Biography of Carl Rogers


Carl Rogers was born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. He was born to a large family being the fourth of six children. His childhood was not a happy experience primarily due to the fundamentalist Christian beliefs held by his family and the accompanying practice of isolating their children from the bad influence of the outside world.

Carl’s family moved to a farm outside of Chicago when he was 12 years old. He filled his solitary hours in exploring nature and developed a keen interest in science. He described himself as being socially inept and felt like a social outcast as a teenager.  


Carl’s life took a drastic chan when he entered the University of Wisconsin in 1919. He joined the local YMCA and developed good friendships for the first time. He started dating in college. His view greatly expanded after spending six months in 1922 as a delegate to the World Student Christian Federation conference held in Peking, China.

Rogers changed his major and religious affiliation upon his return from China. He decided to major in history with the intention of eventually becoming a minister. After graduating with his undergraduate degree in 1924, Rogers entered Union Theological Seminary in New York. The experience was so discouraging and lifeless that he withdrew two years later and entered the Teachers College at Columbia University. He received an MA in 1928 and a Ph.D. in 1931.


The first position taken by Rogers after graduate school was with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester, New York. He found that the psychoanalytical style of counseling did not work well with victims of trauma. The clients that seemed to benefit most from counseling were those with whom he demonstrated empathy and encouraged openness without shaming.

Rogers entered academia in 1940. He first served as a professor at Ohio State University. His stint in academia afforded him the opportunity to develop and refine his theory of counseling that became known as Client-centered Therapy.

Client-centered Therapy set the tone for counseling theories through the 1970s and influences therapeutic techniques to this day. The basic premises of the theory are that people are basically good; and therapy should focus on the client rather than the problem. Rogers believed that people were driven to self-actualization and that distortions in the client’s view of self are a product of perception. The key for the counselor is to create an environment where the client is unconditionally accepted by the counselor and is encouraged to explore areas of incongruence that exist between the real self and the ideal self.

He became a prolific writer from the 1940s until the 1980s. He wrote more than 15 books and over 200 articles. Client-centered Therapy spread from individual counseling to applications in group and marriage counseling. Rogers died in 1987.