NOTES ON CARL ROGERS

A. BRIEF BIOGRAPHY (From Carl Rogers' Dialogues and Harvey Mindess' Makers of Psychology.)

BORN in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois, a small town near Chicago which was also Ernest Hemingway's home town. He had two older brothers and a sister and two younger brothers.

EARLY YEARS. Biographer Howard Kirshenbaum writes (1979): "Carl was a rather sickly child&emdash;slight, shy, prone to tears, often the target of jokes and teasing by his older brothers. He had a close relationship with his mother. She and the older children taught him to read at about age four and read many books very young, especially Bible stories. Carl had no close friends outside the family before college.

HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. Carl's father Walter was a civil engineer. When Carl was in high school, the family moved to a 300-acre farm. Rogers describes his parents as religious, practical, anti-intellectual, and exclusionary. Rogers writes, "I think the attitude toward persons outside our large family can be summed up schematically in this way: 'Other persons bhave in dubious ways which we do not approve of in our family. Many of them play cards, go to movies, smoke, dance, drink, and engage in other activities, some unmentionable. So the best thing to do is to be tolerant of them, since they may not know better, but to keep away from any close communication with them." (A Way of Being, 1980) Of their mother, Carl's favorite brother said, "She was a person that you didn't tell things to." Carl rebelled against and rejected this judgmental outlook.

AGRICULTURE AND SCIENCE. Carl's father had many experts out to the farm, and he himself read an number of books of scientific experiments about feeds and feeding and other aspects of agriculture. "The descriptions of all the scientific experiements gave me a thoroughgoing feeling for the essential elements of science. The design of a suitable experiement, the rationale of ocntrol groups, the control of all variables but one, the statistical analysis of the results&emdash;all these concepts were unknowingly absorbed through my reading at the age of 13 to 16." (Way of Being, p. 14)

INNER LIFE DURING ADOLESCENCE: "My fantasies during this period were definitely bizarre, and probably would be classed as schizoid by a diagnostician, but fortunately I never came in contact with a psychologist." (Way of Being, p. 30)

EDUCATION. Majored in agriculture at the university of Wisconsin. Then after marrying childhood friend Helen Elliott, moved to New York City and enrolled in Union Theological Seminary. Found it too doctrinaire and transferred to Comumbia Univrsity Teachers College, where he received his doctorate in 1931.

CAREER. 1928-1940, was staff member & then director of Rochester, N.Y. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Rochester Child Study Center.

1940-1944, Ohio State University

1944-45, USO, working with returned servicemen

1945-57, University of Chicago

1957-1963, University of Wisconsin

1963 until his death, Western Behavioral Sciences Institute and then Center for Studies of the Person, in La Jolla, California.

B. OVERVIEW OF CONTRIBUTIONS (From Carl Rogers' Dialogues, & Mindess)

SCOPE OF HIS INFLUENCE. Was the most influential American psychotherapist of the twentieth century. He "humanized psychology and psychotherapy, made the field more reasonable, more accpting and benign, but never lost the moral fervor that was ingrained in him as a youth. As was said of Aristotle, he was an extremist in defense of moderation." (Mindess, p. 117)

NEW APPROACH TO PSYCHOTHERAPY. Rogers pioneered a major new approach to therapy, nown successively as the "nondirective," "client-centered," and "person-centered" approach.

PUBLISHED COMPLETE CASES. Was the first person in history to record and publish complete cases of psychotherapy. These included "verbatim records of himself doing therapy, thereby rescuing the procedure from the realms of speculation and making it available for all to examine."

RESEARCH. Carried out and encouraged more scientific research than counseling and therapy than had anyone had ever done before.

RESPONSIBLE FOR SPREAD of professional counseling and psychotherapy to all the helping professions, including education, social work, ministry, lay therapy, etc.

GROUP WORK. Was a leader in development and dissemination of group therapy, or "encounter groups", or the "intensive therapeutic group experience."

CONFLICT RESOLUTION. Was a pioneer in applying principles of effective communication to resolving intergroup and international conflicts.

INTRODUCED TERM "CLIENT." Until Rogers, everyone spoke of "patients" In 1942 for the first time in print, he used the term "client" instead of patient. This was a major shift in the model of the relationship with the helping person.

OTTO RANK'S INFLUENCE. In his thirdies, Rogers became familiar with the work of Otto Rank and his students. Rank saw people as caught in a conflict between their "will to health" and "will to illness" The aim of therapy, he taught, whould be to help people accept themselves and free their will to health. Rogers was influenced by this outlook, but also said, "I never had a mentor. I think that, to an unusual degree, my work was born out of direct experience." Alfred Adler also had an influence on Rogers.

BASIC OUTLOOK: Emerged in Counseling and Psychotherapy (1942): "With all his ambivalences, the client wants to grow, wants to mature, wants to face his problems and work them through. Accept and clarify his initial expressions of feeling, and a fuller, deeper expression of feelings will follow. Accept and clarify these and insight will follow. Accept and clarify these insights, and the client will begin to take positive actions in his life and (develop) self-acceptance, self-understanding, and the ability to deal with his own problems.(Kirshenbaum, 1979) Rogers himself wrote, "The aim of this newer therapy is not to solve one particular problem, but to assist the individual to grow, so that he can cope with the present problem and with later problems in a better integrated fashion."(Speech at the Univ. of Minnesota, 1940)

C. A PERSONAL VIEW BY HIS FRIEND HOBART (RED) THOMAS

A REMARKABLE LISTENER. Red says, "I never was with anyone whom I felt heard me as well. I felt really understood, listened to."

ROGERS' METHOD AND HIS PERSONALITY. Red's hunch--that a lot of Rogers' nondirective method grew out of his own early difficulties in dealing with people. Later in his career he found out that he had to put more of himself into the counseling situation. Become more self-revealing. There's a point where, if you're going to have a dialogue with someone, it has to go both ways

GENUINENESS. "I have seen Carl in many situations, but so far as I can tell, I have never seen him act phony."

PRESENCE. If he sensed that you were disturbed or hurting at all, he was right there with you.

CURIOSITY. One thing that helps in hearing another is to activate your sense of curiosity. "What's that like--can I really sense, really hear, really feel what it's like to be that sort of person?"

DIDN'T GET INTO ARGUMENTS. He didn't get into arguments. He would state his position very clearly, and would listen to your position. "Can we learn from each other?" was his basic stance. He wasn't interested in winning an argument. He viewed it as important, instead of arguing, to be willing to hear out the other person, where the other person is coming from.

BASING ACTIONS ON PREFERENCES. Carl asked, and wanted others to ask, "Am I doing what I want to do right now? Or would I rather be doing something else? What can I do to take responsibility for moving things in a different direction?"

LIVING IN THE MOMENT. If I say, "I am this and that," it's already past. Being fully present in the moment is almost as if there is no self there. Like William James' stream of consciousness. The fully functioning person is completely open to his or her own stream of consciousness, and it's constantly changing.

DEFENSES; ACT AND ATTRIBUTE. As soon as I can say, "I'm being defensive," that itself changes things. If I say, "I lied," then I'm telling the truth. But if I say, "I'm a liar," then it fixes me in the situation, as Sartre points out.

THE SCOPE OF AWARENESS: The goal is to have it about the right size. If I'm very anxious, my awareness may be very small and constricted. If my awareness is too big and all-inclusive, I can't drive my car.

ATTITUDE TOWARD POWER AND AUTHORITY. The revolution with Rogers is that he shares his power with the group. He said, "I'm not interested in power over anyone. What I want is influence, to influence you to become the best you can possibly be."

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO COUNSELING CENTER. His description of how he ran the center back in 1953. Everyone was included. Most decisions were by consensus. He had a remarkable facility for empowering the group. I never saw him take power away from anyone. He would always say where he was, but not in a way that took power away.

DIAGNOSIS. The first time Red met Carl at Stanford, Carl got into a disagreement with the head of the psychology department. "I don't give a good god damn what the diagnosis is," he said. "If we devote a fraction of the time that we spend in diagnostic conferences to being with that person, you wouldn't need the diagnosis."

BEING PERSONALLY PRESENT. Later in his career, Rogers came to realize that even with a nondirective approach, there comes a point where it is not enough. One woman at the San Francisco State Counseling Center said to Red, "I don't want any of that nondirective crap. I want a person to talk to." Red's reply: "OK, I'll do the best I can."

ON EDUCATION. There's a paradox. Once an innovative program gets really successful, it becomes a lightning rod for those who oppose innovation.

ON POLITICS. In a conversation with Carl and Red, California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos said, "A basic struggle in politics is between those who think people should be free to control their own destiny and those who think everyone should be controlled. True personal freedom is a one way street. Once you accept it, you can't turn back.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION. Rogers decided to devote his last years to world peace. He worked with groups in South Africa, Latin America, Northern Ireland. He videotaped the protestants and catholics in a problem-solving session in Ireland. They worked together for several days and came to see each other as people. But the participants didn't want the tapes to be seen by others because they were sworn enemies and afraid they would lose credibility with their group members. In 1987, Rogers made a real impact in the Soviet Union. He is held in great esteem there for his conflict resolution work.

ENCOUNTER GROUPS. In 1962 there was a five-day conference at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa. Rogers and Rollo May were central figures in setting it up. It was open to psychologists and educators throughout the country. May said, "ask Abe Maslow." Leading extentialists at the conference included Wilson Van Dusen and Austrian Ludwig Lefebre. Van Dusen was probably the most effective of the whole lot at dealing with groups.

What happened was that we introduced all these people to the small unstructured group process. We coined the term "encounter group" at that conference. A lot of people had a real exprience in the small groups. Rogers and Van Dusen were very gifted group leaders. Lefebre and May didn't know zip about such groups. Maslow had no experience with unstructured groups, although he was great in discussions.

When Rogers would do a group, he'd sit there. "I'm Carl Rogers; how will we use our time together?" He got people to take responsibility for themselves and their own learning.

In 1963 there was another cconference at the Flamingo. Red was sitting there and in walked Fritz Perls. "Fritz, what are you doing here?" "I have come to participate in the conference." He was just becoming widely known then, and a lot of people still didn't know him, but they immediately put him on the conference staff.

MORE ON ENCOUNTER GROUPS. In the early days of encounter groups, some people thought the goal was to spill your guts. Rogers said no, there was no obligation to do that. Just share what you feel a need or wish to share at the time.

RED'S COMMENT ON GROUPS. I used to do lots of groups. I didn't feel compelled to "do groups." The groups were very powerful in my own learning. There were groups where we'd spend long periods of time, like two weeks straight in the same community and the same group of people. This requires leaving yourself open to a lot of pain, and also the positive emotions. In daily life most of us must relinquish and deny many important parts of ourselves to get along that we could reveal in that context.

OLD AGE AND A BLESSING. In an article in his late 70s, Carl wrote that he was "not growing old but old and growing." He lived until 86. Said that the last few years were one of the best times of his life. Red gave him a Celtic blessing: "May you live till you die and never grow old."