Carl Rogers Psychologist Biography

Carl Rogers, PhD: 1947 APA President

Carl Rogers Psychologist Biography

Carl R. Rogers (1902–1987) is esteemed as one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He developed the person-centered, also known as client-centered, approach to psychotherapy and developed the concept of unconditional positive regard while pioneering the field of clinical psychological research.

Rogers initially planned to become a minister and enrolled in Union Theological Seminary. During that time, he took educational psychology classes at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he began doing clinical work with children, and decided to switch to psychology full-time (Rogers, C., 1967).

He received his PhD from Columbia in 1931 (Rogers, C., 1967). After graduation, he began working at the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. His experiences as a therapist there laid the groundwork for the development of his client-centered approach to therapy (Rogers, C., 1967).

After some time at the University of Rochester, he became a professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University. It was here that he wrote Counseling and Psychotherapy (Rogers, C.

, 1967), which first presented his belief that establishing a relationship with an accepting and understanding therapist would help clients resolve their problems and gain insight into their lives. This became known as unconditional positive regard.

The book was a surprise hit, with the publisher expecting to sell fewer than 2,000 copies. As of 1967, the book had sold over 80,000.

During his time teaching at Ohio, he tapped into the unmet demand for classes that taught students how to work with people rather than how to conduct experiments in a lab. The practicum he developed there was the first to integrate supervised therapy into the academic training of future therapists (Rogers, C., 1967).

In 1945, he moved to the University of Chicago. During his time in Chicago, he became interested in scientifically studying the effectiveness of different methods of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy had never been studied scientifically because practitioners balked at having a third-party watch their therapy sessions in order to quantify and measure their practice.

Rogers analyzed transcripts from hundreds of therapy sessions and administered psychometric tests to clients before and after receiving therapy to determine the effectiveness of therapy. He developed new ethical standards for psychotherapy that emphasized client agency and confidentiality.

Recording a session required the client’s consent and therapists could not share info about a client with outsiders beyond confirming that the client was in therapy. These methods are now widespread. He published his findings from these experiments in Client-Centered Therapy (1951) and Psychotherapy and Personality Change (1954, Gendlin, E. T., 1988.

He also founded a counseling center connected to the University (Rogers, C., 1967).

The need for counseling increased greatly after World War II. Rogers worked with the United Service Organization to develop a program for training others to provide non-directive therapy (Baker, D., 2012). This type of therapy was flexible and easy to learn and allowed the United States to increase the number of clinical psychologists relatively quickly in a short time period.

In 1945, Rogers and other applied psychologists joined with academic psychologists to reorganize the APA. He was elected president in 1947 (Baker, D. 2012). Rogers oversaw the expansion of APA to include clinical psychologists as well as an increase in the number of divisions, allowing psychologists of all backgrounds to find a home within APA.

As he recalled in a memoir, “these were years of great change and expansion in psychology following the war, and I was deeply involved in formulations regarding clinical training, the formation of the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology, and the continuing attempt to resolve the tensions between psychiatry and psychology (Rogers, C.

, 1967).”

In 1957, he left the University of Chicago to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his alma mater.

In 1963, he moved to La Jolla, California, where he became a resident of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI). In 1968, he left WBSI to help found the Center for Studies of the Person.

By this point, Humanistic Psychology had come into its own and was popular across the country and increasingly across the world (Rogers, C., 1967).

Rogers was the first recipient of the Distinguished Professional Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association. (Carl R. Rogers: Distinguished Professional Contribution Award, 1973).

The award citation reads “His commitment to the whole person has been an example which has guided and challenged the practice of psychology in the schools, in industry, and throughout the community.

By devising, practicing, evaluating, and teaching a method of psychotherapy and counseling which reaches to the very roots of human potentiality and individuality, he has caused all psychotherapists to reexamine their procedures in a new light.

Innovator in personality research, pioneer in the encounter movement, and a respected gadfly of organized psychology, he has made a lasting impression on the profession of psychology.”

In the 1970s and 1980s, he dedicated his time to bringing humanistic principles to international settings in order help resolve political oppression and national social conflict. He traveled to Northern Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, and the Soviet Union to lead experiential workshops on communication and creativity.

With his daughter Natalie Rogers and three other psychologists, he also developed a series of residential programs called the Person-Centered Approach Workshops which focused on cross-cultural communications, personal growth, self-empowerment, and learning for social change.

He continued this work until his death in 1987 (Goleman, D., 1987).


Baker, D. (2012). Reflections on Rogers. PSYCH TODAY, 25(2).

Carl R. Rogers: Distinguished Professional Contribution Award (1973). American Psychologist, 28(1), 71–74.

Gendlin, E. T. (1988). Obituary: Carl Rogers (1902–1987). American Psychologist, 43(2), 127–128.

Goleman, D. (1987, February 06). Carl R. Rogers, 85, leader in psychotherapy, dies.

Rogers, C. (1967). Carl R. Rogers. In E. G. Boring & G. Lindzey (Eds.), A history of psychology in autobiography, Vol. 5, pp. 341–384). Appleton-Century-Crofts.

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Carl Rogers (1902-1987)

Carl Rogers Psychologist Biography

Carl Rogers was a 20th century humanist psychologist and the founder of person-centered psychotherapy. 

Early Life  

Carl Rogers was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. He was the fourth of six children of Walter Rogers and Julia Cushing. Rogers was schooled in a strict, religious environment. Originally, he planned to study agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with an undergraduate focus on history and religion.

In school, his interests shifted away from agriculture and toward religion; after receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1924, he entered a liberal Protestant seminary in New York City, to the dismay of his conservative father. Rogers spent two years in seminary before transferring to Columbia University Teachers College, where he worked with John Dewey. Rogers received his master’s in 1928 and a PhD in clinical psychology in 1931. 

Professional Life

Rogers began his professional career in child psychology in 1930 as the director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He also lectured at the University of Rochester between 1935 and 1940.

He published The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child in 1939 and accepted a position as professor of clinical psychology at Ohio State University in 1940.

Rogers published his views in Counseling and Psychotherapy, in 1942, outlining his theory that a person could gain the awareness necessary to transform his or her life by developing a respectful, nonjudgmental, and accepting relationship with a therapist.

Rogers moved to Chicago in 1945 to work as a professor. He established a counseling center there and published results of his research in Client-Centered Therapy, in 1951 and Psychotherapy and Personality Change in 1954.

Later, Rogers returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he remained until he moved to California in 1963 to join the staff of Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. In 1968, some of the staff at the institute joined Carl Rogers in developing the Center for Studies of the Person.

He remained in La Jolla, California until his death in 1987. 

Contribution to Psychology

Rogers embraced the ideas of Abraham Maslow's humanism, and he also believed that personal growth was dependent upon environment. This belief became the basis for his development of client-centered therapy, later renamed person-centered therapy.

While teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rogers wrote one of his most famous books, On Becoming a Person, in which he claimed that people have their own resources for healing and personal growth.

Rogers introduced the concepts of congruence, empathic understanding, acceptance, and unconditional positive regard into the therapeutic environment to enhance the outcome for clients.

He encouraged counselors to demonstrate each of these aspects in order to help the client gain insight, recognize feelings, express self-concept, and achieve self-acceptance and self-actualization.

Rogers claimed that a self-actualized, fully functioning person had seven key traits:

  1. Openness to experience and an abandonment of defensiveness. 
  2. An existential lifestyle that emphasizes living in the moment without distorting it. 
  3. Trust in oneself.
  4. The ability to freely make choices. Fully functioning people take responsibility for their own choices, and are highly self-directed. 
  5. A life of creativity and adaptation, including an abandonment of conformity. 
  6. The ability to behave reliably and make constructive choices. 
  7. A full, rich life that involves the full spectrum of human emotions. 

Roger's person-centered approach to therapy has widespread acceptance and is applied in areas of education, cultural relations, nursing, interpersonal relations, and other service and aid-oriented professions and arenas. Rogers’s psychological theories have influenced modern psychotherapy and have directly impacted the field of mental health.

Rogers also helped to popularize humanism in psychology. The humanistic psychology movement focused on the human experience of freedom, choice, values, and goals.

It departed from traditional psychoanalysis and behaviorism in that it focused on the complete psychological health of a client, rather than simply treating symptoms, and it empowered the client to reach his or her full potential and direct the course of therapy, rather than the therapist diagnosing and assessing the client objectively.

Rogers spent many of his final years working to end oppression and cultural conflict. He helped unite Catholics and Protestants in Ireland and fought to end apartheid in South Africa.

Books by Carl Rogers

  • Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child (1939)
  • Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice (1942)
  • Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications, and Theory (1951)
  • On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy (1961)
  • Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human (1967)
  • Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become (1969)
  • On Encounter Groups (1970)
  • Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives (1972)
  • On Personal Power: Inner Strength and Its Revolutionary Impact (1977)
  • A Way of Being (1980)


  1. Kirschenbaum, H. (2004). Carl rogers's life and work: An assessment on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 82(1), 116-124. Retrieved from
  2. Rogers, Carl Ransom. (1999). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Retrieved from

Last Update: 07-06-2015


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