Applied History of Psychology/Client Centred Therapies - principles, theory, and key figures

Client Centered Therapies - An IntroductionEdit

Client-centered therapies belong within humanistic psychology. Carl Rogers is known as the father of client-centered therapy. Partly in response to the psychoanalytic and behavioral schools that emphasized interpretations or manipulations, Rogers developed a non-directive therapy focused on creating a reflective space for individuals to actualize their potential. He later changed the name of this therapy to "person-centred therapy".

In a paper written by Carl Rogers (1979), he reviews briefly the central hypothesis of his person-centred therapy. He suggests that each of us has within us the resources to achieve self-understanding, as well as to alter our self-concept, our basic attitudes, and our self-directed behaviour. Rogers (1979) proposes that these resources can be tapped only within a very specific type of environment that are characterized by what he refers to as facilitative conditions.

According to Rogers (1979), there are three conditions that facilitate this growth: 1) Genuineness/Realness/Congruence; 2) Acceptance/Caring/Unconditional Positive Regard, and 3) Empathic Understanding.

Congruence refers to the therapist being transparent to the client, and not putting up a professional front. It would involve the therapist demonstrating conguence with what they are experiencing at the gut level, what is present in their awareness, and what they are expressing to the client. According to Rogers (1979), the more the therapist demonstrates congruence within the therapeutic environment, the more the client will be likely to change and grow in a positive manner.

Unconditional Positive Regard is the second facilitative condition and involves the therapist being with the client and accepting the client throughout therapy regardless of where they are at, and what feelings they are experiencing. Rogers (1979) believes that the more the client is prized in an unconditional manner, the more the client will be likely to grow and improve.

The final facilitative condition that Rogers (1979) proposed is empathy. The concept of empathy within therapy has been one of the heaviest researched facilitative conditions. Empathy refers to the idea that the therapist is able to capture sensitively and accurately the meaning and personal feelings that the client is experiencing. Additionally, empathy also implies that the therapist is able to successfully relay these feelings and the meaning they hold back to the client. At the very deepest level of empathic understanding, the therapist will not only be able to clarify the meaning of things in which the client is aware, but will also be able to clarify those things that are just below the client's awareness. Rogers (1979) believed that more empathic understanding was associated with greater improvements and growth within the therapy.

Development of Client Centered TherapiesEdit

Four Waves of Rogers TherapyEdit

The evolution of Roger's therapy/theory has undergone many changes throughout history. Of importance are four main periods in time that were marked by major changes. These changes are mentioned in Corey (2005) briefly, and more fully elaborated and discussed by Zimring and Raskin (1992) and Bozarth, Zimring and Tausch (2002).

During the 1940s, Rogers developed what was known as non-directive counselling. This creation was in response to the traditional directive psychoanalytic approaches of the time. Below is a list of the significance of what was put forth by Rogers in the first wave of his theory:

-emphasized that the therapist create a permissive and nondirective climate.

-challenged the concept that the "counsellor knows best".

-challenged traditional procedures used by many therapists like advice, suggestion, direction, persuasion, teaching, and interpretation.

-challenged the use of diagnostic procedures because he believed that they were often inaccurate, prejudicial, and misused.

-avoided sharing information about himself, and instead focused on reflecting and clarifying the client' verbal/nonverbal communications.

-aim was to gain insight into the feelings expressed by the client.

During the 1950s, Rogers renamed his approach to counselling client-centered therapy. At this time, a very important book was published by Rogers called "Client-centered Therapy" (Rogers, 1951), which began to reflect an emphasis on the client, rather than a therapists use of indirective methods. Of significance during this period was:

-a shift from clarification of feelings to examining instead more heavily the phenomenological world of the client.

-a strong focus on the clients internal frame of reference in order to gain an understanding of how people behave.

-a strong focus on the actualizing tendency, as the basic motivating force that leads to client changes.

Beginning somewhat in the late 1950s, but extending all the way into the 1970s, Rogers began to address what have become known as the necessary and sufficient conditions of therapy. During this time, among other books, Rogers published his nationally recognized book "On Becoming a Person" (1961). Of significance during this time period was:

-his hypothesis that the facilitative conditions were related to psychotherapy improvements. This prediction triggered decades of research in psychology and related fields.

-a strong focus on becoming one's experience was introduced, which involves an openness to experience, a trust in that experience, an internal locus of evaluation, and a willingness to be in process.

-the initial expansion of Rogers' ideas to education occurred and was called student-centered teaching.

The final phase, during the 1980s and 1990s, was marked by great expansion of Rogers' ideas to many facets of life. For this reason, Rogers changed the name of his approach to person-centered therapy. This time in history was of significance because it involved:

-an expansion to education, industry, conflict resolution, administrations.

-an influence on family, health care, and cross-cultural and racial activity.

-an involvement in politics, especially the search for world peace, which led to Rogers being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

To this day, many researchers continue to be influenced by the seminal work conducted by Carl Rogers. To conclude, a list is provided below of current day researchers that have at the root of their work the ideas of Rogers (see Corey, 2005, pp. 183-184).

-Virginia Axline made use of Rogers ideas with children by using what is known as Play Therapy.

-Eugene Gendlin developed a technique known as focusing, in order to facilitate client experiencing within therapy.

-Laura Rice initiated that therapists make use of a technique known as systematic evocative unfolding as a way of recreating and potentially gaining a better understanding of a particular troubling experience.

-Leslie Greenberg from York University, and his colleagues, have encouraged therapists to facilitate emotional change within therapy, and have also applied his emotion focused therapy to couples and families.

-Jeanne Watson from OISE/UT has demonstrated the importance of empathy within therapy, and has encouraged making use of empathy to tap cognitive, affective, and interpersonal issues within therapy.

Key FiguresEdit

Carl RogersEdit

  • 1902 Born in Oak Park Ill.
  • 1924 BA, University of Wisconsin
  • 1928 M.A., Columbia University
  • 1931 Ph.D. Columbia University, Psychotherapy
  • 1940 Ohio State University, Columbus, professor of psychology
  • 1944 President of the American Association for Applied Psychology
  • 1945 University of Chicago, Chicago Ill. Professor psychology and executive secretary of the counselling center.
  • 1946 President of the American Psychological Association
  • 1955 Nicholas Murray Butler Silver Medal
  • 1956 First President of American Academy of Psychotherapist and special contribution award, American Psychological Association
  • 1957 professor in departments of psychology and psychiatry; University of Wisconsin
  • 1960 member of executive committee, University of Wisconsin
  • 1962 Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
  • 1964 selected as humanist of the year, American Humanist Association
  • 1968 honorary doctorate, Gonzaga University
  • 1971 D.H.L. , University of Santa Clara
  • 1972 Distinguished Professional Contribution Award from APA
  • 1974 D.Sc. university of Cincinnati
  • 1975 D.Ph. University of Hamburg and DS.Sc. University of Leiden
  • 1978 D.Sc. Northwestern University
  • 1984 Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, Cincinnati
  • 1987 Died of heart attack, associated with surgery for a broken hip, San Diego, California

from: http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/rogers.htm (some corrections made)


Carl Rogers' most famous and influential book was On Becoming a Person

Within this book, Carl Rogers highlights some significant learnings that he had accumulated over the thousands of hours he has spent with individuals in personal distress. These particular learnings are highligted in a chapter entitled "This is Me". Rogers (1961) reports that these learnings has significance for him (at that point in his life/career), but admits that he is in no way attempting to present these learnings as a guide for anyone else. A brief description of each learning is helpful other to gain a deeper understanding of Carl Rogers, the researcher, the clinician, and the man. Each has been directly quoted from his book "On Becoming a Person" (Rogers, 1961).

1) In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not.

2) I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself.

3) I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand another person.

4) I have found it enriching to open channels whereby others can communicate their feelings, their private perceptual worlds, to me.

5) I have found it highly rewarding when I can accept another person.

6) The more I am open to the realities in me and in the other person, the less do I find myself wishing to rush into "fix things".

7) I can trust my experience.

8) Evaluation for others is not a guide for me.

9) Experience is, for me, the highest authority.

10) I enjoy the discovering of order in experience.

11) The facts are friendly.

12) What is most personal is most general.

13) It has been my experience that persons have a basically positive direction.

14) Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing, process by which nothing is fixed.

Rogers describes these learnings as incomplete, scattered, and continuously changing. He also reports that he continues to learn and relearn them, and at times forgets to apply them. However, he mentions they are all of great importance to him and have become a large part of his inner values and ways of behaving.

Last modified on 21 April 2012, at 23:55