John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology

Carl Rogers

Where No Psychologist Went Before
carl rogers

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, more 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.

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