Carl Rogers is often credited with being one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century with contributions that include client-centered therapy, self-actualization, and the theory of self.
Carl Rogers' Humanistic Theory
Do you have the conviction to stand up for what you believe in, even when everyone else believes a different way? Could you stand your ground even when your peers ridiculed and mocked you for your beliefs? Carl Rogers did exactly that, and because of his perseverance, humanistic psychology was born.
Psychoanalysts believed that your behavior was determined by the events of your childhood. Behaviorists believed that your actions were determined by everything that has occurred in your past. Rogers believed that clients are free to choose the behaviors and actions that they commit. Free choice was a new concept to the field of psychology, and in Rogers' day, it constituted nothing short of heresy among his peers.
'The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.' - Carl Rogers
Many people credit Rogers with being one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. Those who adhere to his theories and philosophies proudly call themselves Rogerians. Among Rogers' contributions to the psychology field are his client-centered theories, his theory of self-actualization and his theories of self. He is credited with the adoption of the words 'congruence' and 'incongruence,' in regards to human behavior. He is also acknowledged as the first person to refer to the people he sees as 'clients' instead of as 'patients.'
Rogers is probably best known for his client-centered therapy, also referred to as person-centered therapy. Rogers insisted that a therapist must meet the client where he or she is at. Simply stated, this means the therapist engages the client in the topic the client wishes to talk about. The therapist does not direct the client. For client-centered therapy to work, the therapist must practice three primary principles:
Genuineness - Rogers taught that the therapist must be completely genuine with the client. He reasoned that if the therapist presented a mask to the client, the client would realize this, and in turn present his or her own mask. Rogers believed that by role modeling honesty with the client, the client would learn from the therapist and be honest in return.
Unconditional positive regard - Rogers believed that people are so used to receiving conditional support that they become used to disclosing in such a manner that their words will gain the approval of whosoever they are talking to. He taught that in order to receive honesty and forthrightness from the client, the therapist must create an environment of unconditional positive regard. That regardless of what the client discloses, the therapist must not judge the client in either words or thought. Only then will the client feel free to disclose without fear of rejection.
Empathy - Rogers believed that for the therapist to bond with the client, he or she must first empathize with the client. Rogers taught that to empathize with your client you must do more than understand him or her, you must be the client. He was fond of saying that the client is in charge of his or her own treatment; the therapist merely acts as a guide.
Theory of Self-Actualization
Rogers held the belief that people are fundamentally good. He believed that human nature is to improve or better yourself, to desire to become the person you are capable of being. He called this process self-actualization. Rogers taught that the closer an individual comes to self-actualization, the more fulfilled and happier that person becomes.
Whereas the previous dominant psychology theories of his day emphasized that behavior was preordained and dependent on past experience, Rogers believed that the client has the ability to choose how he or she acts. When the client's actions support the process of self-actualization, the client views the world as a positive place. When the client's actions are contrary to self-actualization, or move him or her further away from that goal, the client perceives his or her world negatively and feels a loss of motivation.
Theory of Self
Rogers taught that people have three selves: the perceived self, the actual or real self and the ideal self. The perceived self represents how an individual sees him or herself. The actual or real self represents how others see the individual. The ideal self represents how the individual would like to be; it represents self-actualization. Rogers stated that every person is constantly changing as the perceived self moves towards the ideal self. When the two selves are far apart, the individual is said to be incongruent. When the two selves move closer together, that individual is said to be congruent.
Low self-esteem occurs when there is a great distance between the perceived self and the ideal self. As the perceived self approaches the ideal self, self-esteem improves. In some cases, the ideal self is inflated unrealistically high. In these cases, lowering the ideal self also serves to improve self-esteem.
Rogers is probably best known for his client-centered therapy, also referred to as person-centered therapy. Rogers believed that the client should be in charge of his or her own therapy; the therapist's job is to act as a guide, never to direct. Rogers stated that in order for client-centered therapy to occur, the therapist must practice genuineness, unconditional positive regard and empathy.
Rogers also taught that all people seek to become the best person they can be, a process he called self-actualization. He stated that when a person's actions move him or her toward self-actualization, that person becomes congruent. Another theory attributed to Rogers is the theory of self. He described people as having three selves: the perceived self, the actual or real self and the ideal self. His theory states that as an individual's perceived self approaches his or her ideal self, that person's self-esteem will improve.
When the lesson is over, you should be able to:
- Describe Roger's client-centered or humanistic therapy
- Recognize the three principles of client-centered therapy
- Discuss self-actualization
- Understand the Theory of Self and it's three types