Overview of Client Centered Theory

Although he is best known as the founder of client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers developed a humanistic theory of personality that grew out of his experiences as a practicing psychotherapist. Unlike Freud, who was primarily a theorist and secondarily a therapist, Rogers was a consummate therapist but only a reluctant theorist (Rogers, 1959). He was more concerned with helping people than with discovering why they behaved as they did. He was more likely to ask "How can I help this person grow and develop?" rather than to ponder the question "What caused this person to develop in this maimer?"

Like many personality theorists, Rogers built his theory on the scaffold provided by experiences as a therapist. Unlike most of these other theorists, however, he continually called for empirical research to support both his personality theory and his therapeutic approach. Perhaps more than any other therapist-theorist, Rogers (1986) advocated a balance between tender-minded and hardheaded studies that would expand knowledge of how humans feel and think.

Even though he formulated a rigorous, internally consistent theory of personality, Rogers did not feel comfortable with the notion of theory. His personal preference was to be a helper of people and not a constructor of theories. To him, theories seemed to make things too cold and external, and he worried that his theory might hnply a measure of finality.

During the 1950s, at a midpoint hi his career, Rogers was invited to write what was then called the "client-centered" theory of personality, and his orighial statement is found in Volume 3 of Sigmimd Koch's Psychology: A Study of a Science (see Rogers, 1959). Even at that time, Rogers realized that 10 or 20 years hence, his theories would be different; but unfortunately, throughout the intervening years, he never systematically reformulated his theory of personality. Although many of his subsequent experiences altered some of those earlier ideas, his final theory of personality rests on that original foundation spelled out in the Koch series.

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