The year 2002 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Carl R. Rogers. Carl Rogers, the creator of client-centered counseling, student-centered education, and person-centered approaches to human relations and community building is arguably the most influential American psychologist of the 20th century. While some may dispute this, pointing to the domination within academic psychology of the behaviorism of BF Skinner, if the view is widened to include Carl's sphere of influence, it is indisputable that it is Rogers' profoundly humanizing psychology of human potential that has been embraced by the culture. Those spheres include education, organizational consulting, health care, psychotherapy and counseling, community action and social agency, adult development , communications training, parenting education, or pastoral care.
Past president of the American Psychological Association, honored with its Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1956, and recipient of its Professional Achievement Award in 1972, Rogers achieved significant recognition from mainstream psychology. However it was outside academics, in the daily work of practitioners and ordinary people, where his work had its biggest impact. His basic concepts were forged in the crucible of rigorous research over a fifty year career. Now, at the opening of the 21st century, Rogers' ideas are deeply embedded in all understanding of human behavior, and their revolutionary and fundamentally democratic implications have become part of our contemporary way of life. The notions that relationships built on honesty, mutual respect, empathy, and the unconditional affirmation of a person's inherent tendency to move towards individual self-fulfillment and social harmony can provide the essential substrate for all human growth and healing--once heresy within a mechanistic psychology with no faith in the resources of the human spirit--can now be found in every arena of life.
Through a publishing career beginning in 1931 with an article about personality adjustment in children , and continuing until today with new editions and reprints of his major works, including such culture - making best sellers as Client-Centered Therapy, On Becoming a Person, Freedom to Learn, Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups, Becoming Partners, On Personal Power, A Way of Being, Rogers' ideas are now known across the world translated into over 20 languages, and most of his books are still in print in a new century. Rogers' work can be found still referenced in contemporary works on subjects from psychotherapy to organizational change management, to conflict resolution, parent effectiveness, marital counseling, global peace-making and spiritual counseling.
Although originating in the North American heartland, and amid criticisms that much of American psychology reflected a world view that was distinctly Anglo-American and male, Rogers' work was nevertheless eagerly embraced by professionals across the world, His last decade took him to China, Sweden, Russia, Georgia, Finland, Belgium, Hungary, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Finland, Venezuela, Switzerland, Spain, England, Ireland, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Brazil. In each of these countries he met with hundreds of professionals eager to put his ideas into practice in their own context. When Black South African Cecil Obibe, the Dean of Student at a South African college was asked recently what it was about Rogers' work that had resonated so deeply with his own African sensibility that it had become his own chosen way of working as a counselor, he explained that Rogers' work spoke eloquently to the "essential humanity" of people. "It gives one faith in who we are, and shows one how to find the essential humanity in the other, whoever they might be." As Rogers himself said, paraphrasing Gertrude Stein, "It is not what client-centered approaches give one, but what they do not take away."
This widespread recognition of the cross-cultural truth of Rogers' work and his willingness to put this to the test in conflictual situations across the world, resulted in 1987 in his being nominated for the Nobel Peace prize . News of the nomination arrived after his death on February 4, 1987, an few weeks past his 85th birthday. Emerging in the 1930s, flowering through the 1950s, 60s and 70s and taken into the world since then, Rogers' work continues to have its impact into a third and fourth generation of those who serve human beings. From the speeches of presidents, to the leadership strategies of corporate executives who have come to respect employees as creative agents of change, to the work of parents and teachers who have learned to align with rather than stifle the child's inborn capacity for healthful growth, Rogers' simple, elegant and life-affirming values now permeate the culture.
Introduction from The Carl Rogers Reader
Carl Ransom Rogers was the most influential psychotherapist in American history.
He pioneered a major new approach to psychotherapy, known successively as the "nondirective," "client-centered," and "person-centered" approach.
He was the first person in history to record and publish complete cases of psychotherapy.
He carried out and encouraged more scientific research on counseling and psychotherapy than had ever been undertaken anywhere.
More than any individual, he was responsible for the spread of professional counseling and psychotherapy beyond psychiatry and psychoanalysis to all the helping professions - psychology, social work, education, ministry, lay therapy, and others.
He was a leader in the development and dissemination of the intensive therapeutic group experience sometimes called the "encounter group."
He was a leader in the humanistic psychology movement of the 1960s through the 1980s which continues to exert a profound influence on society and the professions.
He was a pioneer in applying the principles of effective interpersonal communications to resolving intergroup and international conflict.
He was one of the helping professions' most prolific writers, authoring sixteen books and more than two hundred professional articles and research studies. Millions of copies of his books have been printed, including more than sixty foreign-language editions of his works.
In this volume we present the scope of that life's work - its breadth across so many areas of professional and human interest and its depth in exploring a few central themes basic to all human relationships. Whatever the section - on therapy, personal growth education, science, philosophy, social issues, or Rogers's own life - the personal, the professional, and the political are always present. Whatever the time of publication - with selections from 1942 to 1987, as well as previously unpublished writings - Rogers's unique, personal style of communication is evident.
Carl Rogers's influence, however, was due to much more than his writings. He also pioneered in using innovative nonprint media to popularize his ideas. The American Academy of Psychotherapists' tape library distributed thousands of copies of his therapeutic interviews to professionals around the world. He was often filmed conducting therapy or intensive group sessions. In the famous Gloria film series (Rogers et al., 1962), a single client was interviewed successively by Rogers, by gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, and by rational-emotive therapist Albert Ellis. The film Journey into Self (Farson, 1970), showing Rogers leading an encounter group, won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary and received major national distribution.
Rogers's long career as an educator brought him into contact with thousands of students who were deeply affected by his courses and went on to spread his ideas and methods. Many of his classes at the University of Chicago (1945-1957), for example, regularly attracted hundreds of students who came from across the world to study with him. An active speaker at educational conventions, conferences, and meetings, he addressed and conducted demonstration therapy and encounter-group sessions before hundreds of thousands of participants throughout his career.
Beyond his personal impact as author, educator, and model, Rogers also was active in the politics of the helping professions. Among many offices and editorships held, he was New York State chairman and national Executive Committee member of the American Association of Social Workers, vice-president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the first president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, and president of the American Psychology Association, which he helped reorganize in 1945. In 1963 he helped found the Association for Humanistic Psychology, while declining the offer to serve as its first president.
Recognition of his contributions in turn helped spread Rogers's work and testified to its importance. He received the American Psychology Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award the first year it was given and in 1972 became the only person ever to receive both that award and the association's Distinguished Professional Contribution Award. His honorary degrees from universities around the world, guest professorships, and other awards are far too numerous to cite here.
Beyond the scope of his activities, equally important in contributing to Rogers's influence were his longevity and stamina. For fifty-nine years, from the time he began practicing psychology in 1928 to his death in 1987, he was an active professional. His first article (Rogers and Carson) appeared in 1930. Mentally and physically alert even in his eighties, he kept up an impressive schedule of lectures, workshops, writing, and travel.
Nevertheless, while a vast number of professionals in the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, education, counseling, social work, ministry, medicine, and other professions credit Carl Rogers as one of the most influential teachers and models in their careers and in many cases their lives, an equally impressive number would minimize or even criticize Rogers's contribution. Although his work is not held in high esteem in most academic settings, it continues to have a significant impact in the real world. This is evident in separate articles reported in theJournal of Counseling Psychology (Heesacker et al., 1982) and the American Psychologist (Smith, 1982). In the former journal, an investigation of "authors and specific articles and books . . . that have stood the test of time and are still influencing the field" ranked Rogers first in a group of major contributors. In the latter periodical, a questionnaire was sent to a random sample selected from Division 1 (Clinical Psychology) and Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychology Association. The survey results list the "Ten Most Influential Psychotherapists," and again Rogers is ranked first.
Ironically, although Rogers influenced and continues to influence the lives of millions of individuals treated in professional settings around the world, the public, by and large, would not even recognize his name. Rogers never sought wide publicity or fame. As much as he enjoyed his growing impact, he never consciously wrote for the "pop psychology" market. When one of his books, On Encounter Groups, did exhibit mass-market potential, he was invited to discuss it on a major television interview show. He declined. His publisher responded incredulously, "But one show will lead to another!" "That's what I'm afraid of," the shy and skeptical Rogers replied. (Nevertheless, the book sold a quarter of a million copies.)
Rogers's contribution was more subtle and profound than that of best-selling authors whose works briefly capture the national attention and are soon forgotten. He has been described as "a quiet revolutionary." His message was deceptively simple, yet profound in its implications: All individuals have within themselves the ability to guide their own lives in a manner that is both personally satisfying and socially constructive. In a particular type of helping relationship, we free the individuals to find their inner wisdom and confidence, and they will make increasingly healthier and more constructive choices.
Rogers taught, tested, and lived this "hypothesis," as he called it, for fifty-seven years. Over decades, he painstakingly clarified the characteristics of this helping relationship, and he and his colleagues and students applied it to every helping profession and to many areas of daily living. He demonstrated that the principles of human relationships that work in the therapist's office, the school, or the hospital also work for parents and youth leaders and friends. And as the years have passed, this hypothesis and the various approaches for implementing it have steadily changed the helping professions beyond recognition.
Not all professionals have been pleased with Rogers's influence. Many find his theory and methods oversimplified. Others argue that trusting the individual's resources for self-help will not work and might even do harm. Still others have minimized the significance of his contribution, saying there is little new in it or "We're already doing that." Sometimes critics have said all these things, expressing considerable ambivalence about the person-centered approach to helping relationships.
In effect, many critics have said "We, too, trust the individual. We, too, use methods that help the patient, client, or student work out his or her own solutions. That's what helping is all about - not solving problems for people, but helping them solve their own problems; not directing others' lives, but facilitating their growth. However, that is not sufficient. We must also use our own experience and expertise to wisely question, interpret, inform, reinforce, or otherwise help lead our charges in positive, growthful directions.
The half century of controversy around Carl Rogers's work simply highlights a basic philosophical and methodological question that is still plaguing the helping professions: To what extent do we rely on the individual's ability to guide his own growth and development, and to what extent do we introduce outside motivation, strategies, guidance, direction, or even coercion?
That is why Rogers's work has been so controversial, maligned, and misunderstood as well as accepted and embraced. By taking an extreme position on the person-centered end of the helping continuum, and by exerting a half century's effectiveness as writer, teacher, and scientist in support of his position, Rogers became one of the pivotal figures in the much larger debate - the debate over the prediction and control of human behavior.
As teachers, parents, and therapists the world over know, we often have mixed feelings about giving freedom to our students, children, and clients. Beyond our own ambivalence, it is one thing to sincerely want to support an individual's growth and independence and quite another thing to know how to do it effectively. Many studies have shown that even those who believe they are mostly being facilitative in their behavior are often more directive than they realize. For example, therapists and teachers who assert that their clients and students speak for the majority of time in the counseling session or class often discover, when observed, that they themselves are doing most of the talking. Similarly, on a larger scale, as the example of totalitarian and even democratic states often demonstrates it is one thing to say we believe in freedom and individual self-determination and quite another to practice it consistently.
Rogers spent his whole life not only asserting the importance of the democratic and libertarian ideal in all human relation6hips, but seeking ways to accomplish that ideal. He innovated, he described, he tested, he modified, he modeled, he even proselytized. For that he won hundreds of thousands of appreciative students whose work touches millions of lives each year. At the same time, however, he also won thousands of influential critics who have prevented Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach from becoming the mainstay of professional training in the academic institutions of the United States.
It is not only academia that has resisted Rogers's work. In a sense, the concern for creative human development competes for attention with an extremely strong current in modern society. For our technological age is increasingly impressed by new wonders of telecommunication, new drugs and cures, new hardware and software, new gadgets for work and leisure - the latest advances modern science and capitalism have to offer. Rogers's message points us in a different direction, at first glance much less exciting and more difficult: The answer to most of our problems lies not in technology but in relationships. What really matters is trust in ourselves and others, in communication, in how we handle our feelings and conflicts, in how we find meaning in our lives. In the twentieth century we have learned an enormous amount about how to get along with ourselves and with others. Put that knowledge to work and we may yet save the planet. Disregard it, as we focus our lives and fortunes on the next technological quick fix, and we may not survive.
That Carl Rogers has dramatically and permanently influenced the major helping professionals of our society is beyond question. That his work has influenced millions in how they perceive the quality of life is also clear. For years to come, that work will undoubtedly continue to spread, as Rogers's colleagues and students and others working in similar directions continue to develop and promote the person-centered philosophy through out the world.
Whether the person-centered approach to human relationships ultimately has a profound and lasting influence on American society and the world is much less certain. At this point, how the world decides to handle its human problems - crime, drugs, intergroup and international conflict, to name a few - will determine whether there will be societies or even a world in which person-centered approaches can survive. How large a part the work of Carl Rogers will play in influencing those decisions remains to be seen.
Carl Rogers, Quiet Revolutionary by Richard Farson
Carl Rogers is not known for his politics. People are more likely to associate his name with widely acclaimed innovations in counseling technique, personality theory, philosophy of science, psychotherapy research, encounter groups, student-centered teaching; his thoughts on human nature, his descriptions of the person of the future, his views on marriage and coupling, etc.each one a stunning contribution by itself. But in recent years, viewing the body of his work as a whole, I have come to think of him more as a political figure, a man whose cumulative effect on society has made him one of the most important social revolutionaries of our time.
I would like to explain that statement by beginning with a quote from Rogers' autobiography. It describes a point at which he made the discovery that was to change not only his way of thinking about human relationships but just about everyone else's, too.
I had been working with a highly intelligent mother whose boy was something of a hellion. The problem was clearly her early rejection of the boy, but over many interviews I could not help her to this insight. I drew her out, I gently pulled together the evidence she had given, trying to help her see the pattern.
But we got nowhere. Finally I gave up. I told her that it seemed we had both tried but we had failed and that we might as well give up our contacts. She agreed. So we concluded the interview, shook hands, and she walked to the door of the office.
Then she turned and asked, "Do you ever take adults for counseling here?" When I replied in the affirmative, she said, "Well, then, I would like some help." She came back to the chair she had just left and began to pour out her despair about her marriage, her troubled relationship with her husband, her sense of failure and confusion, all very different from the sterile "case history" she had given before. Real therapy began then and ultimately it was highly successful–for her and for her son.
This incident was one of a number which helped me to experience the fact–only fully realized later– that it is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried. It began to occur to me that unless I had a need to demonstrate my own cleverness and learning, I would do better to rely upon the client for the direction of movement in the process.
What a simple, obvious, marvelous, powerful, revolutionary idea. An idea that is now so much a part of our understanding not only of therapy but of every field of human endeavor that we have all but forgotten where it came from.
It is Rogers' style to let go of ideas, to share them, to avoid ownership, to prevent them from becoming dogmatized and identified solely with him. By his having let go of them they have developed lives of their own and, as a result, have pervaded all human affairs. Many of those who practice his approach or have adopted his philosophy do not think of themselves as Rogerian. Some have probably never heard of him.
With that simple idea he empowered hundreds of thousands of professionals and laymen, who would otherwise never have seen themselves as personal counselors, to engage in genuinely helping relationships. His approach, though not easy to learn, is so elegant in concept and so dramatically rewarding in practice that it swept not only psychology but almost every other profession as well.
Rogers has always been a bit puzzled that he is taken more seriously in other fields than he is in his own field of psychology. Professionals from education, religion, nursing, medicine, psychiatry, law, business, government, public health, law enforcement, race relations, social work–the list goes on and on–all came to feel that here, finally, was an approach which enabled them to succeed on the previously neglected human dimensions of their jobs, to reach the people for whom they felt responsible but were often unable to help.
Rogers showed how the conditions for a therapeutic relationship could be generated by people who may not have had "proper" training. His research demonstrated that these conditions were neither mysterious nor dependent upon formal professional experience, and might in fact be present in anyone. Rogers described them this way:
. . . constructive personality growth and change comes about only when the client perceives and experiences a certain psychological climate in the relationship. The conditions which constitute this climate do not consist of knowledge, intellectual training, orientation in some school of thought, or techniques. They are feelings or attitudes which must be experienced by the counselor and perceived by the client if they are to be effective. Those I have singled out as being essential are: a sensitive empathic understanding of the client's feelings and persona meanings; a warm, acceptant prizing of the client; and an unconditionality in this positive regard.
In effect he managed to demystify the practice of therapy. He showed how it really works. And he did this so convincingly and helpfully that thousands were encouraged to try to develop such relationships with their own clients, patients, students, employees, customers, or inmates. His demystification of therapy not only made extensions into other fields possible but it encouraged many other workers to further uncover the mystifying practices of psychotherapists.
Many of those from the political left now practicing various forms of radical therapy owe some debt to Rogers for his pioneering work in making therapeutic processes understandable and therapeutic methods available to any and all who would use them, regardless of the user's academic credentials. In the radical therapists' battle to rid psychiatry of its mystique and bring psychological help to people whom they feel are prevented, mainly for political, economic, or social reasons, from obtaining it, Carl Rogers is an important ally. His early effectiveness in demystifying the psychotherapy professions brought helping relationships to millions who would otherwise have been treated less knowledgeably and less humanely.
During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s he was virtually alone in his struggle to keep medicine from gaining a stranglehold on the helping professions. Somehow he knew then what many have come to know now: that no single profession or discipline has a corner on the market of knowledge about human affairs. His lonely battles with medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and psychoanalytically dominated professions such as psychiatric social work, are largely forgotten. It is difficult, sometimes, to remember the days when even highly trained psychologists could not practice therapy. Armed with impressive research findings and a bold vision, he forced the door open and held it open for all who followed.
It was not accomplished without hurt and humiliation. Once, in the mid-50s, he described to me his painful attempt to deliver a lecture to the assembled psychiatrists at a mental health conference at Harvard, all the while competing with Karl Menninger, the chairman of the meeting, who sat behind him reading papers, studying timetables, swatting flies, taking great pains to avoid showing Rogers the attention and respect that he was ultimately to gain from this profession.
Great respect, even adulation, did eventually come his way and no one has ever handled success better. One of the strengths I admire most in him is his ability to resist the continuing efforts to make him a guru, an idol, the leader of a movement. He has been asked many times to give his name and his leadership to professional associations that might be formed around the basic concepts he has introduced–associations of client-centered or nondirective therapists, for example –but unlike other major contributors he has always eschewed the leadership role, never endorsed anything bearing his name, never tried to become the leader of a school (although he certainly is), never encouraged the fanatical devotion that could easily have been his, never tried to limit the practice of his methods only to those disciples whom he personally anointed.
His determination to avoid such a role has never wavered. I remember one San Francisco lecture audience of a thousand or more enthusiastic supporters who came to have Rogers lead them on a crusade but heard instead a sober and scholarly report of his work. When I asked him after the lecture why he had chosen to address the group in this way, he said that they seemed to him a bit too eager to be carried away by rhetoric and demagoguery and that it was probably better that they hear this material.
He has not only been able to demystify the profession of psychotherapy in general but his own behavior as a therapist as well. Until Rogers changed the rules of the game, psychotherapists only knew about each other's work from dramatic descriptions after the hour was over, possibly tending to present themselves as being somewhat more brilliant than they actually were. Rogers, on the other hand, is willing to document his work, not from his selective recall but from the verbatim transcripts of the interaction. In 1938, on a wire recorder, he was the first to record a therapeutic hour.
Not only was he the first to audio-record his hours but also the first to film them. For years, when no one else had the courage to show what he or she actually said or did in the development of therapeutic relationships, Rogers turned the camera on himself. He is still doing it. One cannot help but respect a person who will show himself both failing and succeeding when it would be easy to play the game the way others have played it, letting us see only that which makes him look wise and competent.
Rogers' fascination with the way things really are, his willingness to carefully document his own and others' behavior, and his fundamental interest in sirnply making sense out of things combined in him to produce psychotherapy's first scientific researcher. He became the one to bring science into a field previously regarded as unknowable on any scientific basis - more like art or magic. He insisted, against strong opposition, that the seemingly potent phenomena of personal change could be studied with seientific methods of controlled investigation, that the previously sacred therapeutic hour could be recorded and analyzed without damage.
Almost no one thought it could or should be done. But with these new data he was able to assess, phrase by phrase, even word by word, the therapeutic events which led to defensiveness and those which led to insight and exploration, those which built the relationship and those which hindered it. The results were too much for the opposition. Single-handed, he had opened the field of psychotherapy to scientific scrutiny.
Perhaps more than anyone he made psychology the business of normal people and normal people the business of psychology. Before Rogers, psychology conformed to a medical model, to heal the sick. People were thought of as either disturbed or normal and, if the latter, there was nothing psychology could or should do for them. There was nowhere further for normal people to go in their own personal development.
When Rogers came along, he built a base for what was to become psychology's largest area of interest, the normal person and his or her potential for growth and creativity. Rogers did this through a combination of several ideas. First of all, his personality theory made no assumption of diseased processes, unconscious motivation, or developmental history. It wasn't that he believed that these constructs didn't matter or didn't exist, but that an explanation of personality and behavior is most powerful when understood in ahistorical and interpersonal terms. So while Rogers was not the first person to theorize in these terms, he was the person who had sufficient impact on psychological thinking to make it possible for the field of humanistic psychology to emerge.
Actualizing human potentialities for creativity and growth, regarding the person in the here and now, emphasizing the centrality of the self, and placing significance on experience as well as behavior were the fundamental building blocks of humanistic psychology and Rogers supplied them. In this he was clearly the forerunner of people like Abraham Maslow and Rollo May, who eventually came to carry the banner of humanistic psychology and to focus attention on the idea of self-actualization rather than treatment of the sick.
Rogers saw people as being on an endless growth journey–a journey which is sometimes blocked by negative or incongruent images of oneself, sometimes by inhibiting cultural conditions. Freeing people so that they might accelerate this journey became the great challenge of humanistic psychology. Although he might wince at the term, he is in great measure responsible for what came to be called the human potential movement, and he is surely a major force in the development of more than three hundred growth centers in the United States.
His focusing on the achievement of human potentialities has cut two ways, of course. It has given us a new consciousness of what we might become, of human rights and human needs, and has influenced and improved every part of life–from marriage and childrearing to executive leadership.
But by raising our expectations he has also given us a new level of discontent. The discrepancy between what people are ordinarily able to make happen in their relationships and what they have come to believe is possible to make happen as a result, say, of reading a book by Carl Rogers is the cause of much disruption in their lives. High-order discontent, which comes from rising expectations, is the reason why many people divorce or quit their jobs. But that, of course, is the inevitable, paradoxical, and sometimes calamitous effect of the experiences we value most–education, art, etc. To the extent that these activities give us a new picture of ourselves and our world, a new vision to work for and hope for, the world becomes both a better place and a more difficult one in which to live. And high-level discontent is the stuff upon which revolutions are built.
It is this sort of paradox with which Rogers has the greatest difficulty. By and large he is unable to recognize either the coexistence of opposites or the enormous complexity of human affairs. His is essentially a linear theory, as opposed to a curvilinear one; maximizing rather than optimizing. His concepts, like most others in humanistic psychology, are based on the idea of "the more the better," as opposed to "there can be too much of a good thing." Rogers would have you believe that the more congruence, the more honesty, the more intimacy, the more closeness, the more empathy, the better. Sounds good, but, as is the case with most linear thinking, it fails in the extreme, and that unfortunately is where it is taken by both Rogers and his students who seem to believe that all human problems from marriage to international negotiation should yield to the application of his principles of human communication. They cannot be solved with these techniques because they are not problems in an ordinary sense but complicated paradoxical dilemmas. It is both impossible and ultimately undesirable to try to deal with them in a linear fashion, as if human experience could be smoothed out, as if we could have peaks without valleys. For a revolutionary, Rogers has paid precious little attention to role, power, status, culture, politics, history, systems, technology, and, perhaps most significantly, the paradoxical quality of human experience. There is a kind of omnipotence and optimism in Rogers' work, a belief that all is possible with the tools of client-centered therapy.
In this connection, he continues to try to justify psychotherapy on its weakest point, that it produces constructive behavior change. It sometimes seems to me a pity that psychotherapy derived from medicine, a field where the benefits are expected to last. If it had developed instead out of a different field, say, for example, theatre, then we would not expect it to work after it was over, but only while it was going on. We have unfortunately burdened psychotherapy with an expectation on which it cannot very often deliver, that it will change behavior. In the process we have missed its great value.
We have expected it to fix people, to reform them. People do not need fixing, they are pretty good the way they are. It is more the situations which victimize them that need fixing, but we will not get to that task if we continue to believe that until we get people straightened out there is no point in trying to make changes in organizations or in society at large.
I, for one, hate to see Rogers bother with such a pragmatic, utilitarian question about therapy as "Does it work?" Everything "works"–all brands of therapy, even the off brands, work. So do all forms of religious conversion. Another way of putting this dilemma is that nothing "works." All these endeavors yield similar results. None of them is able to show much permanent change.
Rogers has given us a much more powerful and important idea. He has given us a way to be with one another, an ethical basis for human interaction, guidelines for the important considerations in assessing not just the outcome but the process of a relationship.
Rogers has changed behavior all right, but not in the way he believes. He has changed the way we all think about human relationships, the expectations we have about intimate personal contact, the nature of interpersonal and organizational behavior. Without realizing it he has revolutionized our ideas about human affairs. It is in this process that he has changed individuals by the millions.
It is my thesis that Rogers' greatest contribution has not been in giving us a technique to fix people, but in creating a new form, a new definition of relationship in which people can function more fully and be more self-determining. It is this new form that has had such an impact on every social institution and is to a great extent responsible for the revolution in participation that has dominated the social development of the United States in the last decade.
His work is basic to the restructuring of almost every field of human affairs. Consider some of the areas of influence. His ideas are the main ones used to support efforts toward democratic or participative management in industry. There has probably not been a single organizational development or management training program in twenty-five years which has not been built on his theoretical formulations. His ideas opened the way to student-centered teaching and learning and this philosophy of empowering the student contributed subsequently to the students' rights movement. His ideas cleared away the mystique of professionalism in psychiatry and the helping professions and gave impetus to the development and uti]ization of lay and paraprofessional resources and to the radical therapy movement. His ideas gave strength to dissident clergy unwilling to accept the hierarchical authority of the church. His ideas emphasized selfdirection and personal responsibility in all the fields of health and welfare and helped spawn thousands of self-help groups. His idea that the greatest resource for the solution of any problem is the very population that has the problem has led community organizers, welfare specialists, architects, and city planners to involve citizens from all segments of the community in the decisions which will ultimately affect them. His ideas form the core of the encounter-group experience, an experience in participation which has now been a part of the lives of perhaps as many as ten million Americans. His ideas about child-rearing have led millions of Americans to try to solve the problems of parenting in less power-centered, authority-based ways and have contributed directly to the new concepts of children's rights.
Taken together these developments describe and define the participative mood of America. Rogers becomes responsible along with a handful of other social revolutionaries for the healthy subversion of our blind obedience to authority and for the development of a new sense of trust and confidence in ourselves. We must include Rogers' name, not peripherally but centrally, as we identify the people who set the stage for this revolution of participation.
Surprisingly, Rogers has never thought of himself as a political person, never identified himself with social movements. But his work has had a consistent theme–that people can and should be trusted to direct their own lives. To a slogan which he has probably never used, "Power to the people," Rogers has given real substance and meaning.
Unfortunately, in spite of its proven impact, Rogers' work has been corrupted over the years by practitioners who have discovered the technique but not the philosophy. Rogers showed that marvelous things happened when a person was trusted and accepted, when a person's feelings were dignified and respected, when the person was given a sense of safety and understanding. With amazing sensitivity Rogers could stay right with a person's feelings, whatever they were, through all forms of defensiveness and hostility and fear. He followed every turn, every subtlety, and always let the person set the pace and the direction. And while there were many aimless, plodding hours, there were also many breakthroughs of insight and emotionality. When people were allowed to discuss their deepest feelings, whatever they were, and came to feel loved and accepted in the relationship, then they did indeed go into their feelings intensely and the emotions would run high.
But today's practitioners are impatient. They are not satisfied with such a pedestrian approach. They argue that if it is beneficial for people to talk about their feelings, then perhaps it is good to make sure that they do. To accomplish this all sorts of gimmicks have been invented to elicit the expression of feelings. From there it was a srnall step to force a person to talk about feelings. If there were no feelings to talk about, ways could be found to make sure that there would be feelings to talk about. And if tears accompanying the experienced feelings gave them more validity, then screams or nausea would be even more valid. So it has gone, and in the process Rogers' idea of respect for the person is in danger of disappearing. Authoritarian gimmickry seems irresistibly satisfying, even to humanistic psychologists. Rogers himself is sometimes caugllt up in this trend. Performance seems to be winning out over safety, aggressiveness over acceptance, emotionality over dignity. The newest forms of treatment to which people are flocking by the thousands are almost neofascist in their willinglless to use coercion and threat to evoke feelings which supposedly can then be explored to advantage.
As we become aware of the social and political consequences of these authoritarian movements, I believe they will be replaced by a new insistence on the dignity and worth of the individual and the right to selfdetermination I would predict, therefore, that we may see, in the not too distant future, a dramatic resurgence of interest in Rogerian psychology. Not because his methods are more potent or intensive or exciting. They aren't. But because they dignify us as persons. We recognize that Rogers cares most about the quality and integrity of relationships and the protection of human rights. When all the varied approaches are weighed, we will see that his protects people best because it protects them against those of us who think we know what's good for them.