Thursday, August 19, 2010

Elliott & Farber (2010) Carl Rogers Research Leader Chapter Published

Entry for 14 Aug 2010:

A couple of years ago, Louis Castonguay and other colleagues in the North American Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research decided to do a book on famous/important psychotherapy researchers, as a way of “bringing psychotherapy research to life”. I felt very pleased and honored when they asked Barry Farber (an old SPR friend and former fellow clinical psychology course director) and me to write the chapter in Carl Rogers.

In order to prepare myself, I got a hold of a pre-publication copy of Howard Kirschenbaum’s (2007) new Rogers biography, which I read on the plane while flying across the Atlantic back to Ohio, and then mostly drafted while on holiday. Barry added other bits, a broader perspective, and bits of poetic expression. In the process of writing the chapter, it became clear to me in a way that had I not fully grasped before that Carl Rogers really had invented most of contemporary psychotherapy research.

We were under fairly tight space constraints and had a lot of material, so writing the chapter ended up feeling a bit like write haiku, and indeed writing it did inspire a kind of lyric quality in both of us, I think the following passage, which opens the chapter illustrates what I mean:

In many ways, Carl Rogers was and continues to be a figure of contradictions. Dreamy idealist who was also a hard-headed pragmatist; humanist grounded in positivism; shy, somewhat stiff midwesterner who ended up advocating openness, disclosure, and intimacy; persuasive advocate for empathic and respectful listening raised in a judgmental, non-expressive home; founder of a major school of therapy who discouraged followers, training institutes, and professional organizations; academic who rebelled against almost all of the trappings of academia; and key figure in the origins and development of psychotherapy research who at a crucial moment gave it all up to move to California to pursue encounter groups, educational reform, and peace-making. What are we to make of these contradictions? Do they detract from his contributions? Or are they essential to what drove him and what continues to inspire his supporters more than twenty years after his death in 1987? (p. 17)


Elliott, R., & Farber, B. (2010). Carl Rogers: Idealistic Pragmatist and Psychotherapy Research Pioneer. In L.G. Castonguay, J. C. Muran, L. Angus, J.A. Hayes, N. Ladany, & T. Anderson (Eds.), Bringing psychotherapy research to life: Understanding change through the work of leading clinical researchers (pp 17-27). Washington, DC: APA.

Kirschenbaum, H. (2007). The life and work of Carl Rogers. Ross-on-Wye, UK: PCCS Books.

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