Psychology and Life Quotes From Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987)

Humanistic Psychologist Carl Ransom Rogers
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Carl Rogers' work and theories made him one of the preeminent psychologists of the 20th-century. He is best known for creating what is known as client-centered therapy, a nondirective approach that places the client in control of the therapeutic process.

As one of the leaders of the humanist movement in psychology, Rogers believed that people were essentially good and healthy. This differed greatly from the psychoanalytic focus on abnormal behavior.

Below are just a few Carl Rogers quotations.

Selected Carl Rogers Quotes

On Human Nature:

"When I look at the world I'm pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic."

Rogers believed that people possessed inherent goodness and that all people are driven by the actualizing tendency. While Freud's psychoanalysis and Watson's behaviorism tended to take a much more negative view of human nature, often focusing on the abnormal or the problematic, Rogers' approach was much more positive and centered on helping people become the best that they can be.

On Learning, Growth, and Change:

"The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."

"If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning."

"The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it." — From On Becoming a Person, 1961

"Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person's ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research — neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my own direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way, its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction." —From On Becoming a Person, 1961

Rogers believed that people were always in the process of changing and growing.

The striving for self-actualization leads people to pursue happiness and fulfillment. The ability to adapt, learn, and change plays a vital role in his theory, as individuals work toward becoming what he referred to as fully-functioning people.

On Psychotherapy:

"It is the client who knows what hurts, what directions to go, what problems are crucial, what experiences have been deeply buried." —From On Becoming a Person, 1961

Rogers is remembered for the development of his non-directive approach to therapy known as client-centered therapy. This technique gives the client control over the process and in which the therapist is non-judgmental, genuine, and empathetic. Unconditional positive regard for the client is essential for effective treatment.

On the Good Life:

"A second characteristic of the process which for me is the good life is that it involves an increasing tendency to live fully in each moment. I believe it would be evident that for the person who was fully open to his new experience, completely without defensiveness, each moment would be new." —From On Becoming a Person, 1961

"In my early professionals years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth? I have gradually come to one negative conclusion about the good life. It seems to me that the good life is not any fixed state. It is not, in my estimation, a state of virtue, or contentment, or nirvana, or happiness. It is not a condition in which the individual is adjusted or fulfilled or actualized. To use psychological terms, it is not a state of drive-reduction, or tension-reduction, or homeostasis.
The good life is a process, not a state of being.
It is a direction, not a destination." — From On Becoming a Person, 1961

This quote captures the essence of so much of Rogers' humanistic theory. His approach turned from simply diagnosing and treating pathology into using therapy as a tool to help people grow.

A Word From Verywell

His approach also stressed how each person continually strives for actualization and self-fulfillment, but as Rogers so eloquently notes, this is not a state you can simply reach and then be done. Part of self-actualization is the actual process of reaching, striving, and growing. The good life, as Rogers calls it, is the journey not just the destination.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."