About CSP

We are a community of individuals who prize the opportunity to interact and connect with others in a meaningful way, more deeply than in everyday life. We respect each other as we are and, rather than trying to change one another, we appreciate the differences—in values, attitudes and ways of being. That appreciation of differences gives us strength.

What is the Center for Studies of the person?

We hold dear the principles of the Person-Centered Approach as developed by Carl Rogers and others, and seek to apply these approaches in our way of being and doing, in our personal lives, in our careers and in our communities.

We support and encourage one another in a deeply personal way, as we seek to better understand ourselves and others. We are committed to continual learning.

We endure. We have held our hands and hearts together for 49 years, changing to be sure, but remaining on the path, seeking what it means to be a human being. Finally, we provide opportunities for members, through Center projects, to apply and manifest their ideas and their passions in the world at large.

We hold these values, as manifested in the fully functioning person:

  • Openness to experience and an abandonment of defensiveness.
  • An existential lifestyle emphasizing living in the moment without distorting it.
  • Trust in oneself.
  • The ability to freely make choices. Fully functioning people take responsibility for their own choices and are highly self-directed.
  • A life of creativity and adaptation, including an abandonment of conformity.
  • The ability to behave reliably and make constructive choices.
  • A full, rich life that involves the full spectrum of human emotions.

Purpose of CSP

The purpose of this Center shall be to explore the richness of the person; to help individuals discover and experience more fully in their own lives and relationships—even in their organizations—the wealth of what it means to be personal; of what it means, for example, to be private as well as to be open, of what it means to yield to others and what it means to be self-controlling. This Center will be concerned with new experience and it will be concerned with old truths. It will be an institution of scientific search and also a center of informal education. In the pursuit of its educational goals, its own operations, particularly the human element within it, it will be open to scrutiny, and it will attempt, with all the power of accumulated  experience and aspirations both old and new, to be a laboratory for self-regulation, for people growing through examining and managing their own organizational lives. This Center intends to experience anew and in its own life the meaning of democracy and community. In its scientific aims, it intends to go beyond the narrow limits of existing social science methodologies. It intends to invent and submit to the public methods of study suited to the dignity and depth of its subject, man himself.  It will use means of knowing designed to expand man’s hopes for himself. This is a center for persons.

  • A source of Support and Community for its members
  • A Resource for the study and practice of person centered approaches
  • A place to Learn about ourselves and others through Connection and Encounter
  • A space for members to Manifest and Express their person-centered visions through their Projects

Board of Directors

Perspectives on The Beginning of CSP

The following is an excerpt from a book by Howard Kirschenbaum (2007) The Life and Work of Carl Rogers. Kirschenbaum was given permission by Rogers to go through all of his files to write his book and Chapter 11, “The California Years” is Kirschenbaum’s description of the beginning of CSP. It is one perspective. People who were there at the time may have a different perspective and CSP would like to invite others to share their perspectives in this section. 

In the 1960’s Carl Rogers came to California, from the University of Wisconsin and joined the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI). There in 1968, a group of people with Carl, referring to their work as the Person-Centered Approach, split off from WBSI and formed the Center for the Studies of the Person. An eclectic group of over 30 people met once a week in an office in La Jolla, California. Fifty years later a book was published, “ A Place to Be, CSP 50” You may wish to purchase this book at our bookstore, as it is filled with wonderful writings and memories from members of those early days and beyond. In it you will read the very different perspectives the members have of CSP. Both books are open and candid regarding the struggles that are found in any human endeavor. You will see our organization continues to attempt to be open, honest, real, congruent, and authentic as we can be about being: being a person and being an organization.

What follows are descriptions of the very early years of CSP as written by Howard Kirschenbaum in his book, The Life and Work of Carl Rogers, 2008. These excerpts are from Chapter 10, The California Years, Part 1, pages 364-370.

Below is Carl’s writing about WBSI and his problems there and about CSP as it was forming:

I felt like the most important decision of our Trustee’s meeting was that the Centers were to be as autonomous as it is humanly possible to make them. This fact released untold energies in the Center for the Studies of the Person as we called our group. New projects, new ways of raising money, the idea of all of us turning in our fees, so our full energies would go to the Center—dozens of new ideas were sprouting all over the place. It was an exciting period like the first days of WBSI…

Within a week I was more depressed than I have ever been before. {He was feeling so sick about it physically that he saw a doctor.} The reason was that although I deeply love WBSI and have worried about it during various previous crises, this was the first time that the dream had ever been strangled from within.

Although Rogers’ version of these events got the most attention at the time, and his role is the best known, he was not necessarily the prime mover in the new center or splitting off from WBSI. As Tom Gillette described it a few years later, “I would put Bill Coulson and Bruce [Meador] and myself in the front lines of leading us out of WBSI and into CSP. Carl was in the second line.”

In this version, Rogers was as much caught up in the group process, in the momentum toward separation, as leading it. On the other hand, if Rogers did not support and go along with the division of WBSI, it probably would not have happened, and in that sense, he was ultimately responsible for what occurred.

Over the years the story of their departure has taken on mythic proportions with Rogers relating in his oral history shortly before his death how “A group of us left WBSI in the middle of the night. That’s literally true. We weren’t quite sure whether they would agree to our taking our property that we felt belonged to us: desks, typewriters, files, and so on; and so Bill Coulson’s idea…was to rent a moving truck, and one evening we went into the WBSI, took our all our things, brought them to the new quarters, and the next morning we were established as the Center for Studies of the Person.”

Richard Farson who, in spite of this episode, remained friends with Rogers all his life, had a very different version of the story. He recalled,

I think there is a whole myth about their sneaking in the middle of the night and stealing stuff. They seem to be proud and happy about that. The fact of the matter (I remember the discussion very well in the board meeting) is we just would give them what they needed to start their organization. We gave them some contracts [i. e. contracts obtained by Center staff but legally owned by WBSI] and we gave them some furniture and so forth…They think that they stole some furniture but we gave it to them. The fact is that their organization was still WBSI…Their letterhead [said] “ a development of WBSI. “They didn’t have any corporate papers. They didn’t have a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status. They didn’t have what they needed, so we decided that we would sponsor that group. They didn’t become autonomous until they were able to stand on their own. We tried to help them.

Eventually Center for the Studies of the Person did achieve its independent legal status and the break was complete. What was experienced at the time as a most painful episode by everyone involved turned out to be a freeing move that neither Rogers nor the many CSP staff members I talked to ever regretted.

Although CSP was legally organized as a corporation, the members proudly thought of themselves as a “non-organization headed by a “non-director.” That is, the director has no power to direct anyone but was empowered to speak for the organization publicly and to raise support for its various projects. It was a revolving position, one which Rogers never held. Not too far from WBSI, they rented office space at 1123 Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla. Each member contributed a small sum to pay the rent and office expenses. They would all get together for weekly staff meetings, at which both personal and professional agendas were likely to be raised.

From this base, they organized themselves into various “projects” many of them carryovers from WBSI, many of them new ones. By 1970, with the membership up to around forty-five, the following projects were listed in CSP’s brochure: Educational Innovation Project (using encounter groups to change a large school system, headed by Doug Land and Carl Rogers): the Conference Planning Service; the Research Design Center; the Project on Community: the Workshop Project; the Project for Developing Awareness through Interracial Encounters; the Institute for Drug Education: Psycreatin (for developing humanizing products for the general public); the collegiate Development Project and the Entry Training Project ( to facilitate the entry of unskilled people into the world of work).

Other than the secretarial staff no one received a salary from CSP. Members were responsible for setting up and carrying out their own projects, and whether the funding came from granting institutions or in payment for services provided, each project had to support itself. Thus most of the members had other jobs or sources of income in addition to their work with CSP.

Membership was selective but fluid. By becoming involved with some Center members and working on their projects, a person could participate in the life of the Center and gradually come to know many of the other members. If the person then desired to join, the members would vote on this. Any member could choose his or her own title, except for “director”. Rogers called himself a “Resident Fellow,” the same title he had held at WBSI. Norman Chambers, who became a member in 1969, recalled how “Carl di the egalitarian thing very very well. Carl shared requests to do workshops with all of us. That was constant and contagious. It was a group of colleagues who were equal in every sense of the work…He was one member, not the member.

With most members involved in jobs and careers outside of CSP; and with their devoting a large portion of their time to teaching, counseling, group work, or research in the community, many members began having expectations as to what they wanted from CSP. Many like Rogers, still wanted to be a group of close colleagues and friends working together for a common cause, that of helping people and changing the world around them and, setting an example, making a significant difference in the conduct of the behavioral sciences throughout the country. Many others wished CSP might be primarily a “support group,” an association of like-minded people who could learn from each other, have fun together, and derive emotional and intellectual support from one another. They were already reaching out on their own jobs, helping others, and improving conditions around them. The second group wanted more personal benefits from CSP. Of course, few individuals were totally at one end of the continuum or the other. Rogers, for example, believed that by working together they would naturally develop close personal ties and there would still be time left over for comradeship and mutual support. Others responded that that was all right for him because he didn’t have a full-time job elsewhere. They had only several hours a week for CSP and had to choose whether they wanted to spend time primarily on professional projects or on mutually supportive discussions and activities.

For many years there remained sometimes a forceful tension between these two viewpoints. Rogers and many members remained active in professional outreach projects, others less so. Virtually all the members spoke highly of the personal benefits they derived from their “non-organization.” And there were enough in the active camp that during the 1970s to mid-80s CSP was a productive and creative milieu for the authorship of books and articles, for educational events and training programs at the Center, and for innovative projects and outreach to individuals and institutions around the world. Particularly in the 70s it was a “Mecca” of sorts to which people would come for client-centered work—to meet Carl Rogers and his colleagues, take workshops, be visiting fellows, and experience CSP as an alternative organizational model. Someone compared this period, perhaps a bit grandiosely, to Paris in the 1920s for all the current and future thinkers and leaders in psychology and social and intellectual change who gravitated to CSP and joined in its activities and values. It certainly remained the home of most of Rogers’ professional activities and a cherished support group for the rest of his life.

[The Life and work of Carl Rogers, Howard Kirschenbaum, 2007, Chapter 10, The California Years: Encounter Groups and Education, p. 329.]