Carl Rogers and Humanistic
CPSY 631
FALL 2010
History and Background
 Born in 1902 in Chicago
 Background in psychology and
education, Ph.D. from Columbia
in 1931
 Greatly influenced by Alfred Adler
(Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003)
 Clinical experience in college
counseling centers into the 1960s
 Development of person-centered
 President of APA in 1946 (Schultz &
Schultz, 1994)
• Rejected the unconscious as a
dominant force beyond our control
(Schultz & Schultz, 1994).
• “Rejected the notion that past
events exert a controlling influence
on present behavior” and asserted
that while “childhood experiences
can affect the way we perceive
ourselves and our
environment,…that present feelings
and emotions are of greater
importance to the personality” (Schultz
& Schultz, 1994, p. 301).
Not very much like Freud
(pictured here)
Rogers on Personality
 “Rogers believed that personality can only be
understood from the person’s own viewpoint,
based on his or her subjective experiences. Thus,
Rogers deals with reality as it is consciously
perceived by each of us, and he noted that this
perception may not always coincide with objective
reality” (Schultz & Schultz, 1994, p. 302).
The Self
 The self is a central construct in Rogers’ theory
(Pescitelli, 1996).
 The self “develops through interactions with others
and involves awareness of being and functioning,”
and the concept of the self “is based largely on the
social evaluations [a person] has experienced” (Pescitelli,
1996, p. 1).
 The self is “a major manifestation of the actualizing
tendency, which…inclines the organism toward
greater differentiation and complexity” (Hergenhahn & Olson,
2003, p. 471).
A Positive View
 “An essentially optimistic view of human motivation
and human nature” (Derlega et al., 2005, p. 138).
Humans as innately good
“We can say that there is in every organism, at
whatever level, an underlying flow of movement
toward constructive fulfillment of its inherent
possibilities. In human beings, too, there is a natural
tendency toward a more complex and complete
development. The term that has most often been
used for this is the “actualizing tendency,” and it is
present in all living organisms” (Rogers, 1980, pp. 117-118).
The Actualizing Tendency
 The actualizing tendency is “a central, organizing
or “master” motive [that] guides human behavior”
(Derlega et al., 2005, p. 138).
 “The actualizing tendency is the natural human urge
“to actualize, maintain, and enhance the
experiencing organism”” (Rogers, 1951, p. 487 as cited in Hergenhahn &
Olson, 2003, p. 468).
 Individuals thrive when this tendency is supported
and suffer when this tendency is constrained (Derlega et
al, 2005).
 Self-actualization is the goal
Can the actualizing tendency be thwarted?
 “The actualizing tendency can, of course, be thwarted
or warped, but it cannot be destroyed without
destroying the organism” (Rogers, 1980, p. 118).
 This can happen when conflict exists “between a
person’s inner experience and tendency toward
actualization, and the need to be held in positive
regard by others” (Derlega et al., 2005, p. 138).
 To avoid this experience, individuals must
experience unconditional positive regard.
Unconditional Positive Regard
 Unconditional positive
regard allows the
individual to avoid
conflict between their
actualizing tendency and
their desire to be held in
positive regard by others.
 Basis of healthy
personality development
(Derlega et al., 2005, p. 139).
The Role of The Parent
 Ideally, unconditional positive
regard would come from a
child’s parents in the form of
“unfailing expressions of
acceptance, sympathy, warmth,
and care for the child” (Derlega et al.,
2005, p. 138).
 The child learns to trust their
own feelings and experiences
(Derlega et al., 2005, p. 138).
Positive Self-Regard
 An internalized
positive regard
 Results from the
experience of
positive regard
from others
 Allows for a
positive selfconcept and selftrust
Conditions of Worth
 Unconditional positive regard
is uncommon.
 “When significant others in
the person's world (usually
parents) provide positive
regard that is conditional,
rather than unconditional,
the person introjects the
desired values, making them
his/her own, and acquires
“conditions of worth””
(Rogers, 1959 as cited in Pescitelli, 2006, p.
 The need for positive regard fuels “a selective
perception of experience in terms of the conditions
of worth” that are perceived by the individual (Pescitelli,
1996, p. 1).
 The individual accurately perceives and experiences
that are “in accordance” with the conditions of
worth, and distorts or denies experiences that are
not (Pescitelli, 1996, p. 1).
 “This leads to an incongruence between the self as
perceived and the actual experience of the organism,
resulting in possible confusion, tension, and
maladaptive behavior” (Rogers, 1959 as cited in Pescitelli, 1996, p.1).
The Fully Functioning Person
 Results from the
experience of
positive regard
leading to positive
 Such individuals
trust their own
judgment, easily
correct mistakes, and
are free from the
constrains of
“conditions of worth”
(Derlega et al., 2005, p. 139).
The Fully Functioning Person
 “Fully functioning” involves the following (Boeree, 2006):
 1. Openness to experience: an accurate perception
and acceptance of reality. Openness to feelings is
necessary for actualization. May be difficult due to
perceived conditions of worth.
2. Existential living: living in the present.
3. Organismic trusting: doing what feels natural, but
assumes the actualizing tendency.
4. Experiential freedom: acknowledging feelings of
freedom and taking responsibility for choices.
5. Creativity: participation in the world (similar to
Erikson’s generativity).
Not a “Pollyanna view of human nature”
 Rogers acknowledges that sometimes, despite the
actualizing tendency, people do bad things.
“I do not have a Pollyanna view of human nature. I
am quite aware that out of defensiveness and inner
fear individuals can and do behave in ways which
are incredibly cruel, horribly destructive, immature,
regressive, anti-social, and hurtful. Yet one of the
most refreshing and invigorating parts of my
experience is to work with such individuals and to
discover the strongly positive directional tendencies
which exist in them, as in all of us, at the deepest
levels” (Rogers, 1961, p. 27 as cited in Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003, pp. 469-470).
People Can Change
 Most people did not experience
unconditional positive regard
from their caregivers and are
constrained by conditions of
worth. Such people are
functioning below that of a fully
functioning person.
 Change is possible.
 Such individuals can still develop
psychologically and remove the
constrains of conditions of worth
though a therapeutic experience
with an appropriate environment
(Pescitelli, 1996).
“What if my parents
didn’t provide me
with unconditional
positive regard?”
The Person-Centered Approach to Therapy
 “Individuals have within themselves vast
resources for self-understanding and for
altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes,
and self-directed behavior; these resources
can be tapped if a definable climate of
facilitative psychological attitudes can be
provided” (Rogers, 1980, p. 115).
The Person-Centered Approach to Therapy
 “There are three conditions that must be present in
order for a climate to be growth-promoting. These
conditions apply whether we are speaking of the
relationship between therapist and client, parent and
child, leader and group, teacher and student, or
administrator and staff. These conditions apply, in
fact, in any situation in which the development of the
person is a goal” (Rogers, 1980, p. 115).
The Three Conditions
 Genuineness, realness, or congruence
 “The term “transparent catches the flavor of this condition: the therapist
makes himself or herself transparent to the client; the client can see right
through what the therapist is in the relationship; the client experiences no
holding back on the part of the therapist” (Rogers, 1980, p. 115).
 Acceptance or caring
 “What I have called “unconditional positive regard.” When the therapist is
experiencing a positive, acceptant attitude toward whatever the client is at
that moment, therapeutic movement or change is more likely to occur” (p.
 Empathic understanding
 “The therapist senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that
the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the
client” (p. 116).
 6 min. (3:00-9:00) video clip of Rogers discussing the three conditions
The Q-Sort Technique
 A technique found useful by Rogers (Hergenhahn & Olson,
 Client is given 100 cards with statements such as “I
am intelligent” and “I despise myself” and are asked
to sort the cards in piles representing “least like me”
to “most like me.” The “most like me” piles represent
the client's “real self.”
 Client is then asked to sort the cards again, but to
sort them to describe how they want to be. This
reflects the client’s “ideal self” (Hergenhahn & Olson, 2003).
Class Activity
 Please break into groups of approx. 4 and discuss the
 Unconditional positive regard is not the norm within
families. Most people experience conditional
positive regard. What were some of the conditions
of worth you perceived as having been or as being a
part of your life experience? How has the effect of
these conditions changed over time, if at all? (If you
feel that you experienced unconditional positive
regard, please share that experience).
 Boeree, C. G. (2006). Carl Rogers. Retrieved September 20,
2009 from
Derlega, V., Winstead, B. A., & Jones, W. H. (2005).
Personality (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson
Hergenhahn, B. R. & Olson, M. H. (2003). An introduction
to theories of personality (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Prentice Hall.
Pescitelli, D. (1996). An analysis of Carl Rogers’ theory of
personality. Retrieved September 20, 2009 from theory.
Rogers, C. R. (1980). A Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Schultz, D. & Schultz, E. S. (1994). Theories of Personality
(5th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing

Carl Rogers and Humanistic Psychology