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Not that any of these ideas were, strictly speaking, invented by Rogers—no psychotherapy is really thinkable without them. Still, Rogers was probably the first to put them all together in one comprehensive package, which during the '50s, '60s, and '70s became an almost universal therapeutic credo, even a brand identity that determines to this day what most people—lay people at any rate—think of when they imagine what a therapist is or does. Carl Rogers, you could say, was a kind of Mr. Rogers for grown-ups.

In fact, Rogers could fairly claim to be the most American therapist. A small-d democrat down to his toes, he popularized the word client (which has since become almost ubiquitous in the field), suggesting an independent, self-directed customer seeking a perfectly ordinary service in the public marketplace, rather than a sick, helpless patient, the lowest rung of the medical hierarchy. He democratized psychotherapy itself, and did his best to deflate the delusions of grandeur held by some of its more august practitioners by purposely blurring the distinction between psychotherapist (usually applied only to psychiatrists and psychoanalysts) and counselor, a basket term enclosing just about anybody who gave people helpful advice—social worker, clergyperson, schoolworker, teacher, nurse, lay facilitator of self-help groups, even a good friend.

Rogers rejected the determinism of both Freudian psychoanalysis and Skinnerian behaviorism. In his view, Freud's disenchanted take on human nature was "Calvinistic" in its emphasis on the "the evilness of the natural man," and he compared Skinner's behaviorist utopian fantasy, Walden II, to George Orwells's 1984, a dystopian allegory based on Stalin's totalitarian state. Rogers thought that the "self-actualized" or "fully functioning" person was by definition a subjectively free being. While not nearly as idealistic about human nature as his detractors insisted—he recognized our species' capacity for cruelty, destruction, immaturity, antisocial behavior, and all-round nastiness—he believed deeply that all human beings trend in "basically a positive direction," inherently "forward moving, constructive, realistic, trustworthy."

Rogers also democratized the relationship between therapist-counselor and client. He believed that clients themselves—not their shrinks, however highly degreed—knew best what was hurting them and what needed fixing. Their own inner knowledge just had to be gently coaxed out, given an opportunity to emerge like a tender green shoot in the warmth of the spring sun. Clients didn't need to have their words "interpreted" back to them. What they needed was the undemanding presence of a compassionate, deeply attuned listener, who didn't diagnose them, explain their problems to them, ask many specific questions, lead them in particular directions, or tell them what they should do.

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