Carl Rogers

On this date in 1902, humanistic psychologist Carl Ransom Rogers was born in Oak Park, Ill., one of five children of Walter and Julia Rogers. His conservative Protestant parents created a home filled with prayer and protection for their children from society's influences. With few outside friends, Rogers led a quiet, sheltered life, reading and studying. When Rogers was a teenager, his family moved to a country house, where he developed a love of nature. Enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rogers decided to study agriculture. He then changed his major to history and then to religion. While on a trip to Peking, China, for an international Christian conference, Rogers started to doubt his religious convictions, although it took two years in seminary before he left his religious track and decided to study teaching. Rogers obtained his M.A. from Columbia University in 1928 and his Ph.D. in 1931. While working on his doctorate, he was involved in child studies at the Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Children, in Rochester, N.Y., becoming the center's director. He began to engage in a new relational approach to psychotherapy and, in 1939, wrote his first book, "The Clinical Treatment of the Problem Child. He became a full professor at Ohio State University and, in 1942, wrote a second book, Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice, wherein patients could gain the necessary insight to restructure their own lives in conjunction with an empathetic therapist. The premise of self-help and self-understanding was contrary to prior clinical methodologies, in which the psychologist told the patient what to do.

In 1945, Rogers was asked to begin a new counseling center at the University of Chicago and, in 1951, he published his breakthrough work, Client-Centered Therapy, which outlined his basic theory. Rogers became president of the American Academy of Psychotherapists in 1956 and a year later returned to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to work in the Department of Psychology. After becoming disillusioned with academia, Rogers moved to LaJolla, Calif., in 1964, where he worked on the staff at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. In 1964, he was named "Humanist of the Year" by the American Humanist Association. He remained in LaJolla for the rest of his life, doing therapy, giving speeches and writing. Rogers wrote numerous journal articles, and 16 books, the best known being On Becoming a Person (1962). He traveled worldwide to promote his theories in the areas of education, the social sciences and in national social conflict, specifically focusing his efforts on leading encounter groups between people of conflicting political factions. In 1987, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with international intergroup conflict in South Africa and Northern Ireland. He is rated as one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century by the American Psychological Association. He died of a heart attack at age 85. D. 1987.


“I disagree with manipulative approaches to therapy; to assume that one person can be in charge of another's life is a dangerous philosophy. My own philosophy is based on the conviction that people have within themselves the resources and capacity for self-understanding and self-correction. . . . In the [Northern Ireland encounter] groups, you see each other as a person, not as those evil Catholics and Protestants. The feelings of irrational hostility dissolve. ”

—Carl Rogers, The New York Times, obituary article (February 6, 1987)

Compiled by Jane Esbensen

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

Contribute to Nonbelief Relief

FFRF privacy statement