Person Centred Therapy
Historical Context and Developments in Britain
Dr. Carl Rogers, the American psychologist and founder of what has now become known as personcentred counselling or psychotherapy, has always claimed to be grateful that he never had one particular mentor. He has been influenced by many significant figures often holding widely differing viewpoints; but above all he claims to be the student of his own experience and of that of his clients and colleagues. While accepting Rogers's undoubtedly honest claim about his primary sources of learning, there is much about his thought and practice which places him within a recognisable tradition. Oatley (1981) has recently described this as 'the distinguished American tradition exemplified by John Dewey: the tradition of no nonsense, of vigorous self-reliance, of exposing oneself thoughtfully to experience, practical innovation, and of careful concern for others'. In fact, in 1925, while still a student at Teachers College, Columbia, Rogers was directly exposed to Dewey's thought and to progressive education through his attendance at a course led by the famous William Heard Kilpatrick, a student of Dewey and himself a teacher of extraordinary magnetism. Not that Dewey and Kilpatrick formed the mainstream of the ideas to which Rogers was introduced during his professional training and early clinical experience; indeed, when he took up his first appointment in 1928 as a member of the child study department of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Rochester, New York, he joined an institution where the three fields of psychology, psychiatry and social work were combining forces in diagnosing and treating problems. This context appealed to Rogers's essentially pragmatic temperament. Rogers's biographer, Kirschenbaum (1979), while acknowledging the variety of influences to which Rogers was subjected at the outset of his professional career, suggests nevertheless...