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Psychoanalytic Psychology, 17:294-312

Carl Rogers and Heinz Kohut: A Historical Perspective
Edwin Kahn, Ph.D. and Arnold W. Rachman, Ph.D.
Earlier psychoanalytic thinkers, with their humanistic orientations,
anticipated Heinz Kohut's theories and, therefore, contributed to the historical
evolution of self psychology. Carl Rogers, a founder of humanistic
psychology in the United States, was a theorist who struggled with many of
the same issues as Kohut. Rogers had new ways of looking at therapy, and
especially at the therapeutic ambience, ways that foreshadowed the
discoveries of Kohut. This article discusses areas of compatibility of the 2
theorists, such as their focus on empathy and the self, to encourage a
rapprochement between humanistic psychotherapy and self psychology. Kohut
revolutionized psychoanalysis by making it more humanistic. In that evolution,
many of Rogers's empirically tested ideas were incorporated into a
comprehensive psychoanalytic theory and clinical method. Because of the
areas of mutual concerns and overlap, a fuller appreciation of Rogers's
important ideas will be beneficial to self psychology.

Edwin Kahn, PhD, Department of Social Sciences, Queensborough

Community College, City University of New York; Arnold W. Rachman,
PhD, Derner Institute, Adelphi University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Edwin Kahn,
PhD, 50 West 97th Street, Apartment 6T, New York, New York 10025.
Electronic mail may be sent to
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Different psychoanalysts, with their humanistic orientations, such as

Ferenczi, Rank, Alexander, Winnicott, Guntrip, and Fairbairn, anticipated the
discoveries of Heinz Kohut and therefore made an important contribution to
the evolution of self psychology (see Detrick & Detrick, 1989; Rachman,
1997a, 1997b). Carl Rogers, a co-founder of humanistic psychology in the
United States, was a humanistic theorist who can be seen as struggling with
some of the same issues as Kohut. Rogers, farm-raised in the Midwest,
developed a theory of psychotherapy that in many respects is very American.
Rogers's psychotherapy was optimistic, it focused on the here and now, and it
was usually short term (contemporary Rogerian therapists report that longterm therapy is now common). Also, Rogers had more interest in personality
change than in development, and he thought the relationship in the here and
now was more important than transference or countertransference issues.
Importantly, Rogers's approach was American because it was influenced by
the logical positivism and empirical tradition of American philosophy.
Personality change, expressed in terms of the self, was central in Rogers's
theory and was based, considerably, on empirical data.
Rogers did, for his time, have some very new ways of looking at therapy,
and especially at the therapeutic ambience, ways foreshadowing different
discoveries of Kohut. For example, Stolorow (1976), in an early comparison
between Rogers's and Kohut's work, stated that
there appear to be striking parallels between the techniques,
therapeutic processes and ideal outcome formulated in the analytic
treatment of narcissistic disorders, and the techniques,
therapeutic processes and ideal outcome of client-centered therapy
as conceptualized by Rogers. The understanding and treatment of
the narcissistic disorders may thus provide an unexpected area of
rapproachement between psychoanalytic and client-centered
therapists. (p. 28)
Other investigators, in addition to Stolorow, have made comparisons
between Rogers's and Kohut's work (see Bohart, 1991; Kahn, 1985, 1989a,
1989b, 1995, 1996; Tobin, 1990, 1991). These comparisons show that a
rapproachement between humanistic psychology and psychotherapy and
psychoanalytic self psychology is meaningful and could be of benefit to self
psychology (as well as to client-centered therapy). A discussion of Rogers's
contributions as they relate to Kohut's is also important to chronicle more
thoroughly the historical evolution of self psychology.
To explore the potential contribution that Rogers's work can make to self
psychology, the following is a summary of those aspects of his work that are
relevant to a rapprochement. Rogers's basic premise was that there

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is a constructive striving in each individual (as well as in all of nature) to

reach his or her potentialities, which he called an actualizing tendency.
When a person experiences unconditional positive regard (nonjudgmental
acceptance) and empathic understanding from a significant other who is also
experienced as genuine and human, the person develops unconditional
positive self-regard (self-esteem), and the process of actualization is
promoted. Conversely, this natural growth tendency is thwarted when the
person experiences conditional acceptance or the absence of empathy. Thus,
there are three conditions, according to Rogers, that are necessary and
sufficient to facilitate the growth of a person: unconditional positive regard
(prizing the other), empathic understanding, and a nondefensive integrated
state characterized by openness and genuineness (also called congruence). In
the therapeutic relationship, which came to be called client-centered therapy,
Rogers focused completely on the subjective experiences of the client,
seeking to be a companion to the client and to avoid imposing an agenda on or
guiding the client in any way.
Rogers, beginning in the 1950s, and even more so in the last decades of his
life, came to emphasize that the ideas he discovered in the field of
psychotherapy applied to all human relationships: that the boundary between
psychotherapy and ordinary life is necessarily thin (Kramer, 1995, p. xii). In
this respect, Rogers's ideas are quietly permeating today's culture in self-help
groups, the classroom, and parenting. Rogers's ideas were very simple, yet
profound. With an accepting, understanding, and genuine attitude and the
relinquishing of power and control over others, people will grow. This
application of Rogerian ideas outside of therapy came to be called the
person-centered approach (for a complete description of the evolution of
Rogers's ideas, see Raskin & Rogers, 1995).
As can be seen in these basic tenets of Rogers's humanistic psychotherapy,
there are similarities and compatibilities with Kohut's thinking.
Coincidentally, Kohut and Rogers were at the University of Chicago at the
same time, from 1945 to 1957. Kohut was in the Department of Neurology and
Psychiatry, and Rogers was a professor of psychology. Rogers, curious about
the parallels between his work and Kohut's (personal communication, August
27, 1986), wrote:
I certainly acknowledge there is a large and important overlap
between Kohut's views and mine. What I wish I knew, and perhaps
you may have some clues to this, is how much of his thinking and
his new discoveries were based on a knowledge of my work. It
certainly is not a coincidence that while at the University of
Chicago he developed an interest in empathy and the self, the two
major features which I had been formulating and writing about for
quite a

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number of years. I deeply regret that I never had personal contact

with him. The Department of Psychiatry at that time was attacking
my work at the Counseling Center, declaring that we were
practicing medicine without a license. They did not like the idea of
psychologists doing therapy. I don't believe that Kohut had any part
in this at all, but the estrangement between the two departments was
very deep and I never got to know any individuals except the
chairman of psychiatry.
It is of interest that Kohut was apparently aware of Rogers's work, which
he unfortunately described with some disdain, but it is not clear whether any
of Kohut's discoveries were influenced by this awareness. According to
Kohut (1973/1978b):
Certain forms of psychotherapeutic counseling, for example, which
enjoy at present a not inconsiderable popularity, restrict their
technique in the main to letting the patient say everything that occurs
to him. The counselor's passive attitude seems to be similar to the
analyst's attitude of expectant silence; he listens, and either says
nothing or merely repeats what the patient has just said himself. But
while the analyst employs his method for a specific purposehe
listens in order to understand and then explain, thus enabling the
patient to enlarge his knowledge of himselffor the counselor, the
method of free association appears to have become an end in itself.
But when this use of free association is extolled as being superior
to psychoanalysis, then the analyst cannot refrain from shaking his
head in amazement. He understands, of course, how, in certain
instances, temporary improvements are quickly brought about in this
way. (pp. 523-524)
Kohut went on to compare this type of psychotherapeutic counseling with
the work of a repairman who managed to fix an old alarm clock of his. This
repairman knew nothing about clocks; what he did to restore its functioning
was just clean and oil the clock's inner parts.
There is no need to spell out the analogy between the so-called
watchmaker and the practitioners of certain kinds of
psychotherapyexcept, I think, that my so-called watchmaker had a
higher percentage of successes and knew more about what he was
doing than most of the psychotherapists who borrow one or the
other insight or technical rule from psychoanalysis and apply it
without understanding. (Kohut, 1973/1978bp. 525)
With these comments, Kohut obviously was not exhibiting much
appreciation of Rogers's therapeutic innovation of empathic listening, that is,
attempting to see things as completely as possible from the client's
framework. American psychoanalysts, in general, have rarely appreciated
Rogers's contributions, which have often been dismissed as shallow or
superficial. We believe that Rogers's therapeutic innovations are more

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profound than has been previously appreciated and that many of his ideas
have already been incorporated into psychoanalytic self psychology. One
possible reason for Kohut's dismissal of Rogers's therapeutic innovations was
that Kohut wanted to claim that he was the originator of the concept of
therapeutic empathy. Rachman (1989, 1997a, 1997b) has noted that Ferenczi
introduced the rule of empathy into psychoanalysis in the 1920s and that
Kohut also failed to acknowledge Ferenczi's contribution. Kohut
(1959/1978a) did discuss Freud's use of empathy and introspection as
observational tools to investigate a person's inner world (p. 211), but
nowhere, to our knowledge, did he give credit to any predecessors for the
therapeutic benefits of empathy.
Interestingly, there is a link between Rogers and psychoanalysis in his
early training at Rochester, when he became familiar with the work of Otto
Rank and several of Rank's students. For example, his reflection of feeling
response was influenced by a Rankian-trained social worker, Elizabeth Davis
(Raskin & Rogers, 1995p. 133).
Relevant to the rapprochement of Rogers's views with self psychology is
Robert Stolorow's (1976) article, Psychoanalytic Reflections on ClientCentered Therapy in the Light of Modern Conceptions of Narcissism.
Storolow (1976) described how Rogers, with his empathic reflection of
feeling and his acceptant attitude, encouraged the development of a mirror
Indeed, Rogers technical recommendations (which are in many
respects similar to those of Kohut with regard to the unfolding of
the grandiose self) seem ideally suited to promote the development
of a narcissistically sustaining mirror transference. The therapist is
enjoined to reflect the patient's experiences with an attitude of
unconditional positive regard and acceptance, with an eye toward
affirming the client's worth, significance and value to the therapist.
The client thus comes to experience himself as prized by the
therapist, much as does the narcissistically disturbed patient
immersed in a mirror transference. (p. 28)
Stolorow (1976) then selected a beautiful quote from Rogers's 1951 book,
Client-Centered Therapy:
The therapist endeavours to keep himself out as a separate person
his whole endeavour is to understand the other so completely
that he becomes almost an alter ego of the client. The whole
relationship is composed of the self of the client, the counselor
being depersonalized for the purposes of therapy into being the
client's other self. (Rogers, 1951, pp. 42, 208)
Stolorow (1976) eloquently noted the similarity of this way of being to
Kohut's description of narcissistic patients who use the analyst impersonally

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to fill in missing parts of their self-structure. According to Stolorow (1976):

The therapist who follows Rogers recommendations thus divests
himself of his own selfhood and embraces the role of a part,
extension or duplicate of the client, a pure mirror image of the
client, a depersonified medium in which the client's sense of self
may germinate and consolidate. As in the handling of the mirror
transference, the client-centered therapist accepts (and even
promotes) his role as an impersonal function substituting for
missing or defective segments in the client's own self-structure. It is
not surprising, then, that the recipient of client-centered therapy
would report a buttressing of his sense of self-cohesion,
self-identity and self-esteem by virtue of his immersion in the
therapeutic relationship. It is also not surprising that Rogers
describes individuals in client-centered therapy who, like patients
involved in a mirror transference, experience temporary states of
self-fragmentation when there is a disruption in the narcissistically
sustaining therapeutic relationship. (p. 28)
With this comparison, Stolorow highlighted the remarkable similarity of
the therapeutic relationship for Rogers and Kohut.
In the remainder of this article, we further elaborate Rogers's ideas as they
relate to Kohut's on a variety of issues. This comparison will be useful to self
psychology, because Rogers's humanistic psychotherapy provides, in many
respects, a foundation for Kohut's thinking. In other words, self psychology,
with its more comprehensive theory and clinical methods, may be seen as an
analytic evolution of Rogers's client-centered psychotherapy.

Rogers and Sanford (1984) stated that
very early, it was found that clients in therapy frequently focused
their problems and their progress in terms of self. I feel I'm not
being my real self. It feels good to let myself go and just be
myself here. Gradually, the crucial importance of the self and its
changing quality became evident. (p. 1382)
Rogers became interested in the enhancement of self-regard or self-esteem
in psychotherapy; that is, with unconditional positive regard, positive selfregard develops. He also described the integrated, healthy self as being able
to experience nondefensively all thoughts and feelings in its organism, a way
of being that he termed congruence. Incongruence occurs when experiences in
the organism are blocked off from or distorted in self-awareness. Rogers's
description of an incongruent client experiencing more congruence from
psychotherapy appears very similar to the lifting of

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repression for Freud (Kahn, 1985). However, this lifting of repression, for
Rogers, came about not from interpretations but, rather, from a safe human
relationship that provided unconditional positive regard and empathic
understanding. Kohut, on the other hand, was more interested in self-cohesion
and various expressions of narcissistic deficit, as when the self is either
fragile or vulnerable.

Empathy and a Changed Listening Stance

Both Rogers and Kohut stressed the importance of empathy, that is,
listening to and accurately understanding the subjective experience of the
client or patient. Different writers have noted how special Rogers's capacity
for empathy was. Stolorow (1976), for example, commented that Rogers's
discussion of the critical importance of the communication of acceptance and
empathy in client-centered therapy, and his suggestions as to how this
communication may be achieved, are probably unsurpassed in the clinical
literature (p. 29). And Kramer (1995), in describing Rogers's empathic
stance, stated that Rogers does what generations of psychology students have
satirized him for doing, namely, repeat clients words. But he also
summarizes clients feelings with precision, beauty of expression, and
generous tentativeness (p. xiv).
Schwaber (1983pp. 380-381) believed that Kohut's most important
contribution was his shift in listening stance, that is, his making a sustained
effort to listen from the patient's perspective. She described how that change
occurred with Kohut's well-known patient, Miss F (Kohut, 1971). Kohut
(1984) summed up this changed listening stance in the following way:
If there is one lesson that I have learned during my life as an
analyst, it is the lesson that what my patients tell me is likely to be
truethat many times when I believed that I was right and my
patients were wrong, it turned out, though often only after a
prolonged search, that my rightness was superficial whereas their
rightness was profound. (pp. 93-94)
Recently, Magid (1996) echoed Schwaber's sentiment: Kohut's great
contribution was conceptualizing the centrality of the empathic stance, by
which the subjective validity of the patient's inner world was explored and
acknowledged, without any implication that this perspective be viewed as
distorted and ultimately relinquished (p. 619).
An attitude of attempting to just listen to what the client is experiencing,

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without interpretation, is the attitude that Rogers was advocating as early as

the 1940s. At that time, Rogers (1942) wrote:
This course of action imposes much self-restraint upon the
counselor. The reason is simple. As the client reveals himself more
and more fully in the counseling interviews, the counselor begins to
develop insight into the client's problems. There is the greatest
temptation to most counselors, whether they are psychiatrists,
psychologists, guidance counselors, or social workers, to inform
the client as to his patterns, to interpret his actions and his
personality to him. The more accurate the interpretation, the more
likely it is to encounter defensive resistance. The counselor and his
interpretations become something to be feared. To resist this
temptation to interpret too quickly, to recognize that insight is an
experience which is achieved, not an experience which can be
imposed, is an important step in progress for the counselor. (pp.
It is important to see how early Rogers was appreciating the validity of the
subjectivity of the client. We believe that Rogers deserves historical credit
for his role in articulating the therapeutic benefits of empathy. Psychoanalytic
thinkers of today tend to overlook Rogers's original contribution in this area.
Of course, Rogers did not have to extricate himself from an orthodox
psychoanalytic theory that emphasized interpretations, as Kohut did.
However, in the 1920s, at his doctoral internship in New York City, Rogers
was trained in the dynamic Freudian approach (N. J. Raskin, personal
communication, January 19, 1998), and in the 1930s he used an interpretative
therapy that he eventually found unhelpful and discarded (Kirschenbaum,
1979, pp. 86-92).

Unconditional Positive Regard

According to Rogers and Sanford (1984):
The therapeutic process is enhanced when the therapist both
experiences and communicates to clients a deep and genuine caring
for them as persons with many constructive potentialities. When this
caring is uncontaminated by judgments or evaluations of the
thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, it deserves the term unconditional
positive regard. (p. 1379)
Kohut would surely agree that nonjudgmental acceptance of the person is
an important quality for therapeutic effectiveness. Rather than unconditional
positive regard, Kohut emphasized mirroring, or the gleam in the mother's
eye, as essential for the healthy development of the self. These concepts,
unconditional positive regard and mirroring, are similar but not identical.
Unconditional positive regard is an attitude of consistent acceptance

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and nonpossessive warmth and care held by the therapist (or parent) toward
the person as a whole. Mirroring is a sharing of joy or pleasure, an
acceptance and confirmation of the self in its grandness, goodness, and
wholeness (Wolf, 1988p. 184). Whereas unconditional positive regard is
ever present, mirroring seems contingent on some action or responsiveness in
the person and, therefore, may not be so unconditional.
Whereas Rogers, from the 1940s onward (see Rogers, 1951, pp. 159172), advocated the consistent acceptance or prizing of a client, Kohut and
other self psychologists, at least through the 1970s and 1980s, were more
hesitant to prize or mirror a patient in analytic therapy. For example,
Stolorow (personal communication, June 1983) wrote:
For Kohut, mirroring is not something that the analyst actually tries
to provide. Rather it is something that the patient is permitted to
experience subjectively as an aspect of the transference revival of
an early selfobject tie. The patient's need for mirroring is accepted,
understood, empathically interpreted, and ultimately worked
through in the transference according to Kohut.
Kohut (1983) also denied the criticism that we gratify our patients by
mirroring them (p. 402), and Basch (1981) stated that a patient's need to
be mirrored can be met with an analytic response no indulgence of
the patient is called for (p. 343).
One does find, however, examples in Kohut's writings in which he
advocated providing positive experiences for patients. For instance, in his
seminal paper on introspection, empathy, and psychoanalysis, Kohut
(1959/1978a) wrote, when describing addicts:
Their addiction must not, however, be confused with transference:
the therapist is not a screen for the projection of existing
psychological structure; he is a substitute for it The patient now
really needs the support, the soothing of the therapist. His
dependence cannot be anayzed or reduced by insight; it must be
recognized and acknowledged. (p. 225)
And, in his final book, when discussing the overevaluation of patients by
their analysts, Kohut (1984) stated that, this overevaluating attitude too is
normal and that an analyst who consciously eradicates this attitude and
replaces it by cold objectivity is as misguided as the Watson-guided
objective mother of half a century ago (p. 190). Kohut (1984, pp. 78, 153)
and other self psychologists (e.g., Miller, 1990; Wolf, 1990) also emphasized
the importance of providing a corrective emotional experience, as
described by Alexander (1956). And Orange (1995), echoing Rogers's
humanistic beliefs, has commented that psychoanalytic understanding is,
among other things, a form of loving, and it can be experienced

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in that way by the patient. It differs from empathy, which is value-neutral and
can be used to hurt people (p. 171).
At this point, it may be useful to briefly discuss the relationship between
unconditional positive regard and empathy. As noted, with unconditional
positive regard the person as a whole is prized, whereas empathy is the
ability to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy
(Rogers, 1980p. 140). Empathy, as pointed out by Kohut (1981) and others
(e.g., Shlien, 1997; Orange, 1995), in addition to having a therapeutic
function, can also be used to harm or manipulate people. In his final address,
Kohut (1981) said, If you want to hurt somebody, and you want to know
where his vulnerable spot is, you have to know him before you can put in the
right dig. Appreciating this negative use of empathy, Orange (1995)
distinguished, in psychoanalytic epistemology, between empathy and empathic
understanding: Empathy defines the way of knowingvicarious
introspectionand the nature of the knowncomplex psychological
configurationsthat we seek to understand in depth (p. 23). In contrast,
empathic understanding includes a helpful response, such as a therapist
adjusting the heat and light for a patient's comfort or a parent protecting a
child from mistreatment (Orange, 1995, pp. 22-23). It seems that, for Orange,
empathic understanding (in contrast to empathy by itself) includes caring
responsivity (i.e., unconditional positive regard).

Being Human
In a conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of psychotherapy,
Rogers (1985) was asked by a participant what the profession of
psychotherapy had learned over the past 100 years. Rogers thought about the
answer for several moments and then said, I don't know what the profession
has learned, I really don't. I've learned to be more human in the relationship,
but I am not sure that that's the direction the profession is going. For Rogers,
what is most healing is being openly oneself in a relationship. In a lovely
passage, Rogers and Sanford (1984) wrote:
The kind of caring that the client-centered therapist desires to
achieve is a gullible caring, in which clients are accepted as they
say they are, not with a lurking suspicion in the therapist's mind that
they may, in fact, be otherwise. This attitude is not stupidity on the
therapist's part; it is the kind of attitude that is most likely to lead to
trust, to further self-exploration, and to the correction of false
statements as trust deepens. (p. 1379)

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Kohut (1984), although probably more reserved than Rogers, did write
that, because of self psychology, I have come to feel freer and, without guilt
and misgivings, to show analysands my deep involvement and concern via the
warmth of my voice, the words that I choose, and other similarly subtle
means (p. 221). And Wolf (1987), in a speech discussing whether or not
interpretation should be used, stated, It really doesn't matter what you do,
what matters is who you are, which surely relates to the human qualities of
the therapist.
But for Rogers, Kohut did not go far enough in emphasizing the human
qualities of the therapeutic relationship. For example, Rogers (1986) had
interesting comments to make after viewing Kohut's (1981) last lecture, On
Empathy, given 4 days before Kohut's death. We present what Kohut said,
followed by Rogers's reply. Kohut's (1981) remarks came at the end of his
talk, as he described his work with a strongly suicidal woman:
I suddenly had the feeling how would you feel if I let you hold
my fingers for a little while, now while you are talking, maybe that
would help you; doubtful maneuver, I am not recommending it, but
I was desperate, I was deeply worried. So I gave her two fingers.
Moved up a little bit in my chair, gave her two fingers, now I'll tell
you what is so nice about that story, because an analyst always
remains an analystI gave her my two fingers, she took a hold of
them and I immediately made a genetic interpretation to myself, it
was the toothless gums of a very young child clamping down on an
empty nipple. That's the way it felt. I didn't say anything. I don't
know whether it was right, but I reacted to it even there as an
analyst to myself. [it] was never necessary any more. I wouldn't say
that it turned the tide. But it overcame a very, very difficult
impasse, at a given dangerous moment, and gaining time that way,
we went on for many, many more years, with reasonably substantial
Rogers's (1986) reaction to Kohut's remarks was as follows:
It seems clear that in this interaction Dr. Kohut is experiencing
desperation, caring, and compassion. He found a beautifully
symbolic gesture that enabled him to express something of what he
was feeling. Yet he is apologetic about this, about giving her his
fingers to hold. Even more astonishingand sadis his
interpretation to himself that he is giving her a dry nipple. He
appears unaware that by giving something of himselfof his own
deep and persistent feelingshe is giving her the nourishing human
caring and compassion that she so desperately needs. Being thus
openly feeling with her is most therapeutic. Yet he seems dubious
and apologetic about his action. He appears to be unaware that
being openly himself in the relationship was the most healing thing
he could have done. It is obvious that I differ deeply from Dr. Kohut
in the value I give to being one's own whole person in the
relationship. (pp. 132-133)
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Rogers, we imagine, was unable to fully appreciate the orthodox tradition

that Kohut, with considerable conflict, was seeking to separate from.

Toward More Equality

Rogers called for a greater equality in the therapistclient relationship.
He was critical of the psychoanalytic approach of his era, in which
interpretations were often imposed on patients. There is no expert in the
client-centered approach: The client's power in the relationship is protected
as much as possible, and power is not invested in the therapist or specialist.
Kramer (1995) stated that, for Rogers, the cardinal sin in therapy, or in
teaching or family life, is the imposition of authority (p. xiii). The very
labels he chose for his form of therapy (at first he called it nondirective
therapy) illustrate this wish to relinquish any influence or control over
another. In a speech, Wolf (1987) agreed with Rogers's sentiments:
One can think of the analytic situation as being sort of tilted, with
the analyst up here and the patient down there, and a really
consistent application of selfobject theory would bring that tilt up to
a more equal kind of level, and it's our defensiveness, our
narcissistic defensiveness, that tries to keep us up there.
Also important is that Kohut, with his changed listening stance, corrected
some of the more obvious power inequities of traditional psychoanalysis.

Transference as a Distortion
Rogers did not elaborate a developmental theory and was not especially
interested in the phenomenon of transference. He was interested in the real
existential encounter in the here and now. A student of Rogers's, John Shlien
(1987), in an interesting article that emphasized Anna O's erotic attachment to
Josef Breuer, criticized the transference concept. Shlien argued that
transference was a fiction or, rather, a defense mechanism used by therapists
to protect themselves from the consequences of their own behavior (p. 15).
According to Shlien, when a client falls in love with or gets angry at a
therapist, therapists, starting with Breuer, have used the concept of
transference to deny their culpability in eliciting these feelings. However,
with the elaboration of a two-person paradigm in self psychology, the idea of
transference as a distortion disappears. Shlien's criticism becomes moot,
because in contemporary self psychology it is acknowledged

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that, in their mutual interaction, the different qualities of the therapist are
influencing the patient, and vice versa.

Kohut (1981, 1982, 1984) distinguished between two kinds of empathy
understanding, a lower form, and interpretation, a higher formand he
believed that an interpretative phase was necessary for a psychoanalytic cure.
Rogers came to oppose interpretations; he believed that they were a
manifestation of the medical model, having an expert cure an illness. For
Rogers, the client has the capacity to discover his or her own answers and, as
a result, will become self-empowered. After viewing Kohut's (1981) lecture,
Rogers commented:
Our purposes in being empathic are not the same. Kohut planned to
use his perception of the inner world of the patient to make
interpretations of the patient's behavior. My purpose was, through a
sensitive empathy, to be a companion to my client, giving him the
courage to go on in his voyage of self-discovery. Kohut's patient,
receiving an interpretation, is illuminated by the insight when he is
ready to accept it. It is also very likely, judging from the analystpatient relationship portrayed in the film, that he perceives Dr.
Kohut as a wise and gifted person who can provide him with these
understandings of self. My client, sensing that I am a companion to
him in his search, discovers the same insight and feels equally
illuminated. But he also gains confidence in himself as he realizes
that he has the capacity and the power to discover and learn the
meanings of his own behavior. Thus, it appears to me that Kohut's
patient learns and profits from the insight and becomes a bit more
dependent on the analyst. My client learns and profits from the
insight, perhaps a trifle later, and becomes a bit more independent
and self-empowered. (Rogers & Sanford, 1984p. 1379)
The questions raised in Rogers's remarks are interesting: whether a patient
becomes more dependent on an analyst as a result of an empathic
interpretation and, furthermore, whether such dependency feelings, if they
occur, are necessarily detrimental. It is noteworthy that some contemporary
self psychologists have deemphasized the use of interpretations. For example,
according to Miller's (1985) speech:
The stressing of interpretation is an ancient tradition in analysis, a
tradition that has been perpetuated through the passing of analytic
generations, without, in my opinion, open-minded reexamination
based upon empirical data. It is possible that if one attempted to
maintain an empathic resonance with one's patient, in so far as
possible continuously to maintain the mutual efforts at
understanding the patient's inner state, that this might be the most
productive way to promote increasing self-awareness and maximum
therapeutic effectiveness.

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And Wolf (1986) stated that crucial is the proper attunement of affect,
guided by empathy, and not the verbal message that is being conveyed, or
what explanations the therapist gives or does not give to the patient.
Offering a slightly different position, Merton Gill (personal
communication, August 28, 1991) wrote, Rogers certainly performed an
important service by pointing to the authoritarian way in which many analysts
employ interpretation, but a misuse of a technique does not mean the technique
is to be abandoned. Finally, Orange (1995) stated, I think much of the
therapeutic effect of analytic interpretation may lie, not so much in the insights
provided or even jointly found, but instead in the patient's experiencing for the
first time being important enough to a parent-substitute to be thoughtfully
considered (pp. 30-31). One may add that important selfobject needs of the
therapist are also satisfied when, as a result of a constructive interpretation, a
patient expresses appreciation.

Free Will and Determinism

For Kohut (1980), a self with ambitions, skills, and talents, as well as
ideal goals, is poised to the future and has a significance all of its own,
independent of the genetic factors thatin the area of cause-and-effect
determinismhad originally laid down its contents and had given it its
shape (p. 540). This view of the self, making choices and exercising free
will, is central to Rogers's humanistic philosophy as well. Rogers echoed
Kohut's ideas when he stated, just as in physics,
where you can prove that the wave theory of light is supported by
evidence; so is the corpuscular theory. I think one would be
narrowing his perception of physics to deny one of these and accept
only the other. And it is in this same sense that I regard these two
dimensions [free will and determinism] as both real, although they
exist in a paradoxical relationship. (cited in Kirschenbaum, 1979,
p. 269)

Freudian Instinct Theory

Both Kohut and Rogers opposed the Freudian model of human nature: that
sex and aggressive instincts need to be tamed by the influences of civilization.
With humor, Gill (personal communication, December 17, 1990) wrote, You
may be amused to know by the way that once I was on a platform with Rogers
and he criticized psychoanalysis for believing in original sin. I told him I felt
the criticism was justified but that he apparently believed in original virtue.

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Transcripts and Empirical Testing

A significant contribution of Rogers is that he was the first to attempt to
demystify the nature of psychotherapy by making sessions open to public
scrutiny. In the 1940s, he published verbatim transcripts of therapeutic
encounters. For more than 50 years, investigators such as Porter (1943),
Snyder (1945), and, more recently, Brodley (1994), using these transcripts,
have measured how therapists actually behave with clients. Regarding this
issue, Gill (personal communication, August 28, 1991) wrote, I also think
Rogers deserves a great deal of credit for being the first person to present
verbatim sessions. Since him, a number of people have plucked up the
courage to do so but he was the first. These transcripts, along with Rogers's
persistent effort to construct a theory of the self with postulates testable
through empirical means, stimulated considerable research on client-centered
therapy.1 Raskin summarized Rogers's contributions in the 1940s:
In a very short time, an entirely new approach to psychotherapy was
born, as was the field of psychotherapy research. This approach
and its accompanying research led to the eventual acceptance of
psychotherapy as a primary professional function of clinical
psychologists. (Raskin & Rogers, 1995p. 135)

Magid (1996) wrote:
I think it is ironic that much of what has come to be thought of as
progress in psychoanalysis has in fact been the result of subtraction
from, rather than addition to, our theories. As analysts we have
increasingly learned to get out of our patients way. (p. 626)

1 There has been some controversy about the empirical status of Rogers's
theoretical propositions. For example, a number of reviews in the 1970s
concluded that research evidence supporting Rogers's postulates was weak
(Mitchell, Bozarth, & Krauft, 1977; Rappaport & Chinsky, 1972).
However, the studies cited as evidence for this conclusion had serious
methodological flaws (Patterson, 1984). More recent reviews of the
literature indicate that the critical variables for therapeutic effectiveness are
(a) the client-therapist relationship and (b) extratherapeutic variables
(factors that are part of the inner resources of the client and his or her
environment that aid in recovery; Bohart & Tallman, 1996; Bozarth, 1998;
Duncan & Moynihan, 1994; Patterson, 1984). Bozarth (1998), after
reviewing the last three decades of psychotherapy research, concluded that
the evidence for the importance of the person-to-person relationship of
therapist and client lends support to Rogers's attitudinal qualities as the
foundation for effective psychotherapy (p. 173).

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Magid's observation would please Rogers, because he, too, wanted to

avoid burdensome, unverifiable theory and learned to get out of his clients
This article has discussed different areas where Rogers's contributions are
a precursor to some of the discoveries in self psychology. In fact, there may
be more similarities between Kohut and Rogers than between Kohut and some
of his psychoanalytic predecessors. For example, as noted by Stolorow
(1976), Rogers's descriptions of empathy in the therapeutic relationship
(being the client's other self) anticipate Kohut's understanding of the archaic
needs of narcissistic patients. Rogers's theory that unconditional positive
regard and empathy encourage positive self-regard and congruence
anticipates Kohut's ideas about self-cohesion and the importance of mirroring
for the maturation of the self. Both Kohut and Rogers were able to free
themselves from the early overemphasis on interpretation in psychoanalysis
and learn to listen with empathic understanding to what the patient or client
was saying. Rogers, with more freedom (but also Kohut), emphasized the
human quality of the therapeutic relationship. Rogers sought to make the
therapeutic relationship more equal, and Kohut, with his changed listening
stance, highlighted this value as well. Each acknowledged that one can
observe human existence through deterministic lenses, but to have a complete
view of human psychology it is necessary to include the concept of a self that
makes choices and exercises free will. Kohut revolutionized psychoanalysis
by making it more humanistic. In that revolution, many of the empirically
tested ideas that Rogers arrived at independently were incorporated into a
comprehensive psychoanalytic theory and clinical method. For all of these
reasons, a fuller understanding of Rogers's profound ideas will be beneficial
to self psychology.

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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]

Kahn, E. and Rachman, A.W. (2000). Carl Rogers and Heinz Kohut.
Psychoanal. Psychol., 17:294-312

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