Carl Rogers was fundamentally concerned with a gradually, spontaneously-appearing human wholeness, which he called a “person”. His experience as a therapist was that, for this personhood to appear, he didn’t need to analyse or to understand his patient according to an intellectual model, nor to “explain” his symptoms. What he needed to do was listen — very calmly, paying very strong empathic attention, clarifying what the patient was saying, reacting gently and acceptingly, but honestly.
If this was done with positive intent, the patient himself would spontaneously start to provide answers from his own natural thinking, feeling, being. This was therapy that came as close to a dynamic act of meditation and healing as one could get without cancelling materialist assumptions. It saw the human being as a system that naturally seeks its own good if consistently given the chance and the environment.
The idea that this was all you needed to do to heal someone provoked uproar, and still does in some as we’ll see, but today there is a lot of evidence that it’s right — the “therapeutic relationship”, for example, and the act of therapy, is shown in tests to be much more important than any particular theory about therapy, in determining success of treatment. This is one of the most reliable conclusions in psychology.
Rogers also demonstrated the truth of his concepts empirically in his lifetime (1902-1987) and was the first clinician to insist on the importance of doing so, a fact his critics conveniently ignore. He worked with patients day in day out for decades. His theories have also generated more research than those of any other clinical psychologist in history, and he often tops polls as “most influential psychologist”.