Humanistic psychology: you know how to heal yourself

The therapist Carl Rogers modified the course of modern psychology with a very simple change of view: we are all healthy people with great potential for growth, and it is each one who knows better than anyone what is the path to follow to achieve.

Carl Rogers pioneered the establishment of a novel approach to psychotherapy that began as “nondirective” and evolved into what is known as the “Person Centered Approach.” He is considered the initiator of humanistic psychology.

He was one of the main responsible for the expansion of counseling or “psychological counseling” and psychotherapy (beyond psychiatry and psychoanalysis), extending them to all professions of the helping relationship.


Carl Rogers” first job was in the Child Studies department of the Society for the Protection of Children Against Cruelty (New York). He spent twelve years there providing practical psychological services, diagnosing and working with delinquent and underprivileged children sent to them by the courts and entities, and conducting “therapeutic interviews” that were to be his greatest source of learning and the material that shaped his life. way of understanding psychology. Some of those cases especially marked him:

“I had been working with a very intelligent mother, whose son was some kind of demon. The problem was clearly related to the rejection she had felt for him in the early days, but during many interviews I was unable to help her understand this. We could not advance. I declared myself defeated. I shared with him my opinion that while we had both done our best, we had failed, so the best thing to do would be to terminate our relationship. She agreed. ”

“We concluded the interview, shook hands, and my patient headed for the office door. Once there, he turned around and asked, ”Do you coach adults?” When I replied in the affirmative, he said: ”Well, then I would like to ask for your help.” She returned to the chair she had just left and began to pour out bitter complaints about her marriage, the problems she was experiencing in her relationship with her husband, her feelings of failure and confusion; in short, a material very different from the sterile ”clinical history” that he had presented up to that moment. Only then did the real therapy begin, which, on the other hand, was very successful. “


“This incident was just one of many that allowed me to experience the fact that I only understood later, that it is the client who knows what affects him, where to turn, what are his fundamental problems and what are his forgotten experiences.

I understood that, unless I needed to demonstrate my own intelligence and my knowledge, the best thing would be to trust the direction that the client himself gives to the process ”. That was the cornerstone of client-centered therapy.

The central hypothesis of this approach is that the person has resources to understand themselves, to modify their self-concept, their attitudes, their actions and behaviors, although to be able to access them and take advantage of them requires an environment that provides them with certain attitudes.

Relationships with significant people (therapist-client, teacher-student, doctor-patient, parents-children are those that can offer these conditions that facilitate a climate of growth. For Rogers, the helping relationship must be defined by these attitudes: congruence or authenticity, acceptance or unconditional positive gaze, and empathic understanding.

Client-centered therapy is built on a basic trust in the person. It depends on the tendency that Rogers calls “actualizing,” present in every living organism, the tendency to grow, develop, and fulfill itself to its full potential.

It is an innate motivation present in all forms of life aimed at developing its potentials to the highest possible limit. We are not just talking about survival. Why do we need water, food and air? Why do we seek love, security, and a sense of competition? Why do we seek to discover new drugs or make artistic works? Because it is inherent to our nature as living beings to do the best we can, to reach the full functionality of each one.


Throughout his professional life, Carl worked on this fundamental line. At the end of his life, after decades of practice, Rogers summed up one of his greatest learnings.

“There is a profound teaching that may be the basis of all those that I have enunciated so far. It has been instilled in me by the twenty-five years I have spent trying to be of service to individuals who suffer. Experience has taught me that people are oriented in a basically positive direction ”.

“I have been able to verify this in the deeper contacts that I have established with my clients in the therapeutic relationship, even with those who suffer from very disturbing problems or show antisocial behavior and seem to experience abnormal feelings. When I can empathically understand the feelings, they express and I am able to accept them as people exercising their right to be different, I discover that they tend to move in certain directions ”.

“The words that, in my opinion, describe these directions more adequately are positive, constructive, movement towards self-realization, maturation, development of their socialization. I have come to feel that the more understood and accepted an individual feels, the easier it is for them to abandon the defense mechanisms with which they have faced life up to that point and begin to move towards their own maturation.

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