm boy hi Illinois (O'Hara, 1995).

Rogers originally saw little need for a theory of personality. But under pressure from others and also to satisfy an huier need to be able to explahi the phenomena he was observing, he evolved his own theory, which was first tentatively expressed hi his APA presidential address (Rogers, 1947). His theory was more fully espoused hi Client-Centered Therapy (1951) and was expressed in even greater detail hi the Koch series (Rogers, 1959). However, Rogers always hisisted that the theory should remain tentative, and it is with this thought that one should approach a discussion of Rogerian personality theory.

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