Carl Rogers

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Carl Rogers (drawing)

Carl Ransom Rogers (born January 8, 1902 in Oak Park , Illinois , suburb of Chicago , † February 4, 1987 in La Jolla , California ) was an American psychologist and psychotherapist , whose outstanding achievement in the development of client-centered talk therapy and the Expansion of humanistic psychology exists. The client-centered approach created by Rogers is today, among other things, an integral part of the conversation in the context of therapy conversations as well as in the general conversation in everyday educational work with clients.


Rogers was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA in 1902, the fourth of six children. The parents, who were “closely fundamentalist”, cared very much about the children's welfare and controlled their behavior. The domestic atmosphere was characterized by "close family ties," "a lot of work," and "strict and uncompromising religious and ethical" beliefs, making Rogers "a pretty lonely boy who read non-stop". After graduating from high school, he began studying agricultural science at the University of Wisconsin, but then switched to theology. At an international Christian student conference that Rogers took part in in China in 1922, he emancipated himself from the religious views of his parents, although it was difficult for him and the " inter- familial relationships" (note: known, incorrect quote; Rogers rather meant intra- familial ones Relationships) were very stressed as a result. Rogers calls this six-month trip to the Far East the point when he became "an independent person."

From 1924 he attended the liberal Union Theological Seminary in New York. At that time there was an independent seminar held there by students, which was "deeply satisfying and clearing" for Rogers and which helped him to find his own philosophy of life. At the same time, however, it became clear to him that he could not work in an area that required "to believe in a certain religious doctrine". He therefore switched to the " Teachers College ", where he graduated in 1928 with a master's degree (MA) graduated and finally received his PhD in 1931. At Teachers College, Rogers was particularly interested in the educational counseling department.

During his time as an assistant at the newly founded Institute for Child Guidance, he got to know the staff's views on Freud's psychoanalysis. After completing his studies, he accepted a position at the Child Study Department of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester, New York. Rogers soon noticed there that an educational counseling center should in no way be “like a diagnostic service for cars”. In the twelve years of his activity as a clinical psychologist with delinquent and underprivileged children, he found more and more that “the client is the one who knows where the problem is, which direction to take, which problems are crucial, which experiences are deeply buried In addition to his practical experience, he was influenced and supported by the work of a few social workers in Rochester, who also emphasized the client's ability to solve their problems independently, and by the views of the Freud student Otto Rank , who “especially the aspect of Safety and security in the therapeutic relationship ”emphasized. In 1940 Rogers received a professorship at Ohio State University for his book on the clinical treatment of problem children, which had been published a year earlier. In conveying his views on clinical work, he realized that he had "developed a distinct point of view of his own". He then wrote the book Counseling and Psychotherapy, which was published in 1941. In it he describes the method of non-directive advice.

During the war, Rogers worked in New York and trained people to provide psychological support for returning war veterans. After the war, Rogers initially received a visiting professorship at the University of Chicago and was eventually appointed to a permanent position to set up a counseling center. In 1951 the book "Client-Centered Therapy" was published ("The client-centered conversation psychotherapy").

In the years that followed, Rogers developed his views from a non-directive to a client-centered approach. So the client became more and more the focus of his interest. As a result, the person-centered approach emerged .

From 1957 to 1963 he worked at the University of Wisconsin in the field of psychotherapy research. In 1961 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . He initiated a comprehensive project on psychotherapy for schizophrenia , together with Eugene T. Gendlin , Donald J. Kiesler and Charles B. Truax .

In 1961, On Becoming a Person appeared, arguably Roger's most influential book. In this book, Rogers goes into detail about the process of personality development and also about areas of application of the person-centered approach. After he had given up his teaching position as professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in 1963, he founded the Center for the Study of the Person in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego, California . From 1964, Rogers worked in La Jolla with so-called encounter groups (literally: encounter groups). In 1969 the book "Freedom to learn" was published.

In the last 15 years of his life, Rogers became increasingly interested in social issues and peace politics. He was involved in the conflict between Irish Catholics and Protestants, founded the Carl Rogers Peace Project in 1985, and was involved in the race problem in South Africa. In the meantime, he also dealt with the possibility and avoidance of a nuclear conflict. In early 1987, Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He fell and broke his hip shortly after his 85th birthday. Rogers did not recover from the operation. He died on February 4, 1987 in La Jolla.

Key messages and effect

In contrast to Freud , Carl Rogers emphasized the uniqueness of the individual. He placed particular emphasis on encounters in a fully human sense - i. H. including the emotional level, non-verbal expressions , mutual benevolence in principle. He has the concept of Encounter developed = the encounter as well as those Definition of "feel" , to empathy , leads an attitude so understanding listening:

Feeling is a spontaneous inner reaction in me - to a person, a place or a situation that I experience or that I think about.

Roger's particular concern was

Unlike many other psychotherapists, Rogers saw the good in people from the ground up. Quote: Man is good .

His work, which is shaped by a humanistic image of man, had an impact on many areas of applied psychology , sociology , education , social work , pastoral care and medicine .

Rogers was not only a sought-after psychotherapist himself, but founded and experienced many encounter groups (the term comes from Viktor Frankl ), wrote motivational books, gave lectures and much more. Rogers' students include a. Eugene T. Gendlin as successor at the University of Wisconsin, Reinhard Tausch , Peter F. Schmid , Marshall B. Rosenberg , Thomas Gordon , Frank Farrelly and Pio Scilligo .

Later in his academic career, he also developed appropriate learning concepts based on his consulting concepts.

The personality theory

Basic assumptions

The basic idea of ​​the personality theory / person-centered theory of Rogers is the striving of the human being for self-realization and self-actualization . This pursuit of self-actualization is the basic human need to "expand, expand, develop, become autonomous, mature," as well as the pursuit of autonomy, away from external control and constraints. Rogers describes this need in his famous parable of the potatoes in the cellar. As soon as a little light falls on the potatoes in the cellar, they begin to sprout, although that no longer makes any sense in this situation. The actual tendency therefore means the unconditional human endeavor to grow and live under all circumstances, even under the most hostile to life.

In childhood and adolescence, people deal with their environment, and the perceptions, impressions and experiences they experience influence the development of the self-concept (the self of a person). Both a negative and a positive self-concept can be developed. Relationship messages play a crucial role in this. If the child experiences high appreciation in early childhood through unconditional attention, genuineness of the parenting person and empathy (empathy or empathy with other people / children) and the child is allowed to allow and show his real feelings such as anger, anger, anger and sadness, one can develop a high level of self-esteem and from it a positive self-concept. If the child is held in low esteem, the result is a lower self-esteem and this is likely to result in a negative self-concept.

The self-concept includes the ideal self (society's expectations of people as well as properties and abilities that the person himself attaches great importance to) and the real self (properties / abilities that the person believes to have). The two poles (ideal-self and real-self) must not deviate too far from one another, as this can lead to feelings of inferiority or other psychological disorders.

The self-concept is also responsible for how people deal with new experiences, whether they are accepted or ignored. E.g. the current experience and the person's self-concept do not match. A person with a positive self-concept adapts their self-concept to the new experiences. Experiences that enable self-actualization are assessed as positive and will continue to be sought. A person with a negative or damaged self-concept fends off threatening experiences through denial or distortion. Experiences that prevent self-actualization are assessed negatively and avoided.

Develop a positive self-concept

According to Rogers, there are seven essential messages that parents must send to adolescents in the course of their upbringing in order to favor the development of a positive self-concept.

Innocent love
the attitude of the parents must be to love the child as it is. This means that parental love must not be made conditional. Especially not under conditions which the child is not able to achieve.
is decisive and shows through the partnership between the parents and the child and through the consideration of the child's needs satisfaction. This also means that the parents should include the child in the establishment of rules according to their age.
Authenticity and interest
are also essential for a positive self-concept. Parents should show a genuine interest in the child's positive development. In addition, the external image of the parents should not differ significantly from the behavior towards the child (avoidance of artificiality).
It is also important whether a child enjoys autonomy or suffers from constant control. Autonomy here means trust in the child and support for free development. Constant tutelage, control, review and coercion are to be avoided.
Suggestion and support
It is the responsibility of the parents to provide the child with inspiration and support.
Security, security and reliability
Furthermore, security, security and, above all, reliability are central requirements that children depend on in their development.
Allowing feelings
Above all, allowing feelings is also very important. Children must be allowed to allow feelings. Even those that are negative in nature, such as fear or disappointment and sadness. If these feelings or the showing of these feelings are sanctioned and suppressed by the parents, this favors the development of a negative self-concept.

Non-directive counseling psychotherapy

Rogers is the founder of " non-directive conversation psychotherapy ". Rogers was the first to take minutes of therapeutic conversations and tried to find out when he could be helpful in the therapeutic situation. For Rogers, the central feature is “ the uncovering of those thoughts and attitudes, feelings and emotionally stressful impulses that concentrate around the problems and conflicts of the individual. ... The counselor really needs to be able to give the client the freedom to properly express the fundamental problems of his situation. "

At the beginning of the therapy process, the client is looking for help. In doing so, the person tries to pass the responsibility for solving his problems on to the counselor / therapist.

In the second step, in which the consultant defines that he does not have a patent solution, but wants to help the client to develop solutions, the successful conversation leads to the client taking responsibility for his problems again. He describes his problems to the therapist, who encourages him to express all thoughts and feelings ( self-exploration ). In this phase, the counselor accepts the client's explanations and tries to help him to get a clearer view of his problems: He verbalizes what the client has expressed - also and especially in relation to the feelings - so that the client understood each other completely feels: "Yes, that's exactly how I meant it."

Through the deep understanding, the client can open up over time and discover positive feelings in addition to his negative feelings. Here, too, the counselor helps the client to be aware of these positive feelings; he accepts them in the same way as before the negative feelings.

This process step is followed by the development of positive impulses and small steps with new experiences under the impression of these positive impulses. Finally, the client develops an insight into his being as he is, and can now approach the counselor to consider how and what he would like to change. The counselor's role is to “ clarify the various options available and acknowledge the fear and discouragement that the individual is feeling. Its function is not to push for a specific process or to give advice ”.

Finally, the positive feelings are followed by actions in the new direction that the client wants to take. Since he has developed these actions himself, has worked through the pros and cons with the consultant, has considered “what if ...”, the prospect of successful action is great. With this success, the individual begins to gain new confidence. The insight into his 'previous' actions increases and new, changed actions become more and more probable. This leads to increased independence from the therapist and ultimately to the termination of therapy. Rogers describes the eventual emergence of constructive courses of action as one of the most fascinating aspects of his therapy.


  • Counseling and Psychotherapy Boston 1942
  • On becoming a person.
    • German: development of personality. Psychotherapy from the perspective of a therapist. trans. by Jacqueline Giere. 13th edition. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-608-95197-0 . (2006, ISBN 3-608-94367-6 ) the standard work
  • Partner school. Living together needs to be learned - open conversations with couples and married couples. Fischer, 1991, ISBN 3-596-42236-1 .
  • The new man. 5th edition. Klett-Cotta, 1993, ISBN 3-608-95230-6 . Roger's old work
  • Learning in freedom. On educational reform in schools and universities. Kösel, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-466-42042-3 .
  • Conversation with Martin Buber . 1957, exact location see there
  • together with Barry Stevens : Person to Person. Real People Press, 1967.
    • German: From person to person. Opportunities to meet yourself and others. Junfermann, Paderborn 1984; New edition. Peter Hammer, Wuppertal 2001, ISBN 3-87294-873-3 .
  • A Theory of Therapy, Personality.


  • David Cohen: Carl Rogers: A Critical Biography. New edition. Constable and Robinson, 2000, ISBN 0-09-480100-2 (English).
  • Luca Corchia: La teoria della personalità di Carl R. Rogers. In: Il Trimestrale - The Lab's Quarterly. ISSN  1724-451X , Volume 4, 2005 (Italian; online at
  • Norbert Groddeck: Carl Rogers: pioneer of modern psychotherapy. Primus, Darmstadt 2002, ISBN 3-89678-435-8 ( review on Social Net ; table of contents: PDF; 79 kB ).
  • Renate Motschnig, Ladislav Nykl: Constructive communication: Understanding yourself and others through person-centered interaction. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-608-94514-0 .
  • Anton Zottl: Experience and Presence: Dialogic Slides on the Anthropology of Carl Rogers. Göttingen 1980.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ C. Rogers: partner school. 1975, p. 11.
  2. C. Rogers: Development of Personality. 1973, p. 21.
  3. C. Rogers: Development of Personality. 1973, p. 23.
  4. ^ A b C. Rogers: Development of Personality. 1973, p. 24.
  5. ^ C. Rogers: partner school. 1975, p. 15.
  6. C. Rogers: Development of Personality. 1973, p. 27f.
  7. F.-G. Pavel: The development of client-centered psychotherapy in the USA from 1942–1973. In: Society for scientific conversation psychotherapy (GwG) (Ed.): The client-centered conversation psychotherapy. Munich 1975, p. 27.
  8. C. Rogers: Development of Personality. 1973, p. 29.
  9. Rogers, CR, Gendlin, ET, Kiesler, DJ, & Truax, CB (Eds.): The therapeutic relationship and its impact. A study of psychotherapy with schizophrenics . Madison, Wisconsin Univer. of Wisconsin Press, 1967.
  10. ^ Peter F. Schmid : Carl Rogers 1902–1987: A biographical outline. ( Memento from December 22, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) In: 2002 (adapted version of chapter 3.1.1 from: The same: Personal encounter. 2nd edition. Echter, Würzburg 1995, pp. 76–90).
  11. Carl R. Rogers: Development of Personality . 20th edition Stuttgart 2016, p. 49.
  12. ^ Carl R. Rogers: The new man (concepts of the human sciences). Stuttgart ³1987, p. 69.
  13. Carl R. Rogers: A Theory of Psychotherapy. Ernst Reinhardt, Munich 2009, ISBN 3-497-01990-9 , p. 79.
  14. ^ Carl Rogers: The non-directive advice. Munich 1972, p. 123 (original: Counseling and Psychotherapy Boston 1942).
  15. ^ Carl Rogers: The non-directive advice. Munich 1972, p. 47/48 (original: Counseling and Psychotherapy Boston 1942).