MONDAY 30 NOV 2015: Beyond Carl Rogers

Today I led a day workshop at the Metanoia Institute in London on the theme "Beyond Carl Rogers".

COURSE TOPIC: Carl Rogers advanced a highly influential theory of counselling and psychotherapy and was himself an exemplar of his own method. On the one hand, Rogers was an advocate of growth and creativity. On the other hand, his theoretical formulation can sometimes seem so complete and watertight that it leaves little room for improvement, debate or development. His ideas can become a victim of their own success. In this workshop we will examine some of the implicit dialectical tension within Rogers' theory and practice and some of the ways and directions in which his methodology can be constructively critiqued and developed. For those inspired by the genius of this great thinker this will aim to open up avenues of enquiry, experimentation and personal practice, both in the arena of helping the client and that of personal growth as well as in theoretical formulation. The workshop may include presentations, discussion, experiential work and/or demonstation and coaching.

The day fell into four parts. The first session was mostly introductory including the establishment of some parameters for the day and sharing by group members. In the second session we looked at the development of Rogers' theory over time from a "non-directive approach" through "client centred therapy" and "person centred approach" to "encounter groups" and his eventual concern with issues of world peace, and the corresponding development of theory that went with this development, as well as Rogers' antagonism to the reduction of therapy to technique or protocol, despite his close connection with the need for evidence and research. In the third session we had an actual encounter group followed by feedback discussions. Then in the final session we looked at three ways of going "beyond Carl Rogers" through (1) the idea that the need to express love and have it received may actually be more powerful than the need to be in receipt of it, (2) the idea that empathy is, as Rogers actually believed, a matter of sharing and exploring the client's perception of significant others rather than simply being "reflection of feelings", and (3) the further development of the notion of positive regard as belief in the client's resilience and capacity to take responsibility and therefore to be able to benefit from a franker, more adult to adult style of dialogue than most therapy provides.

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  • Yes. An aspect is that if one's way of perceiving an object changes, one changes. The change in oneself does not necessarily require insight, merely a more accurate, deeper or more compassionate perception of the other.

  • Thank you, that is helpful. Point 2 is particularly interesting to me as I have just come from a retreat in which we discussed the way we create/build our own worlds from our conditioning and environment, etc. We were discussing it more in the context of why one would do vajrayana practice to build a better condition. But, in as much as it is worth trying to resolve issues in one's life, it makes so much sense that one would look towards these objects(rupa)as mirrors, focusing on them to see ourselves and what is happening, rather then distracting ourselves into a discussion of secondary feelings... I hope I am understanding this correctly— it seems a lovely and helpful connection.
  • The Last Three Points

    1. This point (need to express love and have it received) is basically the theory set out in my essay "The Necessary Condition is Love" in my book Beyond Carl Rogers. This theory is further amplified in my book Love and Its Disappointment.

    2. The true nature of empathy: Rogers did not think that empathy was a matter of "reflecting feelings", he thought it was a matter of understanding and sharing the client's perception of their world. This tallies with the Buddhist psychology theory that the mind is conditioned by its involvement with "rupa" (i.e. significant objects that exercise power over the mind). The implication is here taken to be that there is often more therapeutic gain to be had from keeping the client focussed on the significant object than redirecting their attention to an introspective examination of their own feelings. The feelings are a secondary phenomenon dependent upon the focus of perception. While the primary object is in view the client keep "working" trying to resolve whatever dilemma they have with that object where as when their attention shift to feelings they start to generate secondary feelings (feelings about feelings) and this leads to an unproductive distraction, yielding syptomatic relief only.

    3. Positive regard is commonly taken as being sweet to the client however they are to you, and Rogerian therapy is often misrepresented as eternally soft and gentle, but in fact genuine positive regard is a matter of deep respect for the other which includes a belief in the resilience of the other which also implies that one be willing to tell the other the truth and face difficult things with them. This is akin to what is sometimes called "tough compassion". One's best friend will tell one things hat a polite stranger would avoid. The former has more positive regard than the latter. UPR is not just niceness.

    Carol English said:

    This sounds absolutely fascinating. Would you say a bit more about the last three points, there is a lot packed into them. Thank you.
  • I've replied to this at

    Carol English said:

    I think people get stuck in box ticking because ....
  • This reply is to the freedom or box ticking entry:

    I think people get stuck in box ticking because it never even occurs to them that they have a choice. There is a social straightjacket around most of us. What is permitted, what is not... My dharma teacher ran "psychodrama" retreats around the world. I had the good fortune to attend one and it was a life-changing experience. But even he stopped at some point because it became dangerous: with tools this powerful real change occurs and with it the risks of something going wrong. To cut off life to avoid risk seems a theme in the modern world; in some ways I understand it but it seems so sad. I agree that most people are in need of more and better contact and love then they presently have and the modern models of what is acceptable leave many terribly emotionally impoverished.
  • This reply is to the first posting, Dharmavidya's description of his workshop:

    This sounds absolutely fascinating. Would you say a bit more about the last three points, there is a lot packed into them. Thank you.
  • I'm going to also post this item in the"Evolving a philosophy group"

    It was noticeable to me that being in an encounter group was a novel experience for many of the participants and the circumstance of dropping out of their formal roles as students into the position of being group members where they would relate to each other in a less censored way they found both scary and enlivening in a fresh and exciting way. This, of course, felt good. However, when I reflect that several of these people were in the final stages of a course supposedly based on the work and ideas of Carl Rogers, I feel sad about what has become of our educational system. People now feel that they have to play the game of entering the double strait jacket of professionalism and of academia which embodies all of the structure and strictures that were precisely what Rogers was in rebellion against. I think the students on this day course all enjoyed the experience, but I am also fairly sure that one of the critical factors deciding people to attend had been the necessity to clock up a certain number of hours in a classroom. I strongly suspect that Rogers himself might have asked at the beginning if that was people’s prime motive and if they saud yes, he would probably have given them their attendance certificate and asked them to leave at the first coffee break time. What I am trying to say something about here is the contrast between the spirit of liberation that Rogers represented and the spirit of conformity that pervades our social life and has a universally deadening effect. I don't think that any of my students today were entirely just box ticking - they did all have a real interest - but the box ticking mentality and mode of operation has corrupted us all in various degrees. To be a free spirit in a social context such as this is to belong to a kind of secret conspiracy for freedom working stealthily within a climate of comfortable yet deadening oppression. These days we are not oppressed by guns on the street, we are oppressed by the compromises that we make in our own minds and society has got ever better at inducing us to make them. It was this that the way of Carl Rogers seeks to dispel. It is as though we are all under the spell of a bad fairy and need release, but it is we ourselves who have, sip by sip, drunk the fairy's potion.

  • Selena did me this magnificent artwork. I'm calling it "Amida & Zen".


  • 9108761275?profile=originalIn the mean while we have a pleasant stay at the house of Susthama and Damian. Little Selena is really a big fan of Dharmavidya...  So when Dharmavidya is to busy with work at his computer you still can sit next to him and use your own tablet.... 

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