Carl Rogers Core Conditions Essay

Carl Rogers, core conditions and education. Best known for his contribution to client-centered therapy and his role in the development of counselling, Rogers also had much to say about education and group work.

contents: introduction · core conditions · carl rogers on education · rogers’ influence · further reading and references · links · how to cite this article

Carl Ransom Rogers (1902 – 1987) was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and is best known as the founder of ‘client-centred’ or ‘non-directive’ therapy. Rogers initially studied theology – and as part of his studies acted as the pastor in a small church in Vermont. However, he turned to clinical and educational psychology, studying at Teachers’ College of Columbia University. There he grew into clinical practice drawing on such diverse sources as Otto Rank and John Dewey (the latter through the influence of W. H. Kilpatrick – a former student of Dewey’s). This mix of influences – and Carl Rogers’ ability to link elements together – helps to put into context his later achievements. The concern with opening up to, and theorizing from experience, the concept of the human organism as a whole and the belief in the possibilities of human action have their parallels in the work of John Dewey. Carl Rogers was able to join these with therapeutic insights and the belief, borne out of his practice experience, that the client usually knows better to how to proceed than the therapist.

Core conditions

Thorne argues that it is not too simplistic to, ‘affirm that the whole conceptual framework of Carl Rogers rests on his profound experience that human beings become increasingly trustworthy once they feel at a deep level that their subjective experience is both respected and progressively understood’ (1992: 26). We can see this belief at work in his best known contribution – the ‘core conditions’ for facilitative (counselling and educational) practice – congruence (realness), acceptance and empathy).

Exhibit 1: Carl Rogers on the interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning

What are these qualities, these attitudes, that facilitate learning?

Realness in the facilitator of learning. Perhaps the most basic of these essential attitudes is realness or genuineness. When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner without presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.

Prizing, acceptance, trust. There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, many potentialities. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.

Empathic understanding. A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s. (Rogers 1967 304-311)

This orientation has a number of attractions for those seeking to work with the ‘whole person’ and to promote human flourishing. Notions of wholeness overlap with what Carl Rogers describes as congruence or ‘realness’; and the attitude embodied and conveyed by educators may be accepting and valuing of the other (Rogers 1951). However, his third condition ’empathetic understanding’ does raise a number of problems. Rogers emphasizes achieving a full an understanding of the other person as is possible. This involves a willingness and ability to enter ‘the private perceptual world of the client without fear and to become thoroughly conversant with it’ (Thorne 1992: 31). Here we might argue that in conversation, the task is not so much to enter and understand the other person, as to work for understanding and commitment. This is not achieved simply by getting into the shoes of another. Conversation involves working to bring together the insights and questions of the different parties; it entails the fusion of a number of perspectives, not the entering into of one (Gadamer 1979: 271-3). As Freire (1972: 63) put it, at the point of encounter, ‘there are neither ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only men who are attempting, together to learn more than they now know’. In this respect, we might be arguing for dialogical – rather than person-centred, practice. There are problems when the practitioner , ‘concentrates on the other person as such rather than on the subject matter – when he looks at the other person, as it were, rather than with him at what the other attempts to communicate’ (Linge 1976: xx).

On education

The strength of Rogers’ approach lies in part in his focus on relationship. As he once wrote, ‘The facilitation of significant learning rests upon certain attitudinal qualities that exist in the personal relationship between facilitator and learner’(1990: 305). Freedom to Learn (1969; 1983; 1993) is a classic statement of educational possibility in this respect. However, he had already begun to explore the notion of ‘student-centred teaching’ in Client-Centered Therapy (1951: 384-429). There, as Barrett-Lennard (1998: 184) notes, he offered several hypothesized general principles. These included:

We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate his learning.

The structure and organization of the self appears to become more rigid under threat; to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat…

The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which 1) threat to the self of the learner is reduced a minimum, and 2) differentiated perception of the field of experience is facilitated.

In this we can see something of Rogers’ debt to Dewey – but something else had been added in his particular concern with experience and selfhood. First, there is an interest in looking at the particular issues, questions and problems that participants bring (this is not a strongly curriculum-based orientation and has some parallels with the subsequent interest in self-direction in learning). Second, he draws in insights from more psychodynamic traditions of thinking (as did educators such as A. S. Neill and Homer Lane).

Freedom to Learn brought together a number of existing papers along with new material – including a fascinating account of ‘My way of facilitating a class’. Significantly, this exploration brings out the significant degree of preparation that Rogers involved himself in (including setting out aims, reading, workshop structure etc.) (Barrett-Lennard 1998: 186). Carl Rogers was a gifted teacher. His approach grew from his orientation in one-to-one professional encounters. He saw himself as a facilitator – one who created the environment for engagement. This he might do through making a short (often provocative, input). However, what he was also to emphasize was the attitude of the facilitator. There were ‘ways of being’ with others that foster exploration and encounter – and these are more significant than the methods employed. His paper ‘The interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning’ is an important statement of this orientation (included in Hirschenbaum and Henderson’s [1990] collection and in Freedom to Learn). The danger in this is, of course, of underestimating the contribution of ‘teaching’. There is a role for information transmission. Here Carl Rogers could be charged with misrepresenting, or overlooking, his own considerable abilities as a teacher. His apparent emphasis on facilitation and non-directiveness has to put alongside the guru-like status that he was accorded in teaching encounters. What appears on the page as a question or an invitation to explore something can be experienced as the giving of insight by participants in his classes.

Roger’s influence

These elements do not, on their own, explain the phenomenal growth of the ‘person-centred’ school of psychotherapy. To explain this we have to look at the man and the moment. Carl Rogers was an accomplished communicator – both in person and through his writings and films. He was also a committed practitioner who looked to his own experiences (and was, thus, difficult to dismiss as ‘academic). He was able to demystify therapy; to focus on the person of the counsellor and the client (as against a concentration on technique and method); and crucially to emphasize honesty and the destructiveness of manipulation. In the service of the latter Carl Rogers was extremely wary of attempting to dig into, and make sense of the unconscious (and this could also be seen as a significant weakness in his work in some quarters). In short, he offered a new way, a break with earlier traditions. Crucially these concerns chimed with the interests of significant groups of people. Psychologists wanting to enter the field of psychotherapy; case, pastoral and youth workers wanting to develop their practice; lay people wanting to help or understand those with ‘problems’ – all could get something from Rogers.

The history and focus of Carl Rogers’ work was one of the reasons why he has been so attractive to successive generations of informal educators. This was a language to which they could relate. The themes and concerns he developed seemingly had a direct relevance to their work with troubled individuals. Informal educators also had access to these ideas. Rogers’ popularity with those providing counselling training (at various levels) opened up his work to large numbers of workers. Crucially the themes he developed were general enough to be applied to therapeutic work with groups (for example, see his work on Encounter Groups (1970, New York: Harper and Row) and in education. Significantly, Carl Rogers took up the challenge to explore what a person-centred form of education might look like.

Carl Rogers has provided educators with some fascinating and important questions with regard to their way of being with participants, and the processes they might employ. The danger in his work for informal educators lays in what has been a point of great attraction – his person-centredness. Informal education is not so much person-centred as dialogical. A focus on the other rather than on what lies between us could lead away from the relational into a rather selfish individualism. Indeed, this criticism could also be made of the general direction of his therapeutic endeavours.

Further reading and references

Key texts

Here I have picked five key texts that both give a flavour of Roger’s thinking and practice, and are of direct relevance to the work of educators.

Kirschenbaum, H. and Henderson, V. L. (eds.) (1990) The Carl Rogers Reader, London: Constable. An excellent collection of extracts and articles . Includes autobiographical material, discussion of the therapeutic relationship, the person in process, theory and research, education, the helping professions, and the philosophy of persons. Also explores the shape of a ‘more human world’. The 33 pieces are a good introduction to his work.

Rogers, C. R. (1961) On Becoming a Person. A therapist’s view of psychotherapy, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1967 – London: Constable). His classic work – exploring the process of becoming a person and how personal growth can be facilitated. Also examines the place of research in psychotherapy; a philosophy of persons; and the implications for living.

Rogers, C. (1970) Encounter Groups, New York: Harper and Row; London: Penguin. For Rogers (1970) encounter groups held the possibility of our ‘opening up’ to ourselves and to others. By working for an environment characterized by certain ‘core conditions’ – genuiness (congruence), acceptance and empathy – group members could ‘authentically’ encounter each other (and themselves). They could begin to trust in their feelings and accept themselves for what they are.

Rogers, C. R. (1980) A Way of Being, Boston: Houghton Mifflin. A collection of articles and pieces said to be a coda to On Becoming a Person. The first part examines Rogers’ personal experiences; the second his professional thoughts and activities. The third section deals with education (including his paper on learning in large groups). The final piece speculates on the transformations needed in society.

Rogers, C. and Freiberg, H. J. (1993) Freedom to Learn (3rd edn.), New York: Merrill. Freedom to Learn takes the principles that Carl Rogers developed in relation to counselling and reworks them in the context of education. In other words, it is an exploration of how person-centred learning can be used in schooling and other situations and the nature of facilitation. The third edition is a reworking of the text by Freiberg. I personally prefer the earlier editions (1969; 1983).

Biographical material and commentaries

Rogers included autobiographical material in his writing. Indeed, one of his most important essays, ‘This is me’ in which he describes his family background and three key experiences with clients first appeared in (1961) On Becoming a Person. See also:

Barrett-Lennard, G. T. (1998) Carl Roger’s Helping System. Journey and substance, London: Sage. 425 + x pages. Very useful discussion of key concepts and key figures plus a discussion of research relating to Roger’s approach.

Cohen, D. (1997) Carl Rogers. A critical biography, London: Constable. 252 pages. New biography – only in hardback.

Kirschenbaum, H. (1979) On Becoming Carl Rogers, New York: Delacorte Press. Biography written while Rogers was still alive – but with some interesting insights into the development of his thought.

Thorne, B. (1992) Carl Rogers, London: Sage. Brian Thorne has provided us with a good introduction to Roger’s work and life. He also adds a twist of his own – suggesting that Rogers represented, and drew upon, a long-standing spiritual tradition.


Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, London: Penguin.

Gadamer, H-G. (1979) Truth and Method 2e, London: Sheed and Ward.

Linge, D. E. (1976) ‘Editor’s intorduction’ to H-G. Gadamer Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rogers, C. R. (1951) Client-Centered Counselling, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.


Websites: Matt Ryan has collected some useful material around client centred therapy – and includes some links to pages concerning Carl Rogers. The focus, though, is on counselling rather than his educational work. Client Centered Therapy. See, also Carl Rogers. There also some links from Rogers – personality and consciousness.

How to cite this article: Smith, M. K. (1997, 2004) ‘Carl Rogers and informal education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [ Last update: May 29, 2012]

Acknowlegement: The picture of Carl Rogers is by Victor Borges. It was sourced from and has been reproduced by the artist into the public domain. and

©  Mark K. Smith 1997, 2004, 2014.

In this essay I will be discussing the pros and cons of Person-Centred Therapy as an exclusive method of therapy for clients. I will also give asn understanding of exacntly what ‘PCT’ Person based therpay is. Itis important to describe first what we mean when discussing PCT. Person-Centred Therapy, also known as client-centred, Rogerian therapy or non-directive, is an approach to counselling and psychotherapy that has much of the responsibility for the treatment process on the client, with the therapist taking a non-directive role. Person centred therpay emphasises person to person relationship between the therapist and client and focuses on the client??s point of view; through active listening which the therapist tries to understand the clients present issues and emotions. In PCT the client determines the direction, course, speed and length of the treatment and the therapist helps increase the clients insight and self-understanding. Carl Ransom Rogers was an influential American psychologist, who, along side Abraham Maslow, was the founder of the humanist approach to clinical psychology. Therefore I will start with an introduction to Carl Rogers, his background and influences and his relevence to the essay title. Also In this essay I will explore the the main theory and the three core conditons. Following on from this I will look at the pros of this approach and consider its success in treating psychological disorders. It is without a doubt that Carl Rogers inspired many people, but he was not without his Critics, which is always likely when someone is bringing something new to the table. So I will include the difficulties and doubts expressed by other Practitioners in order to get an opposing viewpoint, which will include the cons of this approach. I will end my essay with my conclusion of the person centred therapy and the reasons why I have arrived at my conclusion.
Carl Rogers is known for inventing his own way of offering therapy which is called ‘person based therapy’ which I will go into more detail shortly. Carl Rogers was born in Illinois, Chicago, in 1902. His parents were middle-class, respectable hard-working people. His Father was a Civil Engineer and his Mother a stay-at-home housewife. Carl was the fourth child in a family of six children. Carl Rogers’ early days were heavily influenced by his Mother’s strict attitude towards Christian principles. She was a committed member of the local Pentecostal Church. He received a Classical education and came into contact with the works of Thomas Aquinas, Plato and Socrates. It was These Philosophers which generated an interest in Carl, in the workings of the human mind and its influence on the life of the individual. ‘Carl Rogers claimed to be grateful that he never had one particular mentor, but was open to the influence of widely differing view points as well as his own experience and that of his colleagues and clients (Thorne, 1984). However reviewing his life and times it seems clear that a number of key people and circumstances influenced his thinking. The experience of living on a farm as a child taught Rogers about natures inevitability and its strength and growth. Intellectually he was immersed in liberal Protestant beliefs of Paul Tillich (1886-1965).
He was also strongly influenced by John Deweys emphasis on experience as a basis for learning (Zimring 1994). He was directly exposed to Dewey’s philosophy of no nonsense vigorous self- reliance , thoughtful exposure to experience and concern for others, when he attended a course given by William H Kilpatricka student of Dewey while at Teachers college in Columbia (Thorne, 1984) His strong religious background led him to want to become a minister, however a trip to China in the 1920s caused him to question his beliefs This experience forced him to broaden his mind, and come to the conclusion, “that sincere and honest people could believe in very divergent religious doctrines.” It caused him to question his parent’s strict religious world view and realized he could not agree with them. Rogers recalled that this was personally liberating and moved him to develop his own philosophy of life. It also influenced him to choose a different career’ reference
Carl Rogers also embraced the ideas of Abrham Muslow a humanism, and he also believed that personal growth was dependent upon environment. This belief became the basis for his development of client-centered therapy, later renamed person-centered therapy. Carl rogers embraced the person based theropy in the 1940’s. So this is why Carl rogers has such relevance to the essay on ‘person centreed therapy’ as he was the man who invented person centred therapy. This type of therapy came from the traditional model of the therapist as expert and moved instead toward a nondirective, empathic approach that empowers and motivates the client in the therapeutic process. The therapy is based on Rogers’s belief that every human being strives for positive and good in there lives and has also the capacity to fulfill his or her own potential.
In ways of therapy the person centreed approach does not have ‘techniques’ as such but by just offering what he named ‘the core conditions’ This involves the development and knowledge and reasearch of expressing the core conditions, the three core conditions which the therapist must endure to dliever the client based therpary appropriately include the following.

1) Empathy ‘ feeling ro atempting to feel what the client is expressing
2) Congruence- To be honest with the client at all times
3) Giving warmth without being non judgemental, positivity at all times- Always valueing the client regardless of how they have behaved

The therapist puts into practise this empathy by active listening that shows careful and perceptive attention to what the client is saying. In addition to standard techniques, such as eye contact, that are common to any good listener, person-centred therapists employ a special method called reflection, which consists of paraphrasing and/or summarizing what a client has just said. This technique shows that the therapist is listening carefully and accurately, and gives the clients an added opportunity to examine their own thoughts and feelings as they hear them repeated by another person. Generally, clients respond well to this technique and they go further on the thoughts they have just expressed. According to Rogers, when these three attitudes (congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy) are practised by a therapist, clients can freely express themselves without having to worry about what the therapist thinks of them. The therapist does not attempt to change the clients thinking and mood in any way. Even negative expressions are accepted as appropriate experiences. Because of this non-directive approach, clients can find out which problems are important to them and explore these issues and not those ones considered important by the therapist, giving the client control ober there own throughts, feelings and judgement. Based on the principle of self-actualization, this undirected, uncensored self-exploration allows clients to recognize alternative ways of thinking that will promote personal growth. The therapist merely facilitates self-actualization by providing a climate in which clients can freely engage in focused, in-depth self-exploration. Which I think is a great idea and defently a pro working in carl rogers favour as being a positive part of the therapy.
Can the therapist activley put into practice congruence at all times? There is no right or wrong answer but dealing with a client who has come for help for something you dont agree with such as a ‘murderer’ or a ‘Phedophile’ is it possible to remain genuinene and speak the truth at all times! Carl rogers himself would remain genuine at all times and speak the truth as he felt the therapy would not work unless he stuck with his three core conditions. So in Carl rogers eyes the ways to be a good therpaist is to be honest with the clients. Congruence is about being genuine ‘ being yourself in your relationships with other people, without any pretence or fa??ade. When we are congruent, how we act and what we say is consistent with how we are feeling and what we are thinking. This is not always easy to do ‘ our own fears and anxieties can get in the way ‘ but with practice it can be developed. Unconditional positive regard is the therapist giving a non-judgemental value for the

Carl Rogers described six therapeutic conditions: Therapist-Client Psychological Contact: a relationship between client and therapist must exist, and it must be a relationship in which each persons perception of the other is important and must exist in order for the client to achieve positive personal change through therpay
1. Client Incongruence or Vulnerability: A discrepancy between the client’s self-image and actual experience leaves him or her vulnerable to fears and anxieties. The client is often unaware of the incongruence.
2. Therapist Congruence or Genuineness: The therapist should be self-aware, genuine, and congruent. This does not imply that the therapist be a picture of perfection, but that he or she be true to him- or herself within the therapeutic relationship.
3. Therapist Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR): The clients’ experiences, positive or negative, should be accepted by the therapist without any conditions or judgment. In this way, the client can share experiences without fear of being judged.
4. Therapist Empathy: The therapist demonstrates empathic understanding of the clients’ experiences and recognizes emotional experiences without getting emotionally involved.
5. Client Perception: To some degree, the client perceives the therapist’s unconditional positive regard and empathic understanding. This is communicated through the words and behaviors of the therapist. -Reference-

Carl Roger’s person-centered approach to therapy widespread acceptance and is applied in areas of education, cultural relations, nursing, interpersonal relations, and other service and aid-oriented professions and arenas. Rogers’s psychological theories have influenced modern psychotherapy and have directly impacted the field of mental health. So again Carl Rogers centre based theropy is seen as a positve advantage in the therapy world.
Also While person-centred therapy is considered one of the major therapeutic approaches, along with psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioural therapy, Carl Rogers influence is felt in schools of therapy other than his own. The concepts and methods he developed are used by many different types of counsellors and therapists. Alotugh a lot of therapists regard carl rogers therapy as great and postive there have been others which have critisied him and his therpay. Not everyone would agree that the person centred approach has great effects I will out outlay some negative effects this kind of therapy can have on the client and the therapy as a whole.

Although this theory has become increasingly mainstream ans accepted over time, a major weakness is that it does not sufficiently acknoledge stages of development Due to his emphasis on a conscious experience. But this criticism is not on a whole, justified. He directly acknowledges the unconscious in later writings, seeing it as “positive”. Furthermore, the whole idea of congruence/incongruence and wisdom involves the idea of an unconscious and he clearly posits an organism that has many experiences of which the person is not aware. While Carl Rogers contribution in the area of psychotherapy is incredibally substantial, clinical applicability of his therapy may be limited to those people of the world whose intellectual and cultural backgrounds are compatible with this therapy.
This theory’s development from therapeutic practice may be both a blessing a curse. It keeps it practical and bases it in human experience, yet leads to the extension of concepts that while appropriate to therapy may not be specific enough to apply to abolutely everyone. So that is a Con and goes against the person centred therapy as not everyone can benefit from having this therapy.
Some human conditions, such as psychopathy, do not make much sense according to this theory. If we look at the psychopath, apparently they feel no guilt, discomfort or remorse for her/his actions. There is no anxiety, Incongruence is not apparent, although the theory suggests it would be substantial. I also wonder about those human beings that have limited potentialities in the first place. Is someone “fully functioning” if they have fulfilled all potential, even though there is an extremely limited amount in the first place? The capacity for creativity and free expression might not exist in such a case. Despite my questions and criticism, this theory’s value is substantial and should not be minimized. It offers a reasonable alternative to alternative theories that would have us controling human beings. It also recognizes people as the most important focus in the study of personality.
So my overall conclusion is that Person-Centred Therapy gives the therapist many great tools to work with and treat the client successfully in a positive way, but at the same time I think that this approach on its own will not be to all clients tastes, but will work very well in combination with other types of therapy. Clients who have a strong sence in the direction of exploring themselves and their feelings and who value personal responsibility who also like the feel of remaining in control of themselves may be particularly attracted to the person-centred approach. Those who would like a counsellor to offer them more in depth advice, to diagnose their problems, or to analyse them will probably find the person-centred approach less helpful and a negative experience. Clients who would like to address specific psychological habits or patterns of thinking may find some kind of advantage in the helpfulness of the person-centred approach, as the individual therapeutic styles of person-centred counsellors vary widely, and some will feel more able than others to engage directly with these types of concerns. So it really depends on the type of person you have as a client for the person centred approach to have a helpful effect on as every client who walks in the door is completely different to the next. In my own personal opinion im am more in favour of the therpy as I feel we have everything in our minds to overcome obtacles we face in our lives.

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