The History of Carl Rogers 

Carl Rogers was the pioneer of humanistic psychology. His contributions ranged from self actualisation, fully-functioning person, self concept including self worth, self image, ideal self and lastly, unconditional positive regard. 

In this article we will discuss the history of Carl Roger in context with psychology and dive deeper into the contributions that have built the foundations of Humanistic Psychology. 

History of Carl Rogers 

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Carl Rogers (1902-1987) is considered one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. He is best known for developing the psychotherapy method called client-centered therapy and as one of the founders of humanistic psychology.

While he was still earning his Ph.D. in 1930, Rogers became the director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester, New York. He then spent several years in academia. 

He lectured at the University of Rochester from 1935 to 1940 and became a professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University in 1940. In 1945 he moved to the University of Chicago as a professor of psychology and then to his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957.

During this period, he was refining his psychological viewpoint and formulating his therapeutic technique, which he named “nondirective therapy” at the time but is now more often recognised as client-centered or person-centered therapy. 

He published Counseling and Psychotherapy in 1942, in which he advocated that therapists aim to understand and embrace their clients, because it is through such nonjudgmental acceptance that clients might begin to change and enhance their well-being.

Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was a humanistic psychologist who agreed with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow. However, Rogers (1959) added that for a person to “grow”, they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood).

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Contributions of Carl Rogers 


Both psychoanalysis and behaviorism are deterministic, according to Rogers, and we behave the way we do because of how we perceive our situation. “We are the best experts on ourselves because no one else can know how we perceive.” 

Carl Rogers (1959) believed that humans have only one basic motivation: the desire to self-actualize – that is, to reach the highest level of ‘human-beingness’ possible.

People will blossom and achieve their full potential if their surroundings is good enough, just like a flower that will develop to its full capacity if the conditions are correct, but is confined by its environment.

However, unlike a flower, each human has a unique potential, and we are supposed to develop in different ways depending on our personalities. Rogers thought that humans are nice and creative by nature. 

Only when a bad self-concept or external restrictions overcome the valuing process do they become toxic. Carl Rogers felt that a person must be in a condition of congruence in order to reach self-actualization.

This suggests that self-actualization happens when a person’s “ideal self” (i.e., who they want to be) matches their current behaviour (self-image). 

Rogers denotes a person who is maturing into a fully functional individual. Childhood experiences are the most important factor in determining whether or not we will become self-actualized adults.

Fully functioning person 

Rogers felt that everyone could attain their objectives. This implies that the person is aware of the present moment, as well as his or her subjective sensations and feelings, which are always evolving and changing. 

In many respects, Rogers saw the fully functioning human as an ideal that few people ever attain. It’s a mistake to think of this as the conclusion or completion of one’s life journey; rather, it’s a continuous process of becoming and evolving.

Rogers identified five characteristics of the fully functioning person:

  • Openness to experience: Positive and negative emotions are understood to be natural reactions. Negative feelings acknowledged, but worked through (rather than resorting to defense mechanisms of the ego).
  • Existential living: being touched by different experiences as they occur in life, avoiding preconceptions and prejudices. It is understandable when one forgets to appreciate something worthwhile from their past as it is happening before their eyes. However, this indicates that there are still things worth remembering in the present (e.g., values).
  • Trust feelings: A feeling, an instinct or a gut reaction is better than thinking things through because it allows us to trust ourselves and believe in our own decisions.
  • Creativity: Creative thinking and risk-taking are ways of life. At times, we all experience risk taking, whether it’s attempting something new or adjusting to some changes that we think may be beneficial for us.
  • Fulfilled life: a person is happy and satisfied with life and challenges, but also always looking for new experiences.

Fully functioning individuals, according to Rogers, are well adjusted, balanced, and intriguing to know. These folks are frequently top performers in society. 

The fully functional human, according to critics, is a creation of Western society. Other cultures, such as Eastern cultures, place a higher value on collective achievement than individual achievement.

Self concept 

The concept of self, or self-concept, is central to Rogers’ personality theory. “The ordered, consistent collection of views and beliefs about oneself,” according to the definition. 

The self is a humanistic phrase describing who we are as individuals. The self, often known as the soul or Freud’s psyche, is our inner personality. The self is impacted by a person’s life experiences and their perceptions of those events. Childhood experiences and other people’s evaluations are two major influences on our self-concept.

Rogers said that one’s self-concept develops during childhood and is highly impacted by one’s parents. Parents who show their children unconditional love and respect are more likely to help them develop a positive self-image. Children who believe they must “earn” their parents’ affection may develop low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

The humanistic approach states that the self is composed of concepts unique to ourselves. The self-concept includes three components:

  • Self worth: The way we think about ourselves is based on a variety of factors. Rogers believed that our self-worth was developed in childhood and was formed from the relationship(s) we had with our mother and father as children.
  • Self image: How we view ourselves is crucial to our psychological well-being. The impact of our bodily image on our inner personality is included in self-image. 

On a basic level, we may consider ourselves to be a good or bad person, attractive or unattractive. The way a person thinks, feels, and acts in the world is influenced by their self-image.

  • Ideal self: This is the person who we would like to be. It consists of our goals and ambitions in life, and is dynamic – i.e., forever changing.

The ideal self in childhood is not the ideal self in our teens or late twenties etc.

  • Positive regard: Rogers believed that we need to be entertained. We need to feel valued, respected, treated with affection and loved by people who have given us their full attention specifically while they are listening to what we’re saying or watching what we are doing. 

Positive regard is not just about how other people evaluate and judge us in social interaction because many times what’s sent over the airwaves is not based on truth but rather on manipulation. 

That is why it becomes important that when someone takes the time out of their day to listen to what we have to say or observes everything we do with love in their heart for us for example, then it must be all about entertainment because without entertainment there is no positive regard.

Rogers believed that in order for psychotherapy to be successful, the therapist must treat the client with unconditional positive regard. This means that the therapist accepts the client for who they are and allows them to express both happy and bad emotions without being judged or criticized.


Carl Rogers was a prominent psychologist and one of the founding members of the humanist movement. He emphasized free will and self-determination, with each individual desiring to become the best person they can become.

Carl Rogers had a huge impact on psychology and education because of his emphasis on human potential. Aside from that, he is widely regarded as one of the most prominent psychologists of the twentieth century. Rogers has had a greater effect on therapists than any other psychologist.


Rogers, C. (1951) Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

McLeod, S. A. (2014, Febuary 05). Carl Rogers. Simply Psychology.

Cherry, Kendra. “Carl Rogers Psychologist Biography.” Verywell Mind, 14 November 2018.

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