I think that it is accurate to say that the 'first wave' of guidance counsellors who received their counselling training in Ireland did so based largely on the theory and philosophy of counselling formulated by Carl Ransom Rogers (1902 - 1987), considered, by many, to be the most influential psychologist in American history. A leader in the humanistic psychology movement of the 1960's through the 1980's: more than any other individual he was responsible for the spread of professional counselling and psychotherapy beyond psychiatry and psychoanalysis to all the helping professions.
He was one of the helping professions most prolific writers, authoring sixteen books and more than two hundred professional articles and research studies on the major new approach to psychotherapy which he pioneered, known successively as 'non-directive', 'client centred' and 'person centred' counselling. Nowadays pre-service and in-service counsellor training offers a much more varied approach to theory and practice. Nonetheless, it is timely to re-evaluate this theory which formed many of us as counsellors and to look with new eyes at what Rogers still has to offer us through his work.
Origins / Brief History
Born in Oak Ridge, a small village on the outskirts of Chicago in 1902, Rogers had a very strict up-bringing which affected his initial choice of college study. At university, his interests and academic major changed from Agriculture to History, then to Religion and finally to Clinical Psychology when he enrolled for a degree in that area in Teachers College, Columbia University.
Rogers received his doctorate in 1931, and in 1937 he published his first major book: The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child. His second, Counselling and Psychotherapy was published in 1942. Apart from its innovative ideas, what is most striking about this book is that over one third of it consisted of a transcript of electronically recorded sessions with a client called Herbert Byran. These recordings provided Rogers and his students with a unique opportunity to study therapeutic processes in detail. This willingness to lay bare the processes involved in counselling is a significant legacy of Rogers' who can be considered a pioneer in his insistence on subjecting the transcripts of therapy sessions to critical examination, and applying research technology to counsellor - client dialogue.
Rogers became an influential figure in psychotherapeutic circles, gaining respect as a therapist, theorist, researcher and author. In 1956, he received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award; the American Psychology Association's highest honour.
He was also elected as the first President of the American Academy of Psychotherapy and was invited to be a visiting professor at a number of prestigious universities.
Up to 1957 Rogers had used his approach with mildly disturbed or 'neurotic' individuals. At the University of Wisconsin, where he was now Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Roger's pioneering spirit made him explore the possibilities of using the client-centred approach, as it was then called, with more disturbed people including schizophrenics.
In 1961, his book On Becoming a Person was published. At a time when interest was stirring in the rights of women, ethnic minorities and civil rights, the views expressed in his book, with its emphasis on helping individuals reach their full potential, meshed with those developments. By the Summer of 1963, Rogers had moved to La Jolla, California to become Resident Fellow of the Western Behavioural Sciences Institute. In 1968, with others, he formed the Centre for the Studies of the Person. During the last 15 years of his life he applied the person-centred approach to politics by training policy-makers, leaders and groups in conflict.
Rogers' formative training in psychology was...