Gifts from 50
As part of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Center, we offer these gifts from CSP members, past and present. Each of these highlights unique contributions to person centered and humanistic practice and thought.
Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers
How It Seems To Me
How does a person go about helping herself when she feels overcome by problems? How does a person risk seeking help when he doesn’t know a path forward? Psychologist Carl Rogers invented and perfected his singular and personal way to be with people in the context of their whole lives as they tried to come to grips with their life problems.
Dr. Will Stillwell’s “The Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers: How Does It Seem To You?” is a new extended essay and video contemplating the person and the artistry of Carl Rogers as he practices his one-to-one psychotherapy.
“For many years I have been appreciative — in close, edifying touch with this man and his work. A decade ago I worked intensively with four of Rogers’ videotaped psychotherapy demonstration interviews. I watched the videos repeatedly as colleagues and I transcribed, interpreted and translated the dialogue. I emerged freshly intrigued by new understanding and empathy with this master-at-work. “I was inspired then to become more available towards Rogers, to regard him more fully. What I now discern in Rogers’ approach toward these clients seems to me both unconventional and vital. Through my lens here, this undeniably humanistic scientist gains a unique artistic dimension.
“Carl Rogers was a gentle person. Carl Rogers was dedicated to your, my, and his own learning. From his work as a psychotherapist he came to deeply understand how each person’s learning is highly influenced by who that person feels him- or her-self to be. He did not lead us toward accumulating ideas, facts, or explanations. He knew that significant learning is internal to each individual, and these learnings lead to personal wisdom involving self-in-world — world of objects, world of facts, the animated world and world of people. He facilitates our learning through our committing ourselves to our experiences, our thinking and feeling our responses, and our opening ourselves to allow these experiences to alter our own understandings. When my knowledge is personal, it changes how I live in the world. I have learned how to live my life with those problems that arise for me.”
This is my meaning—my hope is that each of us find our own meaning in Rogers work with clients in the moment and what they express in terms of the unfoldment of Rogers as artist and genius in his own right.
I have put together short video clips that show Rogers at work together with my reflections on what they mean, bring up to me. It is my pleasure to share these observations with you.
A Personal Path to Universal Personhood
In early 1967 comparative psychologist Anthony “Tony” Rose took a break from his primate research laboratory to join a weeklong encounter group with 15 clinical psych grad students, facilitated by renowned psychotherapist Carl Rogers. Despite six years immersed in lab research at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, Tony’s human empathy and authenticity remained intact: Carl suggested Tony apply for a postdoctoral fellowship with him. Six months later Tony Rose was an NIMH Fellow at Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI), working with Carl Rogers, Dick Farson, Tom Gillette and other leaders of the humanist revival in North America.
As a behaviorist who had implemented UCLA’s first laboratory course in animal learning and induced experimental alcoholism in monkeys, adopting Rogers’ positive person-centered approach was a profound professional and personal revolution. Tony was ready! It was his empathy for and recognition of the positive personal core of other animals that had compelled him to leave the laboratory and make the shift from reductionist behaviorism to holistic humanism. Thus began Tony Rose’s personal path to the exploration of universal personhood.
The ensuing decades found him facilitating in scores of situations calling for person-centered approaches to individual, social, and organizational change. He adapted person-centered psychology to preventing drug abuse on Navy warships, celebrating community in Episcopal parishes, consolidating Forest Ranger Districts and Veterans hospitals, and installing a huge health-care quality-of-service program in forty hospitals & clinics. All the while, he mused on the state of wildlife & nature.
Fifteen years after his first encounter group with Carl, Tony took a break from working with urban humans to trek through Indonesia searching for wild great apes. Deep in a Sumatran rainforest he came across a family of orangutans — they greeted him like kindred spirits: an interspecies epiphany that reawakened his awareness of the goodwill of all living beings.
Two years later he had quit the corporate world, was tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, following the path to personhood for all living beings. Today, having devoted nearly four decades to the study and promotion of human harmony with nature around the planet, person-centered biosynergist Anthony Rose has some profound stories to tell.
Being Where YOu Are
CSP member Larry Pell writes: “This is where I find a point of convergence between yoga meditation and client centered therapy. For both it’s about: BEING WHERE YOU ARE. That means not just saying I feel “X “ or I am thinking “X“ or “X“ is happening in me. It’s more a matter of acknowledging that where you are in your consciousness is, in the now, you.
I believe that I am what I am experiencing in the moment/now. I become (identified with) it and hence it is experientially me (or I become it). When through awareness I see that I have become and now “am” this, then it vanishes and I remain.
What I am, in essence, is beingness, or pure being. I am that I am. I, or beingness, goes around encountering a multitude of conditions and events, and having feelings and thoughts about them. I then think that I am these feelings/thoughts. I make the assumption that since I am experiencing them they are me. I am then one step removed from my beingness.
A further problem occurs when I don’t simply unconditionally accept this identity that I, at least for the moment (now), am. Then I relate to it instead of just be it. I make an external object out of it, and relate to that object. I talk about it, think about it, feel it, as something I experience but not as what I am. Then I am a second step removed from my beingness.
An example will make this more clear. An event occurs and fear occurs as an inner experience. On the blank slate of pure beingness there is now fear. The Essential I could then say “I am fear“ but it doesn’t. Then the (identified) I says “I feel afraid“. Or worse yet pushes down or denies the fear feeling and goes around acting fearfully in other situations where it is not appropriate. To unravel this the person needs to first recognize and accept the feeling. To say “I feel afraid“.
Then the person needs to realize, at least in this aspect of their being, that they are identified with the fear-that they are, for now, the fear. They then need to step back and look at themselves, at their self, their “I”, and with awareness say of it “Oh-I is fear.”
The impartial observer and pure awareness that says this is the essential beingness. When this is said with conviction and clarity what is left is essential beingness. (The [objectified and identified with] fear is gone.) Try it. It works.
When you can say “I am (or is) fear there is no-thing (fear) left. What was fear shrinks into itself and there’s nothing left but beingness.
Person Centered Approaches—A Cultural Movement
In this latest Gift from 50, CSP Member Veniamin Kolpachnikov proposes and demonstrates that Person Centered Approaches constitute a cultural movement, a sub-cultural initiative that has enormous potential to transform how people relate to each other and to our world.
Venya is the Program Chairperson of a Master’s Degree Training in Person-Centered Approach Counseling Psychology at the Moscow campus of National Research University, Higher School of Economics. Training is offered in English and Russian. At the end of his article you can find a more extensive announcement of this program.