There are numerous personality theories one could choose from in pursuit of an explanation on human behavior. Some theories focus on stages of development, complete unconscious control, or the concept that personality is governed by a pre-disposition directly related to genetic tendencies. Carl Rogers, however, focused his theory, the Person-Centered Theory, on the basis that individuals are self-actualizing and learn and develop in response to current circumstances. According to Hergenhahn and Olson (2007), “Rogers postulated one master motive that he called self-actualization, the organism has one basic tendency and striving—to actualize, maintain, and enhance the experiencing organism. Rogers further postulated that there is one central source of energy in the human organism; that is a function of the whole organism rather than some portion of it; and that it is perhaps best conceptualized as a tendency toward fulfillment, toward actualization, toward the maintenance and enhancement of the organism” (page 443). Rogers’ theory led to the formation of what he is best known for, humanistic person-centered approach to therapy. Rogers’ therapy approach has been embraced since the development of such; not only in traditional therapy, but across multiple realms. Rogers’ person-centered approach to therapy is the most influential and widely embraced therapy approach in use today. To be a successful therapist, educator, co-worker, friend, and parent one must also embrace Rogers’ theory and approach.
Carl Rogers was born January 8th, 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. Here, he lived in a large financially secure family as a middle child. He was raised in an environment of strict religion and strong familial bonds; relationships outside of the family were not allowed due to Rogers’ parent’s beliefs that individuals outside of the immediate familial unit participated in bad and forbidden behavior. As a result, Rogers was a loner and occupied his time with excessive reading. When he was an adolescent, his family moved to a farm and Rogers developed a keen interest in science. His first science related project was to study and educate himself on a certain breed of moth; and subsequently trap, breed, and raise the moths.
In 1919, Rogers enrolled at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in pursuit of an agriculture degree. Rogers carried his instilled religious beliefs into the early years in college and in 1922 he, along with 9 other students, participated in a 6 month conference in China. It was during this conference and his time away from his family’s influence that Rogers’ beliefs began to change. He experienced different cultures, beliefs, and religions and his belief in Jesus changed dramatically. Rogers knew after the experience in China that he could not return to the strict familial religious beliefs he had been raised with; and he wrote to his parents announcing that he could not return home. After returning from his conference in China, Rogers changed his major from agriculture to history and subsequently received his degree in 1924.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Rogers married, against family wishes, his childhood girlfriend. He enrolled in a seminary and spent a short 2 years before he realized that the best avenue to help people was not found in the religious realm. Rogers left the seminary and received his masters, and subsequently his PhD, in clinical and educational psychology from Columbia University. After receiving his PhD, Rogers took a position as a psychologist in New York for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This position had a great influence on Rogers’ latter theory. It was in this position that Rogers discovered how ineffective psychoanalytic therapy is, how no one individual could define the best approach to therapy, and how frustrating it was to try to develop “insight” into a problem. Rogers developed an acute sense of...
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