Carl Rogers Psychologist Biography

Carl Rogers is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding thinkers in psychology. He is best known for developing psychotherapeutics called client-centered therapy, and is one of the founders of humanistic psychology.

Quick glance

  • Born: January 8, 1902, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Died: February 4, 1987, La Jolla, California
  • Take: Customer-centric therapy, fully functional people, self-realization

early life

Carl Ransom Rogers was born in Oak Mountain, Illinois in 1902. His father is a civil engineer and his mother is a housewife; he is the fourth of six children. Rogers has achieved great success in school since he was a child: he started reading before the age of 5 and was able to skip kindergarten and first grade.

When he was 12 years old, his family moved from the suburbs to the countryside. He studied at the University of Wisconsin in 1919, majoring in agriculture. However, after attending the Christian Conference in China in 1922, Rogers began to question his career choices. Later, he changed his major to history and planned to become a minister.

In 1924, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in history. In 1926, he transferred to Columbia University Teachers College to study at the United Theological Seminary and obtained a master’s degree.

One reason he chose to abandon his pursuit of theology was the student-led religious seminars, which made him question his beliefs. Another inspiration for his turning to psychology research was a course he took at Columbia University taught by psychologist Letter Hollingworth.

Rogers believes that psychology is a way to continue to study many problems in life without having to follow specific doctrines. He decided to take a course in clinical psychology at Columbia University and completed his doctorate in 1931.


After receiving his doctorate, Rogers worked in academia for several years, successively holding positions at Ohio State University, University of Chicago, and University of Wisconsin.

It was during this time that Rogers developed his treatment method, which he initially called “unguided treatment.” This approach involves the therapist acting as a facilitator rather than the supervisor of the treatment course, and is ultimately called client-centric therapy.

In 1946, Rogers was elected President of the American Psychological Association. Rogers wrote 19 books and numerous articles outlining his theory of humanism.His most famous works include Customer-centric therapy (1951), About being a person (1961) and A way of being (1980).

After some conflicts occurred in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Rogers accepted a position at the Western Behavior Institute (WBSI) in La Jolla, California. Eventually, he and several colleagues left WBSI and established the Center for Human Research (CSP).

In 1987, Rogers was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He continued to engage in client-centered therapy until his death in 1987.

Important theory


Rogers believes that all people have an inherent need to grow and realize their potential. He believes that this need to achieve self-realization is one of the main motivations driving behavior.

Unconditional active attention

Rogers suggested that for psychotherapy to be successful, the therapist must provide unconditional active attention to the client. This means that the therapist accepts visitors as they are and allows them to express positive and negative feelings without judgment or blame.


Rogers believes that the formation of a healthy self-concept is a continuous process shaped by a person’s life experience. People with stable self-awareness tend to have more confidence and deal with challenges in life more effectively.

Rogers believes that self-concept begins to develop in childhood and is severely affected by parental upbringing. Parents who give their children unconditional love and respect are more likely to develop a healthy self-concept. Children who feel that they must “win” their parents’ love may end up with low self-esteem and low self-esteem.


Rogers also said that people often have a concept of their “ideal self.” The problem is that the image of who we think we should be does not always match our perception of who we are today. When our self-image is inconsistent with our ideal self, we are in an inconsistent state.

Rogers believes that by accepting unconditional positive attention and pursuing self-realization, people can approach a state of consensus.

Fully functional person

Rogers suggested that people who are constantly striving to achieve their realization tendencies may become what he calls fully functional people. A fully functional person is a person who is exactly the same and lives in the present.

Like many other aspects of his theory, unconditional active attention plays a key role in fully functioning development. Those who receive non-judgmental support and love can develop self-esteem and self-confidence, become the best people, and reach their full potential.

According to Rogers, a fully functional person has the following characteristics:

  • Flexible self-concept
  • Open experience
  • The ability to live in harmony with others
  • Respect yourself unconditionally

Contribution to psychology

Carl Rogers emphasized human potential, which has had a huge impact on psychology and education. In addition to this, many people consider him to be one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century. Compared with any other psychologist, more therapists regard Rogers as their main influence.

As his daughter Natalie Rogers describes, he is “a model of compassion and democratic ideals in his own life and in his work as an educator, writer, and therapist.”

In his own words

“For me, experience is the highest authority. The touchstone of effectiveness is my own experience. No one else’s thoughts and my own thoughts are as authoritative as my experience. This is what I have to return time and time again. Experience, in order to discover something closer to the truth, because it is in the process of becoming me.” —— Carl Rogers About being a person, 1954

Featured Publications

Rogers C. (1951) Customer-centric therapy: its current practice, influence and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers C. (1961) Becoming a person: the therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers C. (1980) A way of being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Cohen, D. (1997) Carl Rogers. Critical biography. London: Police officer.

Thorne, B. (1992) Carl Rogers. London: Saints.