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On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy (1961)

by Carl R. Rogers

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1,212712,493 (4.11)7
The late Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic psychology movement, revolutionized psychotherapy with his concept of "client-centered therapy." His influence has spanned decades, but that influence has become so much a part of mainstream psychology that the ingenious nature of his work has almost been forgotten. A new introduction by Peter Kramer sheds light on the significance of Dr. Rogers's work today. New discoveries in the field of psychopharmacology, especially that of the antidepressant Prozac, have spawned a quick-fix drug revolution that has obscured the psychotherapeutic relationship. As the pendulum slowly swings back toward an appreciation of the therapeutic encounter, Dr. Rogers's "client-centered therapy" becomes particularly timely and important.… (more)
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  1. 00
    Motivation and Personality by Abraham H. Maslow (PlaidStallion)
    PlaidStallion: Referenced in part IV A Philosophy of Persons chapter 8 “To Be That Self Which One Truly Is”: A Therapist’s View of Personal Goals

    Closely related to this openness to inner and outer experience in general is an openness to and an acceptance of other individuals. As a client moves toward being able to accept his own experience, he also moves toward the acceptance of the experience of others. He values and appreciates both his own experience and that of others for what it is. To quote Maslow again regarding his self-actualizing individuals: “One does not complain about water because it is wet, nor about rocks because they are hard. . . . As the child looks out upon the world with wide, uncritical and innocent eyes, simply noting and observing what is the case, without either arguing the matter or demanding that it be otherwise, so does the self-actualizing person look upon human nature both in himself and in others.” This acceptant attitude toward that which exists, I find developing in clients in therapy.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Sickness Unto Death by Søren Kierkegaard (PlaidStallion)
    PlaidStallion: Referenced in part IV A Philosophy of Persons chapter 8 “To Be That Self Which One Truly Is”: A Therapist's View of Personal Goals

    The best way I can state this aim of life, as I see it coming to light in my relationship with my clients, is to use the words of Søren Kierkegaard—“to be that self which one truly is.” I am quite aware that this may sound so simple as to be absurd. To be what one is seems like a statement of obvious fact rather than a goal. What does it mean? What does it imply? I want to devote the remainder of my remarks to those issues. I will simply say at the outset that it seems to mean and imply some strange things. Out of my experience with my clients, and out of my own self-searching, I find myself arriving at views which would have been very foreign to me ten or fifteen years ago. So I trust you will look at these views with critical scepticism, and accept them only in so far as they ring true in your own experience.… (more)
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First published in 1967, this dated psychology book is easy to read and provides a good understanding of Rogers' client-based approach to psychotherapy. Where I feel the book falls down is that it wasn't actually written as a book but instead is a medley of articles, lectures from various institutes, and parts of other books; and so at times it can be quite repetitive. Towards the end of the book, it did become more diverse as the techniques were applied to education, family groups, creativity, communication and politics. I was intrigued by the student-centred approach to teaching. The last part of the book was on Behavioural therapy, mostly relating to Burrhus Frederic Skinner (and his book Walden Two). ( )
  AChild | Aug 23, 2021 |
Got through 70% of it. I like much of what Rogers has to say but sometimes a book has to be relevant to your current problems or interests to be worth the read. Currently, not worth more time spent on it.

I do recommend it for any aspiring therapists. ( )
  SeekingApatheia | Apr 13, 2021 |
This book is quite possibly the best book that I have read as a part of my graduate school experience thus far.

This is the third theory book that I have read (Skinner, Jung) and Rogers is the most easy to get along with and understand. Rogers is humble, and every step of the way takes you along his journey to how he developed person centered therapy. At no point does he insist that his theory is the right one, or the only, but he says that his theory is what he has developed from his own experiences.

I would definitely recommend!! ( )
1 vote csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
This book is quite possibly the best book that I have read as a part of my graduate school experience thus far.

This is the third theory book that I have read (Skinner, Jung) and Rogers is the most easy to get along with and understand. Rogers is humble, and every step of the way takes you along his journey to how he developed person centered therapy. At no point does he insist that his theory is the right one, or the only, but he says that his theory is what he has developed from his own experiences.

I would definitely recommend!! ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Although this isn't saying much by itself in my opinion, Rogers is certainly better than Freud, (and Skinner seems pretty heartless and mechanical too)-- more human, less arrogant and hung-up on himself......

Also, although again this isn't saying much in itself, he writes better prose than Jung; it is nice to read someone who can write readable English.....

And a bright humanist faith illuminates the work throughout.

.....................

Now, I suppose that the most relevant criticism of his thought would be from the tension between authenticity-- *"In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something I am not*. It does not help to act calm and pleasant when actually I am angry and critical.... I have not found it to be helpful or effective in my relationships with other people to maintain a façade; to act in one way on the surface when I am experiencing something quite different underneath."-- and unconditional positive regard for all persons.

Probably much of the same criticism and ill feeling directed at Carl Rogers has also been directed at Jane Bennet and all like her-- "Do clear *them* too, or we shall be obliged to think ill of somebody", her younger sister sneered at her. In other words, if you think well of *everyone*, then you must just not be very serious at all.

And perhaps the criticism is not without some teeth. If we think well of Rogers, or Jane, then we do aspire to love all people, to be sincere and even pacifistic in nature towards everyone. But then our ire is naturally and automatically aroused when we meet the rogue and the fighter, (the Wickham), and then it seems for a time difficult if not impossible to write a story without villains-- as if we could expel someone from the family of humanity as though from a school.... as though we could write a story in which only some of the characters are humans, and the rest are ogres and trolls.

But if we like how we are treated by the Rogerses and the Janes of the world, then perhaps there is something to how they think.

Often what Rogers writes does not appear usually to be exceptional to me, but he is reasonable, and his very reasonableness can be charming. Likewise, there is nothing new about the idea that love is the answer, but if that is true, then that is more than enough to recommend it.

It's easy enough to roll off Rogers' Big Three Qualifications for good therapy: authenticity, unconditional positive regard, and empathy-- which I suppose is a sort of love, although clearly of a certain kind, and not the only kind-- but clearly alot of thought went into the writing of these rather readable words.

.... I wouldn't say that it is merely a matter of behavior, although behavior is the fruit, but there is more than simply acting as if you really did have an unconditional positive regard for someone if you really don't, and simply hoping as though the salutary effects of positive action would change your feelings.... You could do worse than this, but simply faking positive feelings would violate the sense of genuineness that we all desire to receive, and so ought to strive to provide.

{Better than just hoping is to have a real genuine, shining humanist faith, that there really is a way to have unconditional positive regard for all those whom you meet.... that there really is a way to have a story without villains....}

But if you can really have empathy for the person-- if you can feel about them the way that you might feel about yourself, despite all the differences.... if you can love that other person, the way that Jane loved Darcy when he seemed like he was a fool at best, by really feeling for him.... and not just loving Charles because they were both such easily-lovable people.....

The thing is, that despite the rather utilitarian prose of Rogers, he is really writing about love.

(9/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | May 8, 2014 |
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Very closely related to this learning is a corollary that, evaluation by others is not a guide for me. The judgments of others, while they are to be listened to, and taken into account for what they are, can never be a guide for me. This has been a hard thing to learn. I remember how shaken I was, in the early days, when a scholarly thoughtful man who seemed to me a much more competent and knowledgeable psychologist than I, told me what a mistake I was making by getting interested in psychotherapy. It could never lead anywhere, and as a psychologist I would not even have the opportunity to practice it.

In later years it has sometimes jolted me a bit to learn that I am, in the eyes of some others, a fraud, a person practicing medicine without a license, the author of a very superficial and damaging sort of therapy, a power seeker, a mystic, etc. And I have been equally disturbed by equally extreme praise. But I have not been too much concerned because I have come to feel that only one person (at least in my lifetime, and perhaps ever) can know whether what I am doing is honest, thorough, open, and sound, or false and defensive and unsound, and I am that person. I am happy to get all sorts of evidence regarding what I am doing and criticism (both friendly and hostile) and praise (both sincere and fawning) are a part of such evidence. But to weigh this evidence and to determine its meaning and usefulness is a task I cannot relinquish to anyone else.
In view of what I have been saying the next learning will probably not surprise you. Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process, of becoming in me.

Neither the Bible nor the prophets—neither Freud nor research—neither the revelations of God nor man—can take precedence over my own direct experience.

My experience is the more authoritative as it becomes more primary, to use the semanticist's term. Thus the hierarchy of experience would be most authoritative at its lowest level. If I read a theory of psychotherapy, and if I formulate a theory of psychotherapy based on my work with clients, and if I also have a direct experience of psychotherapy with a client, then the degree of authority increases in the order in which I have listed these experiences.

My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.
There is one deep learning which is perhaps basic to all of the things I have said thus far. It has been forced upon me by more than twenty-five years of trying to be helpful to individuals in personal distress. It is simply this. It has been my experience that persons have a basically positive direction. In my deepest contacts with individuals in therapy, even those whose troubles are most disturbing, whose behavior has been most anti-social, whose feelings seem most abnormal, I find this to be true. When I can sensitively understand the feelings which they are expressing, when I am able to accept them as separate persons in their own right, then I find that they tend to move in certain directions. And what are these directions in which they tend to move? The words which I believe are most truly descriptive are words such as positive, constructive, moving toward self-actualization, growing toward maturity, growing toward socialization. I have come to feel that the more fully the individual is understood and accepted, the more he tends to drop the false fronts with which he has been meeting life, and the more he tends to move in a direction which is forward.

I would not want to be misunderstood on this. 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, 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.
The reactions of the client who experiences for a time the kind of therapeutic relationship which I have described are a reciprocal of the therapist's attitudes. In the first place, as he finds someone else listening acceptantly to his feelings, he little by little becomes able to listen to himself. He begins to receive the communications from within himself—to realize that he is angry, to recognize when he is frightened, even to realize when he is feeling courageous. As he becomes more open to what is going on within him he becomes able to listen to feelings which he has always denied and repressed. He can listen to feelings which have seemed to him so terrible, or so disorganizing, or so abnormal, or so shameful, that he has never been able to recognize their existence in himself.

While he is learning to listen to himself he also becomes more acceptant of himself. As he expresses more and more of the hidden and awful aspects of himself, he finds the therapist showing a consistent and unconditional positive regard for him and his feelings. Slowly he moves toward taking the same attitude toward himself, accepting himself as he is, and therefore ready to move forward in the process of becoming.

And finally as he listens more accurately to the feelings within, and becomes less evaluation and more acceptant toward himself, he also moves toward greater congruence. He finds it possible to move out from behind the façades he has used, to drop his defensive behaviors, and more openly to be what he truly is. As these changes occur, as he becomes more self-aware, more self-acceptant, less defensive and more open, he finds that he is at last free to change and grow in the directions natural to the human organism.
But let me turn to the outcomes of therapy, to the relatively lasting changes which occur. As in the other things I have said I will limit myself to statements borne out by research evidence. The client changes and reorganizes his concept of himself. He moves away from perceiving himself as unacceptable to himself, as unworthy of respect, as having to live by the standards of others. He moves toward a conception of himself as a person of worth, as a self-directing person, able to form his standards and values upon the basis of his own experience. He develops much more positive attitudes toward himself. One study showed that at the beginning of therapy current attitudes toward self were four to one negative, but in the final fifth of therapy self-attitudes were twice as often positive as negative. He becomes less defensive, and hence more open to his experience of himself and of others. He becomes more realistic and differentiated in his perceptions. He improves in his psychological adjustment, whether this is measured by the Rorschach test, the Thematic Apperception Test, the counselor's rating, or other indices. His aims and ideals for himself change so that they are more achievable. The initial discrepancy between the self that he is and the self that he wants to be is greatly diminished. Tension of all types is reduced—physiological tension, psychological discomfort, anxiety. He perceives other individuals with more realism and more acceptance. He describes his own behavior as being more mature and, what is more important, he is seen by others who know him well as behaving in a more mature fashion.

Not only are these changes shown by various studies to occur during the period of therapy, but careful follow-up studies conducted six to eighteen months following the conclusion of therapy indicate that these changes persist.

Perhaps the facts I have given will make it clear why I feel that we are approaching the point where we can write a genuine equation in this subtle area of interpersonal relationships. Using all of the research findings we have, here is a tentative formulation of the crude equation which I believe contains the facts.

The more that the client perceives the therapist as real or genuine, as empathic, as having an unconditional regard for him, the more the client will move away from a static, fixed, unfeeling, impersonal type of functioning, and the more he will move toward a way of functioning marked by a fluid, changing, acceptant experiencing of differentiated personal feelings. The consequence of this movement is an alteration in personality and behavior in the direction of psychic health and maturity and more realistic relationships to self, others, and the environment.
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The late Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic psychology movement, revolutionized psychotherapy with his concept of "client-centered therapy." His influence has spanned decades, but that influence has become so much a part of mainstream psychology that the ingenious nature of his work has almost been forgotten. A new introduction by Peter Kramer sheds light on the significance of Dr. Rogers's work today. New discoveries in the field of psychopharmacology, especially that of the antidepressant Prozac, have spawned a quick-fix drug revolution that has obscured the psychotherapeutic relationship. As the pendulum slowly swings back toward an appreciation of the therapeutic encounter, Dr. Rogers's "client-centered therapy" becomes particularly timely and important.

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