Carl Rogers:
Where No Psychologist Went Before

Never overlook something that seems to be simple.

That's what Murray Levine, one of my professors in graduate school, always emphasized. I think this mistake is sometimes made concerning Carl Rogers and his work. Psychotherapeutic concepts such as "empathy," "reflection,""unconditional positive regard," and "self-actualization" seem so simple, even sugar-coated, that there's a tendency to overlook how profound they really are. In the hands of a master clinician, these ideas become an art that is as effective in exploring and healing the psyche as any therapeutic intervention. In fact, relatively recent approaches in psychoanalysis (e.g., self psychology, object relations theory) that emphasize the transformative impact of "empathy" and "mirroring" are really not that far from the humanistic notions about the ingredients necessary for self-actualization. In many respects, Rogers was a pioneering psychologist.

I also like to point out to my students that Rogers plays an important historical role in the development of psychology and psychotherapy. He was one of the first, if not THE first, PSYCHOLOGIST to propose a comprehensive theory about psychotherapy. Prior to Rogers, the major l forms of therapy centered around psychiatry and psychoanalysis.


Drawing from the psychology graphics library at Sonoma University.


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