“evaluation by others is not a guide for me”
Carl Rogers “On Becoming A Person”
(Rogers, 2004, p. 23)

Rogers view of himself

Rogers believed that criticisms by others should be listened to and taken heed of, but he felt they were never a guide for him. Rogers recounted that an early piece of advice, given to him by a psychologist he respected, that it was a mistake to get interested in psychotherapy shook him badly and that it was a lesson hard learned. Rogers was disturbed during his career to be labelled ‘a fraud, a quack, a creator of a damaging therapy, a power seeker, a mystic etc’ and just as disturbed by extreme praise he received. But he believed that only one person knew whether he was genuine or not and he was that person. (Rogers, 2004, p.23)Return to top

Popularity of his main work

Rogers published his seminal article ‘The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change’in 1957, it contained the foundation for much of what exists in contemporary psychotherapy. It has been cited in the literature over a thousand times, in professional writings originating in 36 countries, and is as popular today as it was 20 years ago. (Goldfried, 2007)Return to top

Scientific approach and criticisms

Carl Rogers was one of the first psychologists to record, transcribe, and publish complete cases of psychotherapy. Rogers did more scientific research on psychotherapy than had ever been undertaken before. From this early research Rogers developed the ‘ non-directive’, ‘client- centered’ approach to counselling and psychotherapy which became the backbone of the therapists’ methods. In so doing he became the founding father of the professional counselling movement. In recognition of this work the American Psychological Association awarded him its highest scientific and professional honours, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award and its Distinguished Professional Contribution Award. (Kirschenbaum & Jourdan, 2005)thing-called-love.jpg. The qualities Rogers believed necessary for the therapist to possess were 1. Unconditional positive regard, i.e. the therapist is always supportive. 2. Genuineness. 3. Empathy. Rogers’s insistence that the success of his theory lay in the competence of the therapist to create a relationship with the client in order to help the client reach a new self concept alienated many in the medical and psychiatric professions, who felt that their knowledge and expertise were being sidelined in preference to the client/therapist relationship. This led to hostility and criticisms from these professions and too many arguments with Rogers. For the medical and psychiatric professions the thought that the client could know best and could solve his own problems was not one that they could countenence that easily. Rogers’s reducing the client/therapist relationship to the level of a ‘loving relationship’ opened him up to the charge of demeaning psychoanalysis in the view of some other therapists. (Thorne, 2006, p.66)Return to top

Effectiveness of client-centered therapy

A criticism of Rogers’s client-centered therapy was that it was reasonably effective with less severe disorders but ineffective with severe mental disorders (Eysenck, 2009, p.27). This criticism while correct, is disingenuous in that although Rogers did many studies with patients with schizophrenia, he never claimed that his therapy was effective with those with serious mental disorders. Rogers found in his work that the more disturbed the client the less he was able to perceive the values of genuineness, empathy or unconditional positive regard which values are necessary for Rogers’s therapy to be effective. (Rogers & Stevens, 2002, p.99). Slide138.pngResearch on the effectiveness of client-centered therapy has been criticised for lacking some fundamental requirements of the scientific approach e.g. inappropriate control groups and also lacking scientific rigour (Halgin & Krauss Whitbourne, 2009, p.115). Rogers himself believed in the importance of conducting research on psychotherapy processes and outcomes, and that actual research findings should take precedence over the theoretical background. Today, the field of psychotherapy has reached the point of accepting the need for empirical accountability, with evidenced-based therapy becoming increasingly important. Rogers himself stated that limiting theories should be shed, including client-centered therapy, in favour of therapy that has been found to work (Goldfried, 2007).Return to top

Impact of work

Rogers ‘self-theory’ (1959) became an important theory of personality and still features in personality text books today (Kirschenbaum & Jourdan, 2005) but its standing together with that of Rogers in the field of academic psychology has waned over the years (Thorne, 2006, p.65).
Rogers served as President of the American Association of Applied Psychology, the American Association of Psychotherapists, the APA, and the APA Division of Clinical Psychology, among other offices (Kirschenbaum, 1979). He became a leading spokesperson for the humanistic psychology movement and for encounter groups, and his many books, including "On Becoming a Person", helped bring the principles of the client-centered, and later person-centered, approach to ever wider audiences. Although Rogers standing in psychology has waned, in the field of psychotherapy it remains high to this day, his influence on therapists has been enduring. In a survey of therapists in 1982 he was considered the most influential figure in 20th century psychotherapy even surpassing Freud. (Thorne, 2006, p.65).
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The Future

Kirschenbaum and Jourdan (2005) reported that publications on Rogers and the client-centered/person-centered approach have increased substantially since Rogers’s death in 1987. Person-centered associations, organizations, and training institutes are many around the world. Recent research on psychotherapy has validated the importance of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence, which are the core of Rogers’s conditions, for effective therapy. Kirschenbaum and Jourdan, (2005) stated that person-centered approach is alive and well today and for the future surmised whether the client-centered/person-centered approach would remain a separate and distinct approach in psychotherapy; or whether its expansion to the person-centered-experiential approach, as advocated by many leading person-centered scholars and researchers today, would become the accepted therapy or whether both will be consumed under the more general heading of humanistic psychotherapies as some advocated. In any event, it seems likely that Carl Rogers’s legacy will endure, both as a body of research and as a practice that will influence the work of future researchers and practitioners for generations to come.Return to top


This researcher has found much criticism, positive and negative, of Rogers’s personal and private lifestyle, many coming from those with a religious background, but this researcher feels that this is not a relevant area for consideration, preferring to confine commentary to Rogers’s professional life. Furthermore, Rogers has published many books and journal articles over his long career and in this evaluation it is not possible to cover all his thoughts, ideas and achievements. Rogers own view of his legacy is most revealing, when asked by his friend and protégé Marie Bowen whether he cared or not about the future of his ideas he answered:
“No, I don’t, and I wish you would also stop caring so much. I know I can’t control it, and you can’t either. It will take the direction that the group wants, so why don’t you just relax?”(Thorne, 2006, p.97)
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