Carl Rogers

Published on January 5th, 2021

Updated on January 2nd, 2024

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers was an American clinical psychologist who developed his own approach to therapy. He is well-known in the therapy profession, as he made many accomplishments in the field of psychology. Carl Rogers is considered to be a contributor to humanistic therapy. He is also a creator of client-centered therapy.

Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers developed a form of therapy that takes a non-directive approach. With this approach, a therapist facilitates the session. It allows the therapist to guide the therapy session without leading it. This gives the client space to create their own journey. As the approach developed, it became referred to as client-centered therapy.

Affordable Online Therapy

Choose a therapist to work with and start healing with 20% off from BetterHelp.

Click Here

Humanistic Theory

Carl Rogers is considered to be a founder of humanistic theory. He developed his theory with the influence of other humanistic psychologists. Such humanistic psychologists and contributing theorists include:

The humanistic theory is a popular theory in the psychology field. It was developed during the 1950’s. During this time, the field of clinical psychology was focused on:

Contrary to these theories, Rogers believed that personality develops from motivation. A person’s personality derives from their own conscious awareness. People behave based on who they perceive themselves to be, and who they want to become. Rogers believed that client-centered therapy could help a client achieve their own self-insight.

According to Rogers, each person has free will, and with that free will people make their own choices. Rogers believed that each person has the potential to become the best person they perceive themselves to be. Being able to reach that potential depends on the choices they make for their own lives. A person can become who they want to become, but they may also be their biggest obstacle in their own journey.

The humanistic theory maintains that people actively create their own internal self and external life. They play an active role in their decisions. Their experiences are the driving force behind their behaviors, perceptions and decisions. Their experiences also shape their own self-perceptions.

Included in Rogers’s humanistic theory is ‘actualizing tendency’. The actualizing tendency is a person’s motivation to achieve their highest potential self. Rogers believed this is the driving force behind personality development.

From the actualizing tendency, Rogers notes the motivation for self-actualizing. Self-actualizing becomes a key component to client-centered therapy. Other key components include self-concept and the ideal self.

The Good Life

Carl Rogers had strong beliefs on what a ‘good life’ means. Most people tend to think of a good life as a goal. Contrary to popular belief, Rogers believed a good life to be a process. According to Rogers, a good life comes from being able to be your authentic self. To enjoy the journey of life, rather than making it be the end goal. This idea of The Good Life plays a critical role in client-centered therapy. It is also a key factor in his humanistic theory.

Client-Centered Therapy

Client-centered therapy is also referred to as person-centered therapy. It is a form of therapy in which a client is left to tell their own story. In client-centered therapy, the client is given space to create their own directive. They set the pace in therapy and maintain control over the therapeutic process.

In client-centered therapy, the role of the therapist is to practice reflective listening. Reflective listening is the act of listening to what the other person says. Through this listening, the therapist’s only intention is to understand. With reflective listening, the therapist seeks to understand the client’s perspective and experiences. They may express that understanding by reflecting on what the client had expressed. They may not make leading statements or ask guided questions.

A client-centered therapist does not create direction. They do not devise a method for resolution. The therapist’s only role is to use reflective listening with the client. They do not take a role of authority in the therapy room.

Client-centered therapy creates a therapeutic relationship in which client and therapist are equals. The therapist does not hold responsibility to lead conversation. They seek to understand the therapist from their own perspective.

Client-centered therapy allows the therapist to understand their client’s world. They also learn to understand how the client sees themselves fitting into their world. With client-centered therapy, the client is the expert in their own lives. The therapist does not assume to know or understand things that have not been explained to them. They may check in with their client with reflective statements. Otherwise, the therapist does not take control of the conversation.


The ultimate goal of client-centered therapy is to reach self-actualization. Self-actualization is the state of fulfillment of a person reaching their potential. Self-actualization is not achieved by all in client-centered therapy. Those who are able to achieve self-actualization reach a state of self-satisfaction. They also reach a point of self-fulfillment. This state allows them to feel like they have reached their own potential.

Carl Rogers believed that empathic understanding is needed to lead a client to self-actualization. A therapist must know how to express empathic understanding for the client’s experience. This means the therapist must understand how to feel in the moment with the client. They must know how to find understanding in the client’s present moment as it relates to their:

The therapist is able to do this by using empathic reflection and the process of congruence.

According to Rogers, there are two subsystems of the development of the self. Those subsystems include self-concept and the ideal self. Each system is related to the development of self-actualization. With the development of self-concept and the ideal self, a person can progress toward their own self-actualization.


Self-concept is a component to Roger’s concept of self-actualization. It is the sum of a person’s perception of their own existence and experiences. A person develops their own self-concept. Their self-concept is based on their self-image, and self-worth. It also incorporates information from life experiences.

Self-concept is formed based on the person’s perception of their own lives. This makes the self-concept subjective. Subjective self-concept means it is not based on objective reality. Instead, it is based on the person’s own interpretations of who they are.

The self-concept is a strong aspect of a person’s self-awareness. It can be difficult to change. Because self-concept is subjective, it can be hard for a client to change how they see themselves.

Once a person has made up their minds about who they are, they may reject information that challenges their beliefs. They may deny challenges to their self-concept, which can impact a sense of self-esteem.

Example: Kate was told throughout her life that she was ugly. Because she was told so often, she believes that she is ugly. She has also learned from life that ugly people are less significant than pretty people. This causes her self-concept to be negative. She believes that she is ugly and insignificant.

In reality, Kate went through an ugly duckling phase of life. During puberty, her body was changing. The teasing she got for it made her reject the idea that she developed into an attractive adult.

Now, Kate is complimented for her looks. She can see objective attractiveness in the mirror. Despite these two points, she rejects the idea that she is attractive. This is because the information does not fit her self-concept. Kate may deny that she has any attractive features. She may also accept that certain features are pretty, but will hold onto her self-concept. In her self-concept, she is ugly.

Ideal Self

The ideal self is the second subsystem of Carl Rogers’s development of the self. The term ‘ideal self’ refers to who a person wants themselves to be. When a person describes their ideal self, they will describe the positive qualities they wish to have.

Oftentimes, people will have a discrepancy between their self-concept and their ideal self. This discrepancy is due to their own self-image not matching their ideal self. Such a position will cause an unhealthy self-concept. A person will have negative thoughts about themself. As a result, they will develop low self-esteem.

The smaller the gap between the self-concept and the ideal self, the healthier a person will feel. An intention of client-centered therapy is to close the gap between:

This can be done through means of challenging negative points of the self-concept. It also involves challenging the ideal self. This helps to determine if the expectations one has for themselves are realistic.

Key Therapeutic Components

The therapeutic process toward self-actualization is a journey. It takes specific skills from a therapist to achieve. To perform client-centered therapy, a therapist must master the following two skills:


Congruence refers to a skill that a therapist uses in client-centered therapy. It is the ability to be authentic and open with a client during therapy sessions. When the therapist can be authentic, they can have healthy rapport with their client.

To be congruent, the therapist must be open and willing to experience the feelings and experiences of the moment in the therapy session. There must be a connectedness with the present moment of the therapy session. A therapist practicing congruence can connect with the client. They can understand the client’s experience without needing to influence or problem-solve.

Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional positive regard was a pivotal part of Carl Rogers’s client-centered therapy. The term refers to unconditional acceptance of what the client thinks and feels. With unconditional positive regard, the therapist expresses acceptance of the client without condition. Everything the client thinks and feels is valued. The client is able to express what they need to express without fear of judgment.

Learning how to convey unconditional positive regard can be complicated for the therapist. The therapist must be able to tap into their own empathy and sensitivity. They must also learn how and when to speak. With unconditional positive regard, the therapist cannot interrupt. They must not use any words that can suggest that the client has said something that is unacceptable. On the other hand, the therapist must understand when expressing empathy may not be constructive.

Therapists practicing unconditional positive regard must also be mindful of their nonverbal communication. Facial expressions and body language must express unconditional positive regard. This goes along with the therapist’s words.

Because there are so many moving parts to expressing unconditional positive regard, it can be a method that can be difficult to master. Mental health professionals often have to go through extensive training to master the skill.

Need to talk to someone?

Find an affordable therapist online with 20% off from BetterHelp.

Click Here

Link To This Article

Leave A Reply