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History of CSP

The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) was born in a weekend simulation. The 1968 staff of the California based Western Behavioral Sciences Institute experimentally grouped themselves into two units. A first group primarily wished to follow socially constructive research directions, and the other was composed of those people more concerned with the direct application of their knowledge to ongoing circumstances.

This second group found the simulation so enlivening that it formed into independent The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP). They were those two dozen educators, psychologists, consultants, and religious leaders most involved learning in and leading the group encounter work that Carl Rogers was initiating at the time. They determined to create a professional community aimed at actualizing the human potential. They wished to live in the freedom, exploration, and support mode all had experienced in their encounter group work.

Members were particularly eager to work in an organization that expressed few constraints on their individual professional and personal efforts. The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) became a “psychological community.” Members approached each other from personal motivation rather than organization role. This opposition between self and organization has continued to keep felt community (or the lack of it) at the center of our mutuality. Projects undertaken by individuals or groups under the banner of The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) were honed and approved by all members in a “person-centered” process of face-to-face encounter. The not-for-profit organization was managed democratically and funded by membership dues and generosity, a few grants, and considerable market success. A number of highly respected members dropped their other organizational affiliations.

In retrospect, some of the excitement I experienced as an early member of CSP appears naïve. We had our eyes on what Carl Rogers had termed “the person of the future,” we were forming the “organization of the future.” In those early years, the international social environment buoyed our excitement. “Revolution” was a term easily bandied about. We followed Carl Rogers as “quiet revolutionaries.” The demand was high for our kind of services in facilitating the humanistic revolution in other folks.

And the power of these ideas is nowhere near spent. Several hundred former members and long-term associates sustain their versions of the work in new situations. Some original founders continue their The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) membership today, and new members, visiting scholars, students, and clients continue to reinforce our convictions and create new applications. The teachings and methods of Carl Rogers and his colleagues flow significantly in the experiences and discoveries of people exploring self-awareness and deep interpersonal relationships.

Today the The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) community is less intensely a part of the everyday life of its members, and a tiny bit more organizational constraint has emerged concerning members’ projects. Waves and waves of new thought and experience – feminist, deconstructionist, professionalization, movements of men, multi-culturalities, spiritualities, business applications, and peace-seekings among them – have crashed through our cultural beachheads during this past quarter-century. Each of these has impacted the conversations held and services offered at CSP. I find us now less on the cutting edge of any wave and still deeply radical in our approaches to personal and organizational life.

In the past twenty-five years, a wide variety of ideas and experiences have been given birth and brought to fruition at CSP. Some have been published as articles, books, and videos.* Perhaps more important are the wildly thoughtful, innovative application projects. CSP experimental groups for the most part have been started on financial shoestrings, but they have involved and impacted thousands of client participants for the rest of their lives. Most of these projects are no longer offered – if vivacity cannot be sustained, an effort is allowed to pass away – surely a new life will bloom again.

Unique projects extending the Person Centered Approaches continue: The La Jolla Program emphasizes personal encounter and group leadership training; Living Now** and the Carl Rogers Peace Project** aid citizens in pursuing their own social action; The Carl Rogers Institute for Psychotherapy and Training provides training and internships in multicultural settings.

Except for the Library of Carl Rogers and his colleagues’ work, CSP does not function as a major institution. Some members and friends find this disappointing. Each member gains his or her economic support outside CSP. Yet CSP persists even at the expense of its institutional self, so that individuals might here find their personal power, and not be misled in their searchings to cling to the power of any organization.

Rogers helped found CSP during the later years of his life. His work then was taking a wider and more philosophical perspective. He lived a personal, uniquely powerful way in facilitating one’s self-knowledge, creativity, leadership, and citizenship. He attracted people on their own search for a supportive way, people who preferred to work in collegial groups at common approaches.

Some of what he could do has been abstracted and reintegrated by others. Mostly we have learned from him that we could inspire our own unique experiences in life. The Center for Studies of the Person (CSP) members are follower less, perhaps, of Rogers’ specific practices, than followers each of his or her own way. They trust their organic experiences in their social relationships. They endeavor so that others may develop and enhance similar abilities.

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